Posted by Richard N Williams on September 8th, 2010
Windows Server is the most common operating system used by business networks. Whether it is the latest Windows Server 2008 or a previous incarnation such as 2003, most computer networks used in trade and business have a version.
These network operating systems make use of the time synchronization protocol NTP (Network Time Protocol) to ensure synchronicity between all devices connected to the network. This is vital in the modern world of global communication and trade as a lack of synchronization can cause untold problems; data can get lost, errors can go undetected, debugging becomes near impossible and time sensitive transactions can fail if there is no synchronization.
NTP works by selecting a single time source and it be checking the time on all devices on the network, and adjusting them, it ensures the time is synchronised throughout. NTP is capable of keeping all PCs, routers and other devices on a network to within a few milliseconds of each other.
The only requirement for network administrators is to select a time source – and this is where many IT professionals commonly go wrong.
Internet time servers
Any source of time to synchronize a network to should be UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) which is a global timescale controlled by the world’s most accurate atomic clocks and the number one source for finding a UTC time server is the internet.
And many network administrators opt to use these online time servers thinking they are an accurate and secure source of time; however, this is not strictly the case. Internet time servers send the time signal through the network firewall which means viruses and malicious users can take advantage of this ‘hole.’
Another problem with internet time servers is that their accuracy can’t be guaranteed. Often they are not as accurate as a profession network requires and factors such as distance away from the host can make differences in the time.
Dedicated NTP time server
Dedicated NTP time servers, however, get the time directly from atomic clocks – either from the GPS network or via secure radio transmissions from national physics laboratories. These signals are millisecond accurate and 100% secure.
For anyone running a network using Windows Server 2008 or other Microsoft operating system should seriously consider using a dedicated NTP server rather than the internet to ensure accuracy, reliability and security.