Time synchronisation is an integral part of modern computer networking particularly with the Internet and online communication having become so dominant.
Communicating with machines across the globe requires exact time synchronisation otherwise many of the online tasks we take for granted would not be possible. Time in the form of timestamps is the only form of reference a computer has to identify the order of events. So with time sensitive transactions time synchronisation is pivotal.
Here are some tips to ensure your network is running precise and accurate time as possible:
NTP (Network Time Protocol) is the world’s leading time synchronisation software. There are other time protocols but NTP is the most widely used and best supported.
Most computer networks across the globe are synchronised to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). This is a global timescale based on the time told by atomic clocks. Always use a UTC source to synchronise too.
Always use an external hardware source as a timing reference as time sources from the Internet can not be authenticated. Authentication is a security measure used by NTP to ensure a timing reference is coming from where it says it is from. Also using an Internet timing source means that the reference is outside your networks firewall, this can cause added security risks.
Dedicated time servers can receive UTC signals from radio transmissions and the GPs network. These offer the most secure, accurate and reliable method of receiving a UTC time reference.
Networks based in Britain, Germany, the USA and Japan have access to long-wave time and frequency transmissions that are broadcast by national physics labs. These broadcasts are accurate and reliable and often the dedicated time servers that receive them are less expensive than their GPS alternatives.
GPS is available everywhere on the globe as a source of UTC time. GPS antennas do good a good 180 degree view of the sky and require a good 48 hours to receive a stable ‘locked’ satellite fix.
Arrange your network into strata. Stratum levels signify the distance from a timing source. A stratum 0 server is an atomic clock while a stratum 1 server is a dedicated time server that receives the time from a stratum 0 source. Stratum 2 devices are machines that receive their timing source from a stratum 1 server but stratum 2 devices can also be used to pass on timing information. By ensuring you have enough stratum levels you will avoid congestion in your network and time server.