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I have some issue which needed to be fixed quickly. My local development server is in middle east. But my production server is in UK. Now, I need to show the date to user to thier timezone. For example, if a user is in Saudi Arabia, then I need to show the time according to Saudi Arabia format. Should I need to create a new database table called TimeZone and I will save the Time in UTC. Please suggest me/

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Effectively Converting dates between UTC and Local (ie. PST) time in SQL 2005 http://stackoverflow.com/questions/24797/effectively-converting-dates-between-u‌​tc-and-local-ie-pst-time-in-sql-2005 –  mehdi Apr 7 '13 at 9:29
Is this a web application, or desktop application, or ...? How this gets implemented varies greatly by the client delivery mechanism, because what you need is dependent on the client side. –  Jon Seigel Apr 7 '13 at 16:46
This web as well as native mobile. Yes this effect different clients differently. –  user960567 Apr 7 '13 at 17:16
Seems like your question is not just about database itself, but involves application development too. This Stack Overflow question is a must-read for you then: Daylight saving time and Timezone best practices –  Gan Jun 13 '13 at 11:23

3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

There's no quick fix for this, unfortunately. Internationalization of an application should be part of the very first design discussions, as it really goes to the core of a lot of different areas, including date/time comparisons and output formatting.

Anyways, to get on the track of Doing It Right, it's essential to store the time zone information with the time. In other words, realizing that the date/time 20130407 14:50 is meaningless without either (a) including the time zone offset, or (b) ensuring that all logic inserting these values first converts to a certain fixed offset (most likely 0). Without either of those things, two given time values are uncomparable, and the data is corrupt. (The latter method is playing with fire, by the way; don't do that.)

In SQL Server 2008+, you can store the time zone with the time directly by using the datetimeoffset data type. (For completeness, in 2005 and before, I would add a second column to store the time zone.)

This makes it easy for a desktop-type application, as these platforms normally have mechanisms to automatically convert a date/time + time zone to a local time and then format for output, all based on the user's regional settings.

For the web, which is an inherently disconnected architecture, even with the back-end data set up properly, it's more complex because you need information about the client to be able to do the conversion and/or formatting. This is usually done via user preference settings (the application converts/formats things before output), or simply showing things with the same fixed format and time zone offset for everyone (which is what the Stack Exchange platform currently does).

You can see how if the back-end data is not set up properly, very quickly it's going to get complicated and hacky. I would not recommend going down any of those paths because you'll just end up with more problems down the line.

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Why is using the latter method (b) playing with fire? Could you explain more on that? –  Gan Jun 10 '13 at 6:01
@Gan: It's about controlling data inputs. While there's no fool-proof way to validate incoming values, it's better to enforce a simple standard that doesn't involve computations. If a public API expects a data type that includes an offset, that requirement will be clear to the caller. If that wasn't the case, the caller has to rely on documentation (if they read it), or the computation is done incorrectly, etc. There are fewer failure/bug modes when requiring an offset, in particular for a distributed system (or even just web/database on separate servers as the case here). –  Jon Seigel Jun 11 '13 at 16:40
Yes, agree with your comment on controlling the data input. In your answer above, you were talking about storing datetime values. Generally, datetime values would be stored based on a chosen offset (i.e. 0), so there is no need to store the datetime values with offset, unless there is some kind of special requirements to know the origin local time, which is not often necessary. –  Gan Jun 13 '13 at 11:11
@Gan: Perhaps. Storing the offset anyway kills two birds with one stone; and even if that isn't required now, it makes the possibility available later on if necessary. True it takes up more storage, but I think it's worth the trade-off because the data is lost if it's never recorded in the first place. –  Jon Seigel Jun 13 '13 at 16:32

SQL Server made modifications in 2005 onward where the internal timezone is saved in UTC. This was largely due to geo-replication and HA projectors involving log shipping, and having the log shipping times saved in different time zones made it impossible for the old method to restore them.

Thus, saving everything internally in UTC time allowed SQL Server to work well globally. This is one of the reasons why daylight savings is kind of a pain to deal with in Windows, because other MS products such as Outlook also save the date/time internally as UTC and create a offset that needs to be patched.

I work in a company where we have thousands of servers (not MS SQL Servers though, but all kinds of servers) spread out all across the world, and if we didn't specifically force everything to go by UTC, we would all go insane very quickly.

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I have developed and published the “T-SQL Toolbox” project on codeplex to help anybody who struggles with datetime and timezone handling in SQL Server. It’s open source and completely free to use.

It offers easy datetime conversion UDFs using plain T-SQL with additional configuration tables out of the box.

In your example, you can use the following sample:

SELECT [DateTimeUtil].[UDF_ConvertLocalToLocalByTimezoneIdentifier] (
    'GMT Standard Time', -- the original timezone in which your datetime is stored
    'Middle East Standard Time', -- the target timezone for your user
    '2014-03-30 01:55:00' -- the original datetime you want to convert

This will return the converted datetime value for your user.

A list of all supported timezones can be found in table "DateTimeUtil.Timezone" also provided within the T-SQL Toolbox database.

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Such a toolkit would seem to be a great help for a developer. However, a scalar function is a black box to the query optimiser. It means that when I apply your function to a column, the configuration tables you are mentioning will be hit as many times as there are rows in the result set (assuming I use the function in the SELECT clause only). That doesn't seem a nice perspective in terms of performance. I haven't really tested your toolkit, though, so I can't say for sure, that's just a general concern based on what I know. –  Andriy M May 23 '14 at 13:13
Andriy, sure, you are right from a performance perspective. The UDFs query tables are not designed for mass data operations, but for easy usage. Nevertheless, they perform quite ok up to about 100.000 records on my machine. –  adss May 23 '14 at 13:36
If one has to process more records in his use case, and performance matters, you should better think of persisting pre-calculated data. But even then, these UDFs might help to persist the datatime values in the required timzones. –  adss May 23 '14 at 13:44

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