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  • How Small Businesses Prepare
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  • By John Schwartz
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, May 16, 1999; Page H15

    Many owners of small businesses who are worried about the Y2K bug are hiring outside help to attack the problem. But in many cases, the owners can take it on alone, visiting equipment manufacturers' Web sites to check whether their equipment is compliant or to use a wide variety of diagnostic software.

    The software, available in stores or on the Internet, scans a computer then reports to the user what Y2K problems it has found. Some problems can be fixed by getting software "patches" on the World Wide Web, or are too small to need fixing at all. Other flaws, however, require new software or hardware to be vanquished.

    Help on the Web
    There are several Web sites that small business owners might want to check for more information, including:

    The Small Business Administration's Y2K Page

    Y2K Help Center for Small Business, sponsored by the Manufacturing Extension Partnership

    Telecommunications Industry Association's Year 2000 Resource Page

    Information Technology Association of America's Year 2000 Home Page

    U.S. Federal Government Gateway for Year 2000 Information Directories (Click on the Y2K logo)

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology is just one government agency offering a free ounce of prevention. It is distributing a "Y2K jumpstart kit" designed to help small businesses. The package is available through the agency's Y2K Center for Small Business at 1-800-Y2K-7557 or by going online at

    The tools in the kit cannot fix Y2K problems. But the agency is operating a help desk to advise callers and point them to corporate Web sites and help lines, said Frank Ojeda of KPMG LLP, a technology consulting firm working with NIST to create and administer the help network.

    Some of the fixes available on the Web are ingenious. TOCS software sets a computer back 28 years, taking advantage of the fact that the calendar repeats itself in that interval so that days of the month, leap years, etc., remain accurate, leaving only the date incorrect.

    For computer users who want all the tools in a convenient place, now offers a suite of online tools for Y2K diagnosis and fixes. The service is currently free. It scans hardware and software for Y2K issues and contains a library of software fixes provided by other companies. In some cases it refers users to sites maintained by other companies for upgrades, patches and discussion of liability issues.

    For those who want to hire outside experts, the Small Business Administration is holding a series of "Y2K Matchmaker Fairs" that put companies in touch with local consultants who can repair Y2K problems. The next fair in this area will be on June 3 at Potomac Electric Power Co. offices at 1900 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

    Companies choosing to hire someone should move as soon as they can. Said Anne Enright Shepherd, a spokeswoman for NIST: "When you do need someone [on Jan. 1], there's going to be a long line of people waiting to use that vendor's services."

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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