UTC: Explanation & Insights

A common timezone

UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time, is the standard time system used globally to regulate clocks and time. It is based on International Atomic Time with leap seconds added at irregular intervals to compensate for Earth's slowing rotation. In essence, UTC provides a common time reference across the world.

Importance of UTC in Linux Servers

Setting your Linux server to UTC is crucial for many reasons. One of the main reasons is log synchronization. When logs are created, the system time is recorded. If your system is set to a local time zone and you need to correlate events across multiple systems (possibly across different time zones), you will have to convert these time stamps to a common format. UTC, as a universally recognized time standard, helps facilitate this.

Also, some software applications require system time to be in UTC for proper function and it reduces the complexity involved in dealing with daylight saving time changes.

Setting Server Time to UTC

In Linux, the date and timedatectl commands can be used to view and set the system time and timezone. You can set your Linux server to use UTC by creating a symbolic link between the UTC timezone file and the /etc/localtime file.

ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/UTC /etc/localtime

This command removes the existing /etc/localtime file and creates a new symbolic link to the UTC timezone file.

Displaying Time in UTC

To display the current date and time in UTC, you can use the date command with the -u ( universal) option.

date -u

This command will return the current date and time in UTC, regardless of the system's set timezone.

Common Difficulties

A common challenge when working with UTC is dealing with local time conversion. If you need to display the time in a local timezone for some tasks, you will have to convert the UTC time to the local time.

Also, remember that setting the system time to UTC doesn't change the hardware clock. If the hardware clock is not in UTC, you might encounter problems when you reboot or when the system time is synchronized with the hardware clock.


UTC plays a vital role in Linux servers, providing a standardized time reference to keep processes coordinated and logs consistent. Despite the occasional complexities in local time conversion, the benefits of adopting UTC in a server environment far outweigh any potential drawbacks.

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