We live and work in a totally different world to the one that many of us were born into. We are now as likely to buy something from across the internet as stroll down the coal high street. And big business and commerce has changed too with the marketplace becoming truly global and the internet being the most common tool for trade.
Trading globally does provide its problems though as different timescales govern the different countries across the globe. To ensure parity a global timescale was introduced in the 1970’s knows Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). However, as e-commerce advanced so did the need to ensure accurate synchronization to UTC.
The biggest problem is that most clocks and watches, including those inbuilt into computer motherboards, are susceptible to drift. And as different machines will drift at different rates, global communication and e-commerce could be impossible. Just think of the difference a second can make in marketplaces like the stock exchange, where fortunes are won or lost, or when you purchase seat reservations online, what would happen if somebody on a computer with slower clock booked the same seat after you, the computer’s timestamps will show the person booked before you.
Other unforeseen errors can result, even in internal networks, when computers are running different times. Data can get lost, errors can be difficult to log, track down and fix and malicious users can take advantage of the time confusion.
To ensure truly global synchronization, computer networks can synchronize to an atomic clock allowing all computers on a network o remain within a few milliseconds of UTC. Compute networks use NTP servers (Network Time Protocol) to ensure accurate synchronization, most NTP servers receive the atomic clock time from either GPS satellites of radio frequencies.