Why Your Company Needs a Private Timeserver

As humans, we been keeping time for at least five or six thousand years. So far as we can tell, the first people to try to tell time where the Egyptians. They used obelisks that functioned like sundials. The first mechanical clocks were invented in the 1300s in Europe. We’ve come a long way since then, and now our network clocks and POE clocks are essential to modern business. Here’s what you need to know about network timeservers.

Why Are They Important?

First off, is it even important? It turns out that timeservers are crucially important, and when the time is off it can result in data loss and even legal liability due to operational failure. It can even result in something as simple as timesheets being filled out incorrectly. Currently, experts estimate that the American economy is losing about 50 million hours every day because timesheets are filled out improperly. This translates into a loss of $7.4 billion every day.

How Do Network Time Servers Work?

Timservers are built around NTP, or Network Time Protocol. This is one of the oldest Internet protocols that is still being used and was invented before 1985. The NTP helps everyone connected to it to keep accurate time and synchronize with everyone else across the globe. NTP synchronizes using the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) timescale, which is completely independent of geographic position. The UTC scale does not correct for time zones or daylight savings time, but individual users can adjust as they like.

Instead, UTC is based on the rotation of the Earth around its axis. Because the Earth’s rotation is slowing down incrementally, it is necessary to insert a leap second into UTC time about once every 18 months.

Synchronizing Individual Machines Or Networks

NTP uses a system referred to as “stratum” to describe the distance between any particular machine and an authoritative source of time. A machine that is at stratum 1 is directly connected to an atomic clock. This machine can then send the time to stratum 2 devices, which send them on to stratum 3 devices, and so on down the line. A machine that is effectively running an NTP system will automatically look for the lowest stratum number to communicate with in order to update its own time.

Some of the things that must be taken into consideration include network delay, clock offset levels, and the dispersion of time packet exchanges. It’s also important to note that the NTP system will try to avoid synchronization with any machine that is not accurate. If a computer, for example, is not synchronized itself then NTP will not synchronize to it. As another example, if NTP is connected to several machines on a network and one of them has a significantly different time than the others, NTP will not communicate with it even if it is at a lower stratum level.

Do I Need My Own Timeserver?

One big question is whether it is necessary for companies to have their own timeservers. There are quite a few good reasons to set up a network time clock rather than rely on NTP. There are a number of services available that can set up timeservers for an entity, and here are some reasons this is done:

  1. The majority of clients on the local network do not have an active Internet connection.
  2. IT needs to be notified immediately if there’s a malfunction in time synchronization.
  3. NTP servers distribute the wrong time far too often than a business can be expected to bear with. This is usually due to improper maintenance by server administrators and can happen even with stratum 1 timeservers.
  4. NTP does not always work well when Internet connections are running at capacity. NTP is reliable when it comes to accounting for packet transmission delays; unless a connection is running at its limit. When this happens, synchronization can degrade. It’s common to see this issue happen when a virus causes a flood of emails, for example.
  5. An on-site GPS network time server cannot easily be compromised.

These are just some very good reasons why an entity should consider installing its own time server, especially when monetary loss or legal liability could result from inaccurate time.

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