As the Y2K lockdown sets in at large computer sites, resellers and integrators are finalising their contingency plans for the new year.
As users stare down the barrel of the long-awaited IT challenge, it appears they will seek hands-on support from channel organisations, not vendors.
According to Frank Colli, managing director of HP reseller Leading Solutions, the main concern about the new year period is not Y2K compliance, it's the anticipated extra strain on computer infrastructures. "In the lead-up and immediately after the new year, there will be a surge of activity associated with testing, backing up and Internet-based enquiries to create a potentially enormous load," he said.
Some are yet to assess the demand for stand-by services, including what and how to charge, while others in the IT channel are taking the stance of 100 per cent commitment to maintaining full system integrity.
Somerset Systems, a services-based company that specialises in enterprise application integration (EAI) for a range of customers including Woolworths HomeShop, will be ful- filling its commitment to "a number of 24 x 7 service contracts", according to managing director Chris Stockton.
He said there will be no huge new revenue stream on tap for Somerset around New Year's Eve. There is just a commitment to the service-level agreements it has in place with its customers.
Stockton explained that not everybody at Somerset will be on deck as the millennium ticks over, but as a contingency, all technical staff who are not in the office will be on a paging system which displays various levels of urgency.
"[Our technical staff] are on call if there are any dramas but most of our customers feel relatively comfortable about their own levels of preparedness," Stockton said.
"The key thing that they are concerned about is the rest of their supply chain. They can't be sure whether everyone else has their houses in order, something over which they have no control but which does have the potential to impact on them."
Colli said that it's unlikely the channel will see many problems with the identified Y2K system problems, with most customers secure in the knowledge everything they can do about prevention and remediation has been done.
"But the added strain on systems has led some organisations to decide to shut down [non-critical] systems over the new year period."
Colli said that there has been a general avoidance of any new non-critical projects, so as to allow a focused and steady-as-she-goes approach.
"We normally close down over the [Christmas/New Year's Day] period, but we are keeping all our engineers and technical support staff on call, and we haven't wound our inventory of certain products down to the levels we normally would as an added contingency."
"The vendors and channel companies that might be feeling vulnerable are the ones that have made promises and guarantees about system compliance, and there are some legal implications about that.
"We don't want to penalise the clients we've worked with and no one should be paying a premium for regular support because of this particular year.
"Any additional services to cater for specific Y2K concerns will be charged according to the penalties incurred [by the provider]."
Mitch Radomir, strategic marketing and business development manager for network integrator NetStar, said it was going to have all its engineers on call over the Y2K period. He said that NetStar was also offering short-term contracts for businesses requiring cover only during this period. Radomir said these contracts will be tailored to suit the customer, and include services such as help desk support and on-site technical support.
Tony Prince, managing director of Sydney metropolitan VAR ComPlus Computers, said he planned to be on hand on New Year's Day, but that it would mostly be as a courtesy to his small-to-medium customers, most of whom do not run mission-critical networks. "We will be able to assess any specific requests for support on the day," he said.
Memorex Telex marketing manager Oliver Descoeudres said that his company will be on standby over the new year period but doesn't foresee any Y2K related problems.
"We'll have people here. We might see some non-mission-critical equipment that's not Y2K compliant give incomplete results or fail but I don't think it's going to crash the network."
He said that MT has maintenance contracts with many customers over the Y2K period, but some specific Y2K work will be charged. "We charge $150 to $250 per hour depending on the work. Some customers have a contract guaranteeing a response within four hours, including Y2K. In many ways the Y2K issue is overstated. It will be a non-event - or at least business as usual."
Darron Lonstein, director of technical marketing at Com Tech, said: "We've put in place comprehensive plans to ensure total support to our customers." This includes having engineers on standby, increasing the spares it had of critical components, and having in place additional monitoring facilities.
And Avnet Integrand managing director Colin McKenna appeared "over" the whole issue.
"We've been providing Y2K services for a long time. We're keeping our facilities open [over the holidays]. We have emergency numbers and a core of consultants on call.
There's extra expenditure in terms of people working over the weekend but it's not extraordinary. It's cost the economy, my company and my customers a lot of money already. The quicker we get this behind us, the better."
Integrator Starcom's managing director, Peter Williams, said its key customers had contracted support arranged with them, and it had organised the leave patterns of its staff to ensure coverage over the Y2K period. "If anything is going to happen it will be in the first couple of weeks - if there's going to be any pressure it's going to be in there," Williams said.
E-business integrator Logical Asia Pacific's CEO, Lyle Potgieter, said Logical had put in place manpower resources for the crossover, so that it would have people available if customers needed it. "We've got a management control centre which monitors a great number of networks and in the monitoring process we'll be able to pick up issues if and when they occur."
Potgieter said all its contingency plans were in place in its own business, and he expected its customers had done the same.
Gerard Norsa, Caitlin Fitzsimmons and Vivienne Fisher contributed to this article.