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.
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
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.
NTP POE wall clocks use Network Time Protocol (NTP) to maintain accuracy and synchronisation. NTP is a computer algorithm that works by taking a single master time source that it distributes to all devices on a network. In the case of most NTP systems, the time is received via a NTP time server that is hooked up to a computer network.
When it comes to time synchronisation and using Network Time Protocol (NTP) to ensure accuracy on a computer network, it is important to understand the hierarchy of NTP and how it affects distance and accuracy.
NTP has a hierarchical structure known as stratum levels. In principle the lower the stratum number the closer the device is (in accuracy terms) to an original time source.
NTP time servers work by receiving a single time source and using this as a basis for all time on the network, however, a synchronised network will be only as accurate as the original time source and this is where stratum levels come in.
And atomic clock, either one sat in a large scale physics laboratory, or those aboard GPS satellites, are stratum 0 devices. In other words these are the devices that actually generate the time.
Stratum 1 devices are NTP time servers that get their source of time directly from these stratum 0 atomic clocks. Either by using a GPS receiver or a radio referenced NTP server, a stratum 1 device is as accurate as you can get without having your own multi-million dollar atomic clock in the server room. A stratum 1 NTP time server will typically be accurate to within a millisecond of the atomic clock time.
Stratum 2 devices are the next step down on stratum level chain. These are time servers that receive their time from a stratum 1 device. Most online time servers, for instance, are stratum 2 devices, getting their time from another NTP time server. Stratum 2 devices are obviously further away from the original time source and therefore are not quite as accurate.
The stratum levels on an NTP network continue on, with devices connecting to devices going all the way down to stratum 10, 11, 12 and so on – obviously the more links in the chain the less accurate the device will be.
Dedicated stratum 1 NTP time servers are by far the most accurate, reliable and secure method of synchronising a computer network and no business network should really be without one.
We couldn’t live our lives without them. They affect almost every aspect of our daily lives and many of the technologies that we take for granted in today’s world, just couldn’t function without them. In fact, if you are reading this article on the Internet the there is a chance you are using one right now.
Without knowing it, atomic clocks govern all of us. From the Internet; to mobile phone networks and satellite navigation, without atomic clocks none of these technologies would be possible.
And they will continue to do so for several million years as atomic clocks are so accurate they can maintain time to within a second for well over 100 million years. However, atomic clocks can be made even more accurate and a French team of scientists are planning to do just that by launching an atomic clock into space.
Atomic clocks are limited to their accuracy on Earth because of the effects of he gravitational pull of the planet on time itself; as Einstein suggested time itself is warped by gravity and this warping slows down time on Earth.
However, a new type of atomic clock named PHARAO (Projet d’Horloge Atomique par Refroidissement d’Atomes en Orbit) is to be placed aboard the ISS (international space station) out of reach from the worst effects of Earth’ gravitational pull.
This new type of atomic clock will allow hyper accurate synchronization with other atomic clocks, here on Earth (which in effect will make synchronization to an NTP server even more precise).
Pharao is expected to reach accuracies of around one second each 300 million years and will allow further advances in time reliant technologies.
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.
Most computer networks have to be synchronized to some degree. Allowing the clocks on computers across a network to all be telling different times is really asking for trouble. All sorts of errors can occur such as emails not arriving, data getting lost, and errors get unnoticed as the machines struggle to makes sense of the paradoxes that unsynchronized time can cause.
The problem is computers use time in the form of timestamps as the only point of reference between different events. If these don’t match then computers struggle to establish not only the order of events but also if the events took place at all.
Synchronizing a computer network together is extremely simple, thanks largely to the protocol NTP (Network Time Protocol). NTP is installed on most computer operating systems including Windows and most versions of Linux.
NTP uses a single time source and ensures that every device on the network is synchronized to that time. For many networks this single time source can be anything from the IT manager’s wrist watch to the clock on one of the desktop machines.
However, for networks that have to communicate with other networks, have to deal with time sensitive transactions or where high levels of security are required then synchronization to a UTC source is a must.
Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is a global timescale used by industry all over the world. It is governed by a constellation of atomic clocks making it highly accurate (modern atomic clocks can keep time for 100 million years without losing a second).
For secure synchronization to UTC there is really only one method and that is to use a dedicated NTP time server. Online NTP servers are used by some network administrators but they are taking a risk not only with the accuracy of the synchronization but also with security as malicious users can imitate the NTP time signal and penetrate the firewall.
As dedicated NTP servers are external to the firewall, relying instead on the GPS satellite signal or specialist radio transmissions they are far more secure.
The Network Time Protocol server is used in computer networks all over the world. It keeps an entire network’s systems and devices synchronised to the same time, normally a source of UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).
But is a NTP time server a necessary requirement and can your computer network survive without one? The short answer is perhaps yes, a computer network can survive without a NTP server but the consequences can be dramatic.
Computers are meant to make our lives easier but any network administrator will tell you they can cause an awful amount of difficulty when they inevitably go wrong and without adequate time synchronisation, identifying an error and putting it right can be nearly impossible.
Computers use the time in the form of a timestamp as the only reference they have to distinguish between two events. Whilst computers and networks will still function without adequate synchronisation they are extremely vulnerable. Not only is locating and correcting errors extremely difficult if machines are not synchronised the network will be vulnerable to malicious users and viral software that can take advantage of it.
Furthermore, failing to synchronise to UTC can cause problems if the network is to communicate with other networks that are synchronised. Any time sensitive transactions could fail and the system could be open to potential fraud or other legal implications as proving the time of a transaction could be near impossible.
NTP servers are easy to install and receive the UTC time signal from either long wave transmissions or the GPS satellite network which they then distribute amongst the network’s machines. As a dedicated NTP time server operates externally to the network firewall it does so without compromising security.