Get a Fix on Y2K Problems Via the Net
Download diagnostic software to tell you how bad things are or aren't
Attention, Y2K procrastinators! With barely 300 days left to find
a fix for your dreaded Year 2000 computer bug, here's an Internet site
to get you started: www.WebVentory.com. For a modest fee, small-business owners can download
software from the site that will quickly check your hardware and software, flag Y2K problem areas, and
The site and the software -- which costs $29.95 online -- are the
brainchildren of two Seattle collaborators, WebVision Inc., an
E-commerce company, and WRQ Inc., a software publisher.
Although WebVision's software is hardly the only Y2K diagnostic product
on the market -- others are offered by Microsoft, ATG Group, and
Greenwich Mean Time, to name a few -- the company claims it's the only one
you can download from the Web that will check both your BIOS and
applications. Other online programs inspect one or the other, a WebVision
spokesperson says. The BIOS, or basic input/output system, is the chip that interacts
with your computer's internal clock and operating system while the computer
boots up hardware and software. Because BIOS chips regulate time and date
functions, old models are susceptible to Y2K problems.
We can't say definitively that no other company's product is comparable,
but WebVentory's process is certainly convenient -- and fast. The whole
process takes about 10 minutes. Here's how it works: You log on to the
site, register, and -- after entering your credit-card details --
download the software. Activated with a mouse click, the program searches
your hard drive and software. WebVentory then creates a log detailing
all your applications and information about your BIOS. The program encrypts
the information for security and sends it back to WebVision. There, your diagnostic data
are automatically checked against a database of 7,300 applications, which
is updated monthly. The database reveals the Y2K readiness -- and vulnerabilities
-- of each of those programs. The company then zaps you back a report on
potential Y2K problems.
The report includes a box with details about your BIOS chip, its manufacturer,
the date it was installed, and whether it is Year 2000 compliant. A separate
section lists your applications and puts each into one of four
categories: completely Year 2000 compliant; has Y2K "issues" -- minor problems
that can be readily repaired; is still undergoing manufacturer's tests
for potential problems; or is completely noncompliant. It then recommends
fixes. The company also allows you to use its database for the next 90
days to search for information about new products you may want to install.
TRIAL RUN. We ran WebVentory's test on a PC in our office and got a mixed
report card. The software determined the BIOS, Phoenix Technologies'
version 1.10 A06, was compliant. But it found that 14 of 23 applications on the hard
drive had Year 2000 "issues." It deemed our version of Lotus cc:Mail for Windows
to be noncompliant. "Upgrade to at least version 8 for guaranteed full compliance,"
the report suggested. The MS-DOS operating system, it determined, also had issues.
"MS-DOS 6.21 will not accept two-digit changes after the year 2000; if
two-digit date is entered it will be assumed 20th century. MSBACKUP does
not recognize dates after 1999," the report said.
Overall, we found the process simple and the instructions clear. We did
run into one snag, though: Our corporate firewall prevented the file
with our diagnostic data from leaving our system for WebVision to analyze.
So we had to E-mail the file separately to the company. That added some
time to the process.
Business Week's own networks expert, John Navarro, says WebVentory's
advice is sound. But, he cautions, such programs give black-and-white
answers. And the report should be treated as a basic diagnostic test --
not a definitive bill of Y2K health. Craig Froelich, director of marketing
for WebVision, agrees: "I would not consider this to be a be-all and end-all.
It's part of an overall Year 2000 strategy. And there are a lot of steps that
most organizations need to take."
Given how vulnerable many small businesses are to lost productivity from
Y2K problems, $29.95 seems like a small investment to begin getting a fix on your
repair needs. Too bad WebVentory can't also tell you if your customers
and suppliers are being as virtuous as you.
By Jeremy Quittner in New York