What Is Network Time Protocol? A Galleon Systems Definition

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In this article, NTP time server specialists Galleon Systems, answers the question what is network time protocol?  Additionally, the article explains the benefits of NTP for businesses, plus the part it plays in day to day life.  

What is network time protocol?
NTP synchronises time across computer network.

What is Network Time Protocol?

The Source Of Time For NTP Servers

What Is Network Time Protocol Useful For?

How Can Network Time Protocol Benefit Your Business?

Beyond Business – NTP Servers In ‘Every Day’ Life

Selecting The Right NTP Time Server For Your Business

Radio Or GPS Signals?

Standing The Test Of Time

What Is Network Time Protocol?

In simple terms NTP, or Network Time Protocol, is a system for synchronising the time of day across computer networks. Originally developed by David L. Mills of the University of Delaware, NTP works by using a single time source, enabling it to synchronise time across all devices that are part of a network.

Did you know? NTP was first implemented in 1985. However, some of its predecessors date back as far as 1979.

The Source Of Time For NTP Servers 

Most NTP networks rely on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) as their source for time synchronisation. UTC is considered to be the best source by which the world should regulate clocks and time.

The unique benefit of using UTC for NTP networks is that it remains the same without being affected by time-zones. Also, UTC keeps its accuracy via numerous atomic clocks.

The atomic clocks that preserve the accuracy of UTC are located in national physics laboratories. Unfortunately, such devices cannot be installed in the ‘average’ server room in order to sustain time synchronisation.

However, with the implementation of an NTP time server, a source of UTC can be received as the server is able to pick up a radio signal broadcast by physics laboratories or from the Global Positioning (GPS) network.

What is Network Time Protocol? GPS satellite orbiting earth.
A GPS satellite orbiting the earth.

What Is Network Time Protocol Useful For?

The key benefits of implementing an NTP server within your business include:

  • The accurate time synchronisation of devices within milliseconds of each other
  • The synchronisation of time across multiple time-zones
  • Improving network security

How Can Network Time Protocol Benefit Your Business?

NTP software is in use all over the world, enabling businesses to become more punctual when it comes to transactions, particularly online. NTP networks have revolutionised payment processing methods, online security and a variety of other business practices, enhancing business efficiency.

Whatever your business does, two of the fundamental values of business remain the same ‘saving time and saving money’, values that NTP software is able to uphold and improve.

Picture the scene – Your entire company’s computer network has been hacked, there is no accurate time recording system in place to identify exactly when the hack took place. As a result, all available manpower is occupied trying to find out the precise moment this breach of security occurred. All the times specified are different, the company is losing valuable time and money dealing with the issue.

How could the issue have been prevented? A time synchronised firewall and anti–virus software activation. At designated times, precise to the millisecond, an NTP server could activate anti-virus software that would immediately scan the entire computer network, checking for any attempts to upload malicious software that could affect your business.

Your business could accurately record the time that any attempt(s) to harm your business operations took place and use that data to accurately time when to activate an anti-virus or anti-malware scan. Precise time recordings could also be used in legal proceedings against those responsible for attempting to maliciously harm your organisation.

Beyond Business – NTP Servers In ‘Everyday Life’     

NTP time servers are operating all around us on a daily basis. CCTV cameras, ATM machines and the infamous speed cameras all deal with time sensitive data.

Therefore, the importance of NTP time synchronisation is crucial. Without the presence of an NTP server, everyday technologies that many take for granted would become useless.

What Is NTP
CCTV Cameras Utilise NTP Servers To Function.

Network Time Protocol software is considered particularly important in global financial sectors. The stock exchange, for instance, relies heavily on NTP time servers due to the frequency with which currency rates and prices alter each second.

The fact that NTP time servers serve a purpose beyond the business world highlights that they are not just a ‘fad’ or overhyped, they are an integral part of society, functioning to keep people safe and  ensuring that necessary transactions take place on time.

Selecting The Right NTP Time Server For Your Business

Consider this – how many devices need to be synchronised? This will determine the NTP time server system that will best suit the necessary requirements. Also, you will need to give some thought to how the source of time is received. Does radio transmission suit the requirements or are GPS signals the preferred option?

Synchronising Single Machines

Some types of NTP servers are designed specifically for time synchronisation of individual machines. For instance, Galleon’s TS-400 NTP time receiver series is a cost effective solution for synchronising time on a single PC. This particular type of time server is merited when a device is functioning independently of a network.

Time servers used on single machines predominantly utilise radio signals and have the ability to maintain an accurate reading of time within a few milliseconds of UTC.

Synchronising Entire Networks

It is plausible for a single NTP server to synchronise time across an entire network of PCs, routers and other devices that are all operating at the same time. For example, Galleon’s NTS-6001 time server model, provides precise time synchronisation for large-scale business networks.

Sustaining accurate time readings across many devices, using a single NTP time server, is achievable because of the stratum system they utilise.

In basic terms the stratum system is a hierarchy; at the top of the hierarchy sit the primary devices, which an NTP server would designate with the task of distributing time to devices further down the stratum system, and so on, until all devices receive the signal.

The stratum system prevents a single NTP time server from being inundated with time requests but, because all devices are linked to the same NTP server, irrespective of how far down the stratum hierarchy a device is, the time reading will be just as precise as the reading on devices further up the hierarchical chain.

What Is NTP
Stratum System In Action – Yellow Arrows Indicate A Direct Connection (Primary Devices); Red Arrows Depict A Network Connection.

Radio Or GPS Signals?

The case for radioRadio NTP servers that rely on radio frequencies tend to receive the required signal via national physical laboratories situated across Europe and the USA. However, such frequencies are not available everywhere, which has led to an increase in the number of GPS NTP servers purchased by businesses.

The case for GPS – The main benefit of installing GPS NTP servers is that GPS signals are available anywhere on the planet, even in remote locations. However, one of the drawbacks is that in order for an NTP server to maximise the full capabilities of GPS time signals, an antenna will need placing in a location that will not obstruct its view of the sky.

GPS signals can only function by line of sight and for some companies this could pose a potential problem. For instance, if you want to use a GPS antenna in the lower level of a high rise office, getting a strong enough signal is difficult. Therefore, an NTP server that picks up a radio signal is a better solution.

Standing The Test Of Time

Galleon Systems has designed, manufactured and supplied time synchronisation units for decades, answering the question of ‘what is NTP?’, whilst delivering ideal time synchronisation solutions.

But, don’t take our word for it. Here’s what one of our many valued Galleon customers had to say:

“We at Delta Fluid Products have been a Galleon customer for over five years. We needed a time solution to ensure that our employee management system collected exact clocking from our staff. This is very important to us as these systems are interfaced into our payroll package, and incorrect clocking times would ultimately effect peoples’ wages.

We opted for a Galleon atomic clock to ensure that this would never happen. The clock was easy to install, reliable and continues to operate without any requirement for maintenance.”

Lee Jones, Business Systems Manager, Delta Fluid Products Ltd.


This post was written by:

A dedicated writer for 10 years, Daniel joined Galleon Systems in 2013. Daniel assists in the production of web copy, articles, blogs, press releases and white papers, for use by Galleon Systems' marketing team. Daniel Waldron on Google+