An End to British Summer Time?

  |   By

The new UK government is to look again at the perennial debate about changing the clocks during the summer months from GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) to British Summer Time (BST).

While the move is controversial, with many in Scotland in the north of the UK, unwilling to adopt the change due to the longer dark days of winter they experience over the rest of the country – the move would help synchronise Britain with the rest of Europe.

Despite its positing in the European Union, Britain holds a different timescale to the rest of Europe. People from the UK who travel abroad have to advance their watches an hour every-time they travel to mainland Europe.

In the new proposals, daylight saving time will still continue but the standard winter time will be advanced an hour and a further advancement of an hour for the summer – know as double British Summertime – allowing the UK to have the same time as Europe.

However, despite the problems such a change would have to people; technology will not be affected by any alteration in daylight saving time.

UTC Time

Technology, such as computer networks, all use a universal time – UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). UTC is a global timescale, kept true by an international conglomeration of atomic clocks. This means whether you have a UK based computer network, or a one on the other side of the world, to the technologies – the time is the same.

Most technologies receive this time from an atomic clock source using devices known as NTP servers (after the time protocol: Network Time Protocol). NTP servers take advantage of the atomic clocks onboard GPS satellites so they can not only supply an accurate source of time but they can assure that the time source never drifts.

Other methods of getting an atomic clock source of time include using medium wave transmissions broadcast by places like the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) or the American National Institute for Standards and Time.

NTP servers ensure that no matter where you are in the world the source of time your computers and technology utilise is always Coordinated Universal Time – no matter what the time of year.



How accurate does NTP Synchronisation need to be?

  |   By

Computers advance at a remarkable rate; in effect computers double in power, speed and memory every five years, and with such advances in technology many people assume that the clocks that control the time of a computer are just as powerful.

However, nothing could be further from the truth; most system clocks are crude crystal oscillators that are prone to drift, which is why computer time synchronisation is so important.

In modern computing, nearly every aspect of managing a network is reliant on time. Timestamps are the only frame of reference a computer has to ascertain if an event has occurred, is due to, or shouldn’t occur.

From debugging, to conducting time sensitive transactions over the internet, accurate time is essential. But how accurate does it have to be?

Coordinated Universal Time

Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is a global timescale derived from atomic clocks. UTC was developed to allow technological devices, such as computer networks, to communicate with a single time.

Most computer networks use time servers governed by NTP (Network Time Protocol) to distribute UTC across the network. For most applications, accuracy to within a few hundred milliseconds is sufficient – but achieving this accuracy is where the difficulty lies.

Getting an accurate source of time

There are several options for synchronizing a network to UTC. Firstly, there is the internet. The internet is awash with time servers that proclaim to supply an accurate source of UTC. However, surveys of these online sources of time indicate that many of them are wholly inaccurate being seconds, minutes and even days out.

And even the most accurate and respected sources from NIST (National Institute of Standards and Time) and Microsoft, can vary depending on the distance your network is away.

Dedicated Time servers

Dedicated NTP time servers use a more direct approach to achieve accurate synchronisation. Using atomic clocks, either from the GPS satellite network or from physics laboratories (like NIST and the UKs NPL); the time is beamed directly to the NTP time server that is connected to the network.

Because dedicated devices like this receive the time directly from atomic clocks they are incredibly accurate, enabling the entire network to be synchronised to within just a few milliseconds of NTP.

Using Windows 7 and Reasons Your Network Still Needs an NTP Server

  |   By

Time synchronisation becomes more and more relevant as we become more dependent on the internet. With so many time sensitive transactions conducted across the globe, from banking and commerce to sending emails, the correct and accurate time is vital in preventing errors and ensuring security.

Increasingly, more and more people are relying on sources of internet time especially with many of the modern flavours of Microsoft’s Windows such as Windows 7 having NTP and time synchronisation abilities already installed.

Windows 7 and Time Synchronisation

Windows 7 will, straight out of the box, attempt to find a source of internet time; however, for a networked machine this does not necessarily mean the computer will be synchronised accurately or securely.

Internet time sources can be wholly unreliable and unsecure for a modern computer network. Internet time has to come through the firewall and as a gap is left for these time codes to come through, malicious software can take advantage of this firewall hole too.

Not only can the accuracy of these devices vary depending on the distance away your network is but also an internet time source very rarely comes direct from an atomic clock.

In fact, most internet time sources are known as stratum 2 devices. This means they connect to another device – a stratum 1 device – namely a NTP time server which gets the time directly from the clock and transmits it to the stratum 2 device.

Stratum 1 NTP time servers

For true accuracy and security, there is no replacement for your network’s own stratum 1 NTP server. Not only are these devices secure, receiving a time source externally to the firewall (often using GPS) but also they receive these signals direct from atomic clocks (The GPS satellite that transmits this signal has an onboard atomic clock that generates the time.

NTP Servers versus Internet Time What is the best method for Accurate Time?

  |   By

Accurate and reliable time is highly important and as networks and the internet gets faster and faster – accuracy becomes even more essential.

Computers internal clock systems are nowhere near accurate enough for many networked tasks. As simple quartz chronometers they will drift, by as a much as a second which perhaps wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that all the clocks on the network may drift at different rates.

And as the world becomes more global, ensuring computer networks can talk to each other is also important meaning that synchronisation to the global timescale UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) is now a prerequisite for most networks.

Methods of Synchronisation

There are currently, only two methods for getting truly accurate and reliable time:

  • Use of an internet based time server from places like NIST (National Institute of Standards and Time) or Microsoft.
  • Use of a dedicated NTP time server – that receives external time sources such as from GPS

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of sources – but which method is best?

Internet Time

Internet time has one great advantage – it is often free. However there are disadvantages to using an internet tie source. The first is distance. Distance across the internet can have a dramatic effect and as the internet gets quicker the distance has an even bigger effect meaning that accuracy become more tenuous.

Another disadvantage of internet time is the lack of authentication and the security risk it poses. Authentication is what the time protocol NTP (Network Time Protocol) uses to establish the true identity of a time source.

Furthermore, an internet time source can only be accessed through a network firewall so a UDP port has to be kept open providing a possible entrance for software nasties or malicious users.

NTP Time Server

NTP time servers on the other hand are dedicated devices. They retrieve a source of UTC externally to the firewall from either GPS or a long wave radio transmission. These come direct from atomic clocks (in the cased of GPS the atomic clock is onboard the satellite) and so can’t be hijacked by malicious users or viruses.

NTP servers are also far more accurate and are not impinged by distance meaning that a network can have millisecond accuracy all the time.

The World Cup and the NTP Server

  |   By

As half the world is engrossed in the four yearly football tournament, it is a good opportunity to highlight the importance of accurate time and how it enables the entire world to watch events such as the Fifa World Cup.

Many of us have been glued to the love football coverage that is being broadcast by a multitude of different broadcasters and TV companies to nearly all countries across the globe.

But nearly all the technologies that enable this mass global live transmission: from the communication satellites that beam the signal across the globe, to the receivers that distribute them to our dishes, cable boxes and aerials.

And with online broadcasting now part and parcel of the whole live sporting event package – accurate time is even more important.

NTP time servers

With signals being bounced from football stadiums to satellites and then to our homes, it is essential that all the technologies involved are synchronised as accurately as possible. Failure to do so could cause the signals to get lost, create interferences or cause a qhole host of other problems.

Most technologies rely on time servers to ensure accuracy and synchronisation. Most time synchronisation servers use the protocol NTP (Network Time Protocol) to distribute time across technology networks.

These devices use a single time source, often acquired from an external atomic clock that is used to set all system clocks on devices to.

Most modern computer networks have a NTP time server that controls the time. These devices are simple to set up and in a modern, global world, are a must have for anybody conscious about accuracy and security (Many security and malicious network attacks are caused due to a lack of synchronisation).

A single NTP time server can keep a network of hundreds and even thousands of machines accurate to within a few milliseconds to the world’s global timescale UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).

A New Slim 1U Rackmount Dual Time Server from Galleon Systems

  |   By

Leading providers of time synchronisation equipment and Network Time Protocol Products, Galleon Systems, have released a compact new 1U rackmountable dual time server.

Galleon’s new NTS 6001 1U rackmountable NTP time server can receive atomic clock timing signals from both the Global Positioning System (GPS) and national time and frequency radio transmissions.

Designed to fit snugly into any server rack, the 1U NTS 6001 is a stratum 1 time server capable of symphonizing a network of hundred of machines to within a few
milliseconds of UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).

The NTS 6001 consists of both an integral GPS receiver that can simultaneously track up to 12 satellites, and a high gain radio receiver that can receive the MSF (UK), WWVB (USA) and DCF (Germany) radio transmissions.

The NTS- 6001 dual time server features:

  • NTP Version 4
  • Ethernet NTP output jitter typically within 50 microseconds of UTC.
  • High Reliability – solid state design and convection cooled
  • Easy to use – web based user interface for system configuration and management.
  • Free firmware upgrades.
  • LCD display
  • 3 Year Warranty.

The NTS 6001 is the latest in a long line of highly precise NTP time synchronisation devices from atomic clock experts Galleon Systems.

Manufactured in the UK, Galleon Systems have a wide range of other NTP and time synchronisation devices used worldwide by thousands of organizations who need accurate, reliable and precise time.

For more information please contact:
https://www.galsys.co.uk/
0121 608 4433
sales(at)galleonmail(dot)com

Do I Really Need A NTP Server For Time Synchronisation?

  |   By

Time synchronisation is a critical aspect to modern computing, especially when computers are on a network or need to communicate with other networked machines.

Timestamps are crucial for computers to acknowledge when an event occurred and it is the only information they have to ascertain if an event has occurred. Without accurate time stamps the consequences can include:

• Loss of data
• Difficult to log errors
• Difficult to debug
• Failure to save
• Time sensitive applications may fail

Modern operating systems like Windows 7 have automatic synchronisation software already installed. W32Time has been a part of Microsoft’s different generations of operating systems for some time but in Windows 7 it is set to be automatically on (Rather than the user having to set it) – synchronising your PC straight out of the box.

With such NTP (Network Time Protocol) based synchronisation available by using internet time servers (normally Microsoft and NIST) many people may wonder if a dedicated time server is still required.

Problems with Internet Time Servers

There are several drawbacks to using this Internet time as a source of UTC (Coordinated Universal Time – the global timescale often referred to as GMT).

The first and most important drawback to internet time servers is their location through the firewall. Having to rely on a source of time across the internet means keeping the TCP port open – a crucial security weakness that can be used by malicious users or bots.

Another downside to internet time servers is their lack of guaranteed accuracy. While places like NIST (National Institute for Standards and Time) and Microsoft have reliable and accurate time servers – the accuracy can be dependent on how far away you are peering from. And many other time servers available as a source of internet time are less reliable – and as NTP can’t authenticate a time signal from across the internet – it can be difficult to assess.

Benefits of an External NTP Server

Dedicated external NTP servers are far more secure. They receive their tie from GPS satellites of Long Wave transmissions so the signals can’t be intercepted by computer hackers or malicious software. Also, NTP can authenticate the signals ensuring you know where they are coming from and how accurate they are.

With time being so important on modern networked computers, taking a risk with internet time may cost a lot more than any minor investment in a dedicated NTP time server.

European Rival to GPS takes a Further Step Forward

  |   By

The long awaited European rival to the USA Global Positioning System, Galileo, has taken a step forward to realisation with the delivery of the payload for first satellite.

The payload, which contains the “brains” of the Galileo satellite, includes the atomic clocks that are the basis for all global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) and provide both the positing information and the GPS time signal used by so many GPS NTP time servers for network synchronisation.

Galileo is set to not only rival the current American run GPS system, but for time synchronisation applications it is expected to operate in tandem ensuring even greater accuracy for those seeking a source of UTC time.

Galileo has undergone a lot of uncertainty since the multi-billion Euro project was first designed over a decade ago but the delivery of the first satellite’s payload to Rome, where the equipment is being finalised in preparation for launch early next year, is a real boon to the project which has often fallen into doubt.

Just like GPS, Galileo will be a fully operation navigational satellite system but will offer even greater accuracy that its aging predecessor and provide Europe with their own navigational system that isn’t owned and controlled by the US military.

As well as the positing information that will be used by motorists, pilots and other travellers, Galileo will also provide a secure and accurate source of time for the world’s computer networks and technologies to ensure synchronicity.

Currently, GPS is alone in providing this secure service, although radio transmissions in some countries provide an alternative to the GPS time server signals, although they are not as wide spread as GPS.

The first Galileo satellite is expected to reach orbit in early 2011, with the entire network planned to be operation in 2014 – although if past experiences with the project are anything to go on – you should expect at least a few delays.

The Worlds Atomic Clock Timekeepers

  |   By

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 UTC timekeepers include such notable organisations as the USA’s National Institute of Standards and Time (NIST) and the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) amongst others.

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.

A Guide to Network Time Protocol

  |   By

NTP (Network Time Protocol) is perhaps the oldest and most commonly used protocol employed by computers and yet it is probably the least understood.

NTP is used by nearly all computers, networks and other devices that are involved in communicating across the internet or internal networks. It was developed in the very earliest stages of the internet when it became evident that some method of ensuring accuracy over distance was required.

The protocol works by selecting a single time source, of which NTP has the ability to establish the accuracy and reliability of, which it then distributes around every device on the NTP network.

Each device is regularly checked against this reference clock and adjusted if any drift is noticed. A version of NTP is now deployed with virtually every operating system allowing any machine to be synchronized to a single time source.

Obviously if every network in the world selected a different time source as its reference, the reason for of all this synchronization would be lost.

Fortunately, a global timescale based on an international consortium of atomic clocks has been developed to provide a single time source for the purposes of global synchronisation.

UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) is used by computer networks worldwide as a time reference which means any device that is synchronised to UTC with NTP will in effect be synchronised with every network that uses UTC as its base time.

There are many different methods that NTP can access UTC time. The internet is a common location although this does provide security and firewall issues. A more secure (and accurate) method is to use a dedicated NTP time server that takes the time from external sources such as the GPS network (GPS works by broadcasting an atomic clock timestamp that is easily converted to UTC by a NTP server).

With NTP, a dedicated time server and access to UTC an entire network can be synchronised to within a few milliseconds of the universal time providing a secure and accurate network that can operate in complete synchronicity with other networks across the globe.