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What is Server Time/UTC Time?

October 30, 2020

If you’ve ever had to work with servers, you’re probably familiar with UTC time, also known as Coordinated Universal Time. UTC time is the standardized time used by most computers and servers around the world.

On some level, any time your server does anything at a specific time or on a schedule, you’re using UTC time. Here’s a few examples:

  • Scheduling a sale
  • Scheduling a blog post
  • Charging someone’s monthly subscription order
  • Sending out follow up emails

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UTC Offset

UTC is universal. For example, if my New York, USA server and my server in Sydney, Australia should have the exact same UTC time. This works well for computers while humans use the local time for keeping time.

To make times a little easier to work with servers, use an offset.

  • New York uses UTC-4h or UTC-5h when not in daylight savings time.
  • Sydney uses UTC+10h and UTC+11h when in daylight savings.

These offsets will affect all of your scheduled actions. If you have a blog post scheduled for 8am the server will use the offset to determine when the post should publish.

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Application Offset

In addition to a UTC offset for your server time, there are also application offsets. Here’s the timezone settings in WordPress which can be found under Settings -> General

Whatever application you use (WordPress, Magento, etc.), you’ll likely have similar timezone settings.

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These applications will often guess or set a default location. Sometimes this is based on your server location. For example, if my store is in Denver (which is mountain time) and my server is in New York (eastern time) my application will likely assume I want to use eastern time.

And if I want to close an application or end a sale at midnight it might actually end at 10pm mountain time and midnight eastern time. You’ll always want to check your applications local time to make sure it’s correct.

Why Are My Scheduled Actions Firing At the Wrong Time?

Generally speaking, you don’t have to know what UTC time is. But when you run into an application not working correctly, you’ll have to dig in and see where a time is set incorrectly.

  1. First, you’ll want to check your application (WordPress, Magento, etc.) and make sure those settings are correct.
  2. If your application settings are correct, then you’ll want to make sure your server has it’s offset set correctly.

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If you’re using fully managed WordPress, WooCommerce, or Magento hosting from Nexcess you can reach out to support for help. We’ll make sure your UTC time is set correctly, check your application settings, and point you in the right direction if it’s a 3rd party app.

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