Accurate timekeeping if quite often overlooked as a priority for network administrators yet many are risking both security and data loss by not ensuring their networks are synchronised as precisely as possible.
Computers do have their own hardware clocks but these are often just simple electronic oscillators such as exist in digital watches and unfortunately these system clocks are prone to drift, often by as much as several seconds in a week.
Running different machines on a network that have different times – even by only a few seconds – can cause havoc as so many computer tasks rely on time. Time, in the form of timestamps, is the only reference computers use to distinguish between different events and failure to accurately synchronize a network can lead to all sorts of untold problems.
Data Backups – vital to safeguard data in any business or organization, a lack of synchronisation can lead to not only back ups failing but older versions of files replacing more modern versions.
Malicious Attacks – no matter how secure a network, somebody, somewhere will eventually gain access to your network but without accurate synchronisation it may become impossible to discover what compromises have taken place and it will also give any unauthorised users extra time inside a network to wreak havoc.
Error logging – when faults occur, and they inevitably do, the system logs contain all the information to identify and correct problems. However, if the system logs are not synchronised it can sometimes be impossible to figure out what went wrong and when.
Online Trading – Buying and selling on the internet is now commonplace and in some businesses thousands of online transactions are conducted every second from seat reservation to buying of shares and a lack of accurate synchronisation can result in all sorts of errors in online trading such as items being bought or sold more than once.
Compliance and legality – Many industrial regulations systems require an auditable and accurate method of timing. A unsynchronised network will also be vulnerable to legal issues as the exact time an event is alleged to have taken place can not be proved.