In a global economy time has become a more crucial than ever before. As people across the globe, communicate, conference and buy and sell from each other, being aware of the each other’s time is vital for conducting business successfully.
And with the internet, global communication and time awareness are even more important as computers require a source of time for nearly all their applications and processes. The difficulty with computer communication, however, is that if different machines are running different times, all sorts of errors can occur. Data can get lost, errors fail to log; the system can become unsecure, unstable and unreliable.
Time synchronisation for computer networks communicating with each other is, therefore, essential – but how is it achieved when different networks are in different time-zones?
The answer lies with Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) an international time-zones developed in the 1970’2 that is based on accurate atomic clocks. UTC is set the same the world over, with no accounting for time-zones so the time on a network in the UK – will be identical to the network time in the USA.
UTC time on a computer network is also kept synchronised through the use of NTP (Network Time Protocol) and an NTP server. NTP ensures all devices on a networked system have exactly the right time as different computer clocks will drift at varying rates – even if the machines are identical.
While UTC makes no accounting for time-zones system clocks can still be set to the local time-zone but the applications and functions of a computer will use UTC.
UTC time is delivered to computer networks through a variety of sources: radio signals, the GPS signal, or across the internet (although the accuracy of internet time is debatable). Most computer networks have a NTP time server somewhere in their server room which will receive the time signal and distribute it through the network ensuring all machines are within a few milliseconds of UTC and that the time on your network corresponds to every other UTC network on the globe.