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What would be an ideal time and timezone setup for multi-country servers? Especially considering one central IT team managing these servers.

Currently we have each server using a local timezone. e.g. servers in the Chinese datacenter are set with CST. Servers in our German datacenter are set to CEST. Time is set as local time at the datacenter. (note: in total we have servers in 6 countries).
The current setup is useful when it comes to looking at logs locally on the server (knowing exactly when event happened relative to current server local time). However, when looking at events from a central syslog server it becomes a nightmare.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Set everything to UTC. In addition to the examples user48838 mentioned, most things related to aviation are given in Zulu time (same as UTC/GMT). e.g. flight plans are filed with takeoff and landing times in UTC.

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advantages of UTC over GMT? –  Alex Sep 6 '11 at 5:01
4  
UTC is the modern version of GMT, viz: geography.about.com/od/timeandtimezones/a/gmtutc.htm –  Ward Sep 6 '11 at 5:02
    
Ward, you convinced me :) –  Alex Sep 6 '11 at 6:32
2  
Ntpd uses UTC internally, timezones (in unix) are just part of how to display a timestamp. Your central IT team would have to learn to do everything in UTC and annotate any documented or published time with the timezone. Tip: have wall clocks and onscreen clocks in localtime and UTC. –  Koos van den Hout Sep 6 '11 at 9:07
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From a French point of view, UTC is preferable because it doesn't explicitly refer to some place in England :) –  cjc Sep 6 '11 at 14:16

GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) is the common time for multiple entities (governments, military organizations, etc.) needing to track time across multiple time zones.

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advantages of GMT over UTC? –  Alex Sep 6 '11 at 5:01
6  
Clearly UTC is superior to GMT since I managed to type up my answer very slightly quicker. :) –  Ward Sep 6 '11 at 5:07
    
It's basically the same time reference (time zone-wise and geographically), just UTC is based on an atomic timing reference - geography.about.com/od/timeandtimezones/a/gmtutc.htm. –  user48838 Sep 6 '11 at 5:09
    
You'll notice I also got that same link slightly quicker... –  Ward Sep 6 '11 at 5:27
    
Oops... There's not that much to this subject. –  user48838 Sep 6 '11 at 5:32

We have all our servers, routers, etc.. synchronized to UTC / GMT. For me, the best feature of UTC is it doesn't have daylight savings time; wich is bad if you need to cross-check / relate system logs or CDR (call detail records).

If you don't need to use UTC (because you're far away from Europe and you'll have a hard time figuring out when some event did happen), you can use a GMT+offset that is meaningful to you.

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