Network Time Protocol (NTP) is an Internet based protocol designed to distribute and synchronise time across a network.
NTP is in fact one of the oldest Internet protocols having been developed in the late 1980’s at Delaware University when the Internet was still in its infancy. It was devised by Professor David Mills and his team when they realised the need for accurate time synchronisation if computers were needed to communicate with each other.
A NTP server is a dedicated device that receives a single timing source and then distributes it amongst all network devices. A NTP server will receive the timing information through a number of ways but normally it is a UTC source (coordinated universal time) a global timescale based on the time as told by atomic clocks.
NTP handles the time in a different way to how humans perceive and deal with it. While we may split a time into seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years; NTP regards time as a single number which is the number of seconds since the ‘prime epoch’.
The prime epoch is a date set for when NTP began counting seconds. For NTP the prime Epoch is 00.01 on 1 January 1900 so that means on 1 January 2008 the time according to NTP will be 3405888000, which is the number of seconds since 1900.