Why have a dedicated time server

The internet is awash with sources of time for synchronisation purposes. Whilst these are all indirectly linked to atomic clocks and represent the global timescale – UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), their accuracy can never be guaranteed (or proved).

Note: An internet time source also represents a security risk as the network firewall has to remain open for the time code transfer.

For security reasons or for systems that requires some form of confirmed accurate time, for example coordinating the time accros a custom CCTV security system, or a Webhosting Service a time source external to the firewall is essential. However, any time source used to synchronise an entire network using NTP should ultimately come from an atomic clock and be representative of UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) to ensure accuracy and equilibrium with other networks.

Network time servers, commonly called NTP servers after the protocol they support, are the simplest, most secure, and reliable method of receiving a precise, accurate and fully auditable source of UTC time – generated by atomic clocks.

NTP servers receive the time source externally, often via the Global Positioning System (GPS) or long wave transmissions and then distribute this time across all devices on the network. They also adjust each machine to counter any drift and ensure that every device is within a few milliseconds of UTC time.

NTP servers have become crucial tools in many industries and are essential for practices such as air traffic control, international banking, online reservation systems and even internet auction houses. They also provided an accurate and secure source of time that is provable and auditable in times of litigation.