2016 is quite the eventful year! This summer the Olympic Games will be hosted in Rio de Janeiro, and in November we will have our Presidential election. With everything going on, it's almost as if the masterminds behind the Gregorian calendar knew we needed an additional day to make 2016 count. 

Luckily, this year is also a leap year, meaning you have this Monday, Leap Day, as an extra day to finish the month out strong. Leap Day provides you with that much needed extra time to hit your sales and revenue numbers or cross another item off your monthly goals checklist. If you're concerned about any network configuration repercussions with the added time, not to worry. A leap day is very different than a leap second, which has caused some major IT issues in the past. Read on to learn their histories and how the two compare! 

Brief Background on the Leap Year and Leap Day

A leap year is a year that has an additional day added to keep the calendar year in sync with the seasonal year. The name comes from the fact that a fixed date in the Gregorian calendar will typically advance one day of the week from one year to the next. However, adding this extra day in February will cause a leaping over of one of those days. February 29 is the designated date that we refer to as Leap Day, which usually occurs every four years.

There are some traditions that accompany Leap Day, such as women proposing to men, but typically this day is looked at as an extra one to add to your paycheck. I find the phrase “carpe diem” very applicable here, although in this case you’d be seizing the extra day, so to speak. Take advantage of this Monday and work to improve your client relationships by visiting their offices, begin crafting your marketing strategy for the following month or start preparing that budget report you’ve been putting off. Even though Leap Day is more of a corrective measure in our calendar, your managed IT services business can benefit from it!


Significance of a Leap Second for MSPs

Unlike the concept of the leap year and leap day, a leap second is a result of changes in the Earth’s rotational speed. Depending on its speed, official time keepers can periodically add an extra second to our clocks to keep them in sync with the planet’s rotation. This extra second, or leap second, doesn’t have the same four-year rule of thumb as does the leap year, so they are more irregularly spaced and unpredictable. Thus, many problems can arise for computing systems that aren’t quite agile enough to deal with the changes of the leap second. Here are some examples:

Major Historical Problems

Back in 2003, some older versions of Motorola Oncore GPS receivers had a software bug that would cause a single timestamp to be off by a day if no leap second was scheduled for 256 weeks. This bug came into full effect on November 29, when at midnight the receivers were reverted to November 28.

In 2008, NTP servers activated a leap second flag, which informs the user that a leap second is imminent. However, it was reported that no servers correctly set their flags, which caused the wrong time to be broadcasted for up to a day after a leap second was inserted.

In 2012, a number of organizations including Reddit, Mozilla, Qantas Airways, and others reported problems caused by flawed software following that year’s added leap second. In Reddit’s case, their site was inoperable for about 30 to 40 minutes, and was entirely offline for about an hour and a half. Also, Qantas Airways experienced some computer problems that caused up to 50 delayed flights.

Most recently in 2015, the leap second caused Internet network failures to occur due to the vulnerability of at least one class of router. Also, interruptions of around 40 minutes affected Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Netflix, Amazon, and Apple music, and there occurred a cease of operations for over an hour in the Intercontinental Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange.

The Takeaway for MSPs

It’s clear that the IT industry hasn’t had much experience with leap seconds over the past decade and a half. Some have voiced their opinion to abolish all leap seconds for good, while others are taking action and experimenting with ways to deal with the issues we’ve had historically. Take Google for example, instead of inserting a leap second at the end of the day, they are attempting to implement a "leap smear," which adds fractions of a second to computers’ clocks gradually over the course of a day so computers add the extra second without disruption.

You may have 99 problems, but a leap second could definitely be one. This is why it’s so important to be aware of the effect it can have - not only on the network timing of devices and scans, but also on your clients' business continuity. As we stated earlier, however, you won't face these problems this Monday for Leap Day. You can relax, but don't get too comfortable! Make the most of the extra day you have to make February your most successful month yet! 

How do you plan on seizing the Leap Day? Leave a comment below! 

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