Computer networks and the internet have dramatically changed the way we live our lives. Computers are now in constant communication with each other making possible transactions such as online shopping, seat reservation and even email.
Timing synchronization is crucial for computer networks. Computers use time in the form of timestamps as the only marker to separate two events, without synchronization computers have difficulty in establishing the order of events or indeed if an event has happened or not.
Failing to synchronize a network can have untold effects. Emails may arrive before they are sent (according to the computer’s clock), data may get lost or fail to store and worst-of-all, the entire network could be vulnerable to malicious users and even fraudsters.
Synchronization with NTP is relatively straight forward as most operating systems have a version of the time protocol already installed; however, choosing a timing reference to synchronize to is more challenging.
UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) is a global timescale governed by atomic clocks and is used by nearly all computer networks across the globe. By synchronizing to UTC a computer network is essentially synchronizing the network time with ever other computer network in the world that uses UTC.
The internet has plenty of sources of UTC available but security issues with the firewall means the only safe method of receiving UTC is externally. Dedicated NTP time servers can do this using either long wave radio or GPS satellite transmissions.