Accurate Timekeeping Tutorial | GPS & MSF NTP Time Servers

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In the market for an accurate timekeeping device? Interested in network time servers? Not sure which to choose? Discover the pros & cons of GPS & MSF time servers, helping you to make the right choice for your business.

Is your business growing & expanding? Worried about how to keep business operations running fluidly?

With more staff to manage & a bigger business operation, a network time server could be the key to making your company more time efficient.

You’ve done your research & now you need to know if a GPS NTP Server or a Radio NTP Server is most conducive to your accurate timekeeping requirements.

Accurate Timekeeping with GPS

GPS time servers are arguably the popular choice for accurate timekeeping. Why? Time is retrieved from GPS satellites, meaning that accurate time is achievable virtually anywhere in the world.

Choosing a GPS time server is solely dependent on how accurate you want time to be. These devices can achieve time accuracy to the nanosecond, and are widely utilised by institutions where accurate timekeeping is a legal requirement.

If your business systems perform time critical processes, a GPS time server should be given your consideration.

However, there is a drawback, particularly if you’re located on the ground floor of an office block, for instance.

The GPS antenna linked to a time server requires a clear view of the sky, usually resulting in attachment to the roof.

While this may increase the cost of installation, the overriding benefit is that accurate timekeeping is continuous, provided the GPS satellites don’t come crashing to earth.

If you want to keep costs down, it’s not absolutely necessary for a GPS antenna to be positioned on a roof.

Provided the sky is visible, an antenna can be positioned on an external window ledge. However, a 360o view of the sky is recommended for better signal lock.

GPS units, such as the Galleon Systems NTS-6001-GPS NTP Server, connect to your network using an Ethernet cable [CAT5].

There is minimal disruption and time synchronisation is quick, provided the antenna has a good view of the sky.

Any kind of obscurity may result in a longer synchronisation time.

Accurate Timekeeping
A typical CAT5 Ethernet cable.

Benefits of Accurate Time Keeping with GPS – Summary

  • Accurate time achievable anywhere in the world
  • Can achieve nanosecond accuracy – essential for time critical processes
  • Virtually continuous signal
  • Simple installation
  • ‘Set & forget’ – requires minimal maintenance

Accurate Timekeeping with MSF

The distinct advantage of Radio Time Servers is that they receive a relatively strong signal, indoors.

Signals can pass through windows, however, passing through buildings proves more problematic, not ideal if you’re located in an inner city area.

The base of the MSF antenna at Anthorn Radio Station, Cumbria.
The base of the MSF antenna at Anthorn Radio Station, Cumbria.

Another MSF drawback is that the radio antenna must be closely positioned to a host computer or a time server in order to maintain a signal.

Furthermore, MSF coverage is not available worldwide, leaving you no choice but to use a GPS unit.

MSF time servers are less costly and easier to install, but time accuracy decreases to the millisecond.

Therefore if time accuracy is important, but not crucial, a Radio Time Server is a viable option for your accurate timekeeping requirements.

Windows user? The TS-900 MSF Network Time Server, from Galleon Systems, is a prime example of quality technology utilising the MSF signal.

It’s compatible with Windows NT, 2000, 2003 and Windows XP workstations. Plus, if you have a rackmount server room, this device will simply slot right in.

Benefits of Accurate Timekeeping with MSF – Summary

  • Stronger indoor signal than GPS
  • Cost-effective
  • Easier to install

The Best of Both

Can’t decide which is best for your business? Get the best of both with dual NTP servers. If accurate timekeeping is paramount to your business, make sure your clocks are never out of sync.

Dual server devices, such as Galleon’s NTS-8000 Dual NTP Server, always receive time from the strongest source.

Accurate timekeeping
‘The NTS-8000 Dual NTP Time Server.’

Essentially, each signal acts as a backup for the other. Dual devices are fantastic for large-scale networks. It’s highly secure and the most cost effective way of achieving accurate time, utilising both signal sources.

The NTS-8000 is rackmountable and connects to a network using a standard CAT5 Ethernet cable.

It can also be peered with other NTP time server devices, enabling the server to cross-reference its own time with other devices, keeping time as accurate as possible.

Benefits of Both – Summary

  • No loss of accurate time – there’s always a signal
  • Easy to install
  • Accurate timekeeping for thousands of devices

Choose a Dedicated Time Server

The primary benefit of having a dedicated GPS, MSF or Dual time server for accurate timekeeping is reliability and security.

It’s likely that your research will have led you to free time servers, but the fact that they are free is as good as it gets.

Free time servers tend to be a security risk because they do not operate within a firewall. This leaves your network vulnerable to a myriad of security issues.

Plus, if something were to go wrong, your time synchronisation is out of your control leaving you reliant on a third party to resolve any issues.

Galleon Time Servers

Galleon devices not only maintain accurate time securely, purchase is covered by an industry leading, 6 year warranty.

Plus, you benefit from product lifetime support.

Need help making a decision? Talk to a Galleon time lord, today.

Call 0121 608 7230 for information on time server devices.

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This post was written by:

A dedicated writer for 10 years, Daniel joined Galleon Systems in 2013. Daniel assists in the production of web copy, articles, blogs, press releases and white papers, for use by Galleon Systems' marketing team. Daniel Waldron on Google+