Network Time Protocol and the NTP Server

Network Time Protocol (NTP) has been around for nearly 25 years. It is one of the Internet’s oldest protocols and is still widely used and under constant development.

NTP was developed and designed in 1985 by Professor David Mills from the University of Delaware in the United States. Its success owes much to the fact that it was one of the first ever protocols on the Internet and was first used when the World Wide Web was in its infancy.

The importance of NTP on modern computer networks cannot be stressed highly enough, without NTP and NTP servers many of the applications and processes that we conduct over the Internet and now take for granted

Internet auction sites, email and global trading all require accurate time synchronisation. Just imagine booking an airline ticket only to discover your seat was resold after you had purchased it because the buyer had a slower clock on their computer?

Confusion and problems such as these would be commonplace without NTP and NTP servers, just think of the hysteria around the millennium bug!

NTP servers allow not only computers on a particular network to be perfectly synchronised but as most NTP servers are set to receive time from a UTC time source, computers around the entire globe can be synchronised together. UTC or Coordinated Universal Time is a global time scale based on the time told by atomic clocks.

NTP servers can receive a timing reference from the Internet, although this is fairly inaccurate, or from dedicated time and frequency radio signals or the GPS network.

Currently an NTP server receiving an authoritative timing source can provide accuracy over the Internet to within a few hundred nanoseconds (a nanosecond is 1 second every billion years.)

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