Posted by Richard N Williams on April 7th, 2010
Atomic clocks are without doubt the most accurate time pieces on the face of the planet. In fact the accuracy of an atomic clock in incomparable to any other chronometer, watch or clock.
While an atomic clock will not lose even a second in time in thousands upon thousands of years, you’re average digital watch will perhaps lose a second in just a few days which after a few weeks or months will mean your watch is running slow or fast by several minutes.
The same can also be said for the system clock that controls your computer the only difference is that computers rely even more heavily on time than we ourselves do.
Nearly everything a computer does is reliant on timestamps, from saving work to performing applications, debugging and even emails are all reliant on timestamps which can be a problem if the clock on your computer is running too fast or slow as errors can quite often occur, especially if you are communicating with another computer or device.
Fortunately, most PCs are easily synchronized to an atomic clock meaning they can be accurate as these powerful time keeping devices so any tasks performed by your PC can be in perfect synchronicity with whatever device you are communicating with.
In most PC operating systems an inbuilt protocol (NTP) allows the PC to communicate with a time server that is connected to an atomic clock. In most versions of Windows this is accessed through the date and time control setting (double clicking the clock in the bottom right).
However, for business machines or networks that require secure and accurate time synchronization, online time servers are just not secure or accurate enough to ensure your network is not vulnerable to security flaws.
However, NTP time servers that receive the time direct from atomic clocks are available that can synchronize entire networks. These devices receive a broadcasted timestamp distributed by either national physics laboratories or via the GPS satellite network.
NTP servers enable entire networks to all have exactly synchronized time which is as accurate and secure as is humanly possible.