Are You Prepared for Leap Year Bugs?
As February draws to a close, it’s a good time to remember that 2020 is a leap year. For many, this may be just be an oddity, but for business, a leap year bring substantial pain.
The leap year problem – also known as the leap year bug – is what happens when computer software programs work with dates that do not correctly take leap years into account. They might simply mis–apply the leap year algorithm, or they might ignore the difference between leap years and common years.
In past leap years, airport luggage systems have shut down, internet cloud services have gone offline, and satellite navigation systems have malfunctioned.
Learnings of past leap year bugs are now cataloged in a worldwide effort to try to avoid similar hardships in 2020.
Impacts on Business
One common area you could find a leap year bug is in the preparation of ‘to/from’ dates for various business certificates, which must have valid dates on them. If your business automatically generates certificates through any mechanism, you should ensure your software vendor has taken this leap year into consideration.
Another area where leap year bugs can arise is in dealing with anniversary dates such as employment, product or invoicing dates. If leap years are not considered, anniversary dates or times will cause problems in business processes depending on any software programming deficiencies.
A leap year can also increase the potential of an additional payday for salaried employees who are paid weekly or biweekly. Consider the impact of the potential extra payday on pay deductions, such as payroll taxes and voluntary benefits. To minimise errors, make sure your payroll system is configured to account for leap years.
Don’t Forget December 31st
Another date that can cause problems is December 31st, as it is the 366th day of a leap year. Some applications may be hard-wired for 365 days.
Realistically a leap year bug could be encountered any day of this year, but a lot of programming code works with “today” as a basis, so leap year bugs are more likely to become visible on leap days.
Challenge for Microsoft
Leap year bugs can be incredibly challenging to find. It’s even harder if you need to sift through billions of lines of source code across many different divisions of a company like Microsoft.
Following problems in previous leap years such as the outage of its cloud computing platform Azure, Microsoft has been working long and hard to reduce the risk of impact to customers.
A team of engineers has spent months painstakingly searching through tens of thousands of source codes of software looking for potential leap year bugs, through both manual and automated approaches.
Apart from Microsoft, there is an array of other software on which business depends, but the venders may not be undertaking as many checks or precautions to offset the possible effects of any leap year bugs.
Considering the recent widespread adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its intersection with cloud computing, we should all be on alert especially on February 29th and December 31st
With IoT leap years bugs could affect anything from smart TVs, toys, and wearables to smart meters, commercial security systems and smart city technologies — such as those used to monitor traffic and weather conditions.
Just be alert for glitches!!