What You Need to Know About NTP Servers

Wifi clock

When you think of the important questions in life, you may think of things like the search for the meaning of life or the search for life in the universe. One question that you may not think merits too much thought is, “what time is it?” The funny thing is that this is actually a very important question. People having been looking to answer that question for between five and six thousand years. The first humans to try to keep track of the time of day were the ancient Egyptians. They used obelisks as the first sun dials. In the 14th century, mechanical clocks were invented in Europe. Today, we have a lot more sophisticated ways to tell the time of day. From Network Time Protocol (NTP) time to Precision Time Protocol (PTP), we are always on the lookout for more accurate ways to tell the time. If you manage a business, you probably have a NTP time server in your network.

Why Is This So Important? There are a number of reasons you want to make sure all of your computers and devices are operating on the same exact time. What happens, however, is that when clocks are set by people and then never checked afterwards, the time they keep becomes inaccurate. In fact, most start out having the wrong time. People may not think much of a clock being off by a minute or two buy it really does make a difference.

For the most part, clocks in computers and devices use a clock calendar system that is kept up with battery power. Over time, these timeservers and systems develop a little slippage. That tiny bit of slippage grows and grows. When clocks are allowed to operate without any kind of NTP time server, the clocks on all of your devices and computers will drift away from each other much in the way plate tectonics moves the continents.

You need to have all of your devices and computers operating on the very same time. Why is that important?

  • When you use shared files and file systems, confusion will reign if your devices and computers have different times. It becomes impossible to show the most recent files and edits if everything on the network thinks it is a different time of the day.
  • Applications for billing rely on having the most accurate time. For financial institutions, there are even legal requirements for the times they use to be as accurate as possible. The laws regarding medical and health information, as dictated by the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) also demand the correct timestamp be used. Failure to abide by the laws on health and financial records can result in huge problems and fines.
  • Any kind of sort software will run into problems when the devices used are not operating on the same time. The same holds true for looking at and managing network usage, data breaches and overall software performance. If your network clock is off, you will have problems with all of these things.
  • Documents are hard to keep secure when the device time is wrong. When you work with data that need to be encrypted, you will have a hard time when the timestamp is not kept correctly. Most authentication software also requires the correct timestamp be used.
  • Companies lose a lot of money due to mistakes keeping the time. It has been estimated that Every day, $7.4 billion is lost to the United States economy by time sheets that were not filled out correctly.

What are the best ways to make sure your devices and computers all have the same and accurate timestamp?

That is where the NTP time server or PTP time server come into play. NTP is one of the oldest internet protocols around. It was invented in 1985 by David Mills. The good news is that there are ways to make sure all of your computers and devices share the same time and that it is accurate. Having the right NTP time server can make all of the difference to your operations. When you have one installed on your network, beneath the safety of your firewall, you can make sure you have the correct time across all of your devices and computers.

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