Maintaining accurate and synchronised time has never been so important for businesses and organisations. In today’s world, where so many transactions take place online, having a synchronised and accurate network time is crucial for businesses, especially those organisations that conduct their business over the internet or with other computer networks.
The accuracy of modern Olympic timing is made possible with the use of high quality timing devices, accurate synchronisation and atomic timing. Regular quartz oscillators are fairly accurate, but they still drift, which means without regular synchronisation, their accuracy would falter UY98UZDDVGGJ . To ensure all timing devices can achieve millisecond accuracy and precise synchronisation with one another, all Olympic timing devices are synchronised with GPS atomic clocks several times a day.
For computer networks, accurate time is essential for preventing errors, fraud and ensures security. Everything from internet banking to air traffic control relies on precise and accurate time, but many organisations take unnecessary risks when it comes to the time on their networks and rely on online time servers instead of a dedicated NTP server
NTP GPS time servers are becoming an essential tool for business networks. With the ability to synchronise hundreds of computer, switches and routers, an NTP GPS time server can keep a network accurate to within a few milliseconds of UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).
UTC is an atomic clock time reference used to ensure all PCs and computer networks, no matter where they are in the world, are all running the same time. NTP time servers are used to receive a times source and distribute it around a network but there are various choices for locating a source of UTC for time reference for synchronisation.
Ethernet NTP digital wall clocks plug into an NTP times server using an Ethernet cable. This means that the time signal is sent from the NTP time server directly to the Ethernet NTP digital wall clock, maintaining its accuracy. The Ethernet digital wall clock never needs setting as it is automatically set by the time signal sent from the times server, which means it will always be accurate, and the Ethernet NTP digital wall clock requires no mains power or batteries as it gets its power form the Ethernet.
To keep precise time, computer networks have to find a source of accurate, precise and secure time, which enables all devices to be synchronised together. One of the most common used devices for achieving this are radio time synchronisation receivers.
When you set your watch to perhaps the speaking clock or the time on the internet, have you ever wondered who it is that sets those clocks and checks that they are accurate?
There is no single master clock used for the world’s timing but there are a constellation of clocks that are used as a basis for a universal timing system known as UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).
UTC enables all the world’s computer networks and other technology to talk to each other in perfect synchronicity which is vital in the modern world of internet trading and global communication.
But as mentioned controlling UTC is not down to one master clock, instead, a serious of highly precise atomic clocks based in different countries all work together to produce a timing source that is based on the time told by them all.
These organisations don’t just help ensure UTC is as accurate as possible but they also provide a source of UTC time available to the world’s computer networks and technologies.
To receive the time from these organisations, a NTP time server (Network Time Server) is required. These devices receive the broadcasts from places like NIST and NPL via long wave radio transmissions. The NTP server then distributes the timing signal across a network, adjusting individual system clocks to ensure that they are as accurate to UTC as possible.
A single dedicated NTP server can synchronize a computer network of hundreds and even thousands of machines and the accuracy of a network relying in UTC time from the broadcasts by NIST and NPL will also be highly precise.
The NIST timing signal is known as WWVB and is broadcast from Boulder Colorado in the heart of the USA whilst the UK’s NPL signal is broadcast in Cumbria in the North of England and is known as MSF – other countries have similar systems including the DSF signal broadcast out of Frankfurt, Germany.
The atomic clock is not a recent invention. Developed in the 1950’s, the traditional caesium based atomic clock has been providing us with accurate time for half a century.
The caesium atomic clock has become the foundation of our time – literally. The International System of Units (SI) define a second as a certain number of oscillations of the atom caesium and atomic clocks govern many of the technologies that we live with an use on a daily basis: The internet, satellite navigation, air traffic control and traffic lights to name but a few.
However, recent developments in optical quantum clocks that use single atoms of metals like aluminium or strontium are thousands of times more accurate than traditional atomic clocks. To put this in perspective, the best caesium atomic clock as used by institutes like NIST (National Institute for Standards and Time) or NPL (National Physical Laboratory) to govern the world’s global timescale UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), is accurate to within a second every 100 million years. However, these new quantum optical clocks are accurate to a second every 3.4 billion years – almost as long as the earth is old.
For most people, their only encounter with an atomic clock is receiving its time signal is a network time server or NTP device (Network Time Protocol) for the purposes of synchronising devices and networks and these atomic clock signals are generated using caesium clocks.
And until the world’s scientists can agreed on a single atom to replace caesium and a single clock design for keeping UTC, none of us will be able to take advantage of this incredible accuracy.
Users of the National Physical Laboratory’s (NPL) MSF time and frequency signal are probably aware that the signal is occasionally taken off-air for scheduled maintenance.
NPL have published there scheduled maintenance for 2010 where the signal will be temporarily taken off-air. Usually the scheduled downtimes lasts for less than four hours but users need to be aware that while NPL and VT Communications, who service the antenna, make every effort to ensure the transmitter is off for a brief amount of time as possible, there can be delays.
And while NPL like to ensure all users of the MSF signal have advanced warning of possible outages, emergency repairs and other issues may lead to unscheduled outages. Any user receiving problems receiving the MSF signal should check the NPL website in case of unscheduled maintenance before contacting your time server vendor.
The dates and times of the scheduled maintenance periods for 2010 are as follows:
* 11 March 2010 from 10:00 UTC to 14:00 UTC
* 10 June 2010 from 10:00 BST to 14:00 BST (UTC + 1 hr)
* 9 September 2010 from 10:00 BST to 14:00 BST (UTC + 1 hr)
* 9 December 2010 from 10:00 UTC to 14:00 UTC
As these scheduled outages should take no longer than four hours, users of MSF referenced time servers should not notice any drop off in accuracy of their network as their shouldn’t be enough time for any device to drift.
GPS time servers receive the time from the orbiting navigational satellites. As these are available anywhere on the globe and the signals are never down for outages they can provide a constant accurate time signal (GPS time is not the same as UTC but is easily converted by NTP as it is exactly 17 seconds behind due to leap seconds being added to UTC and not GPS).