Simple Linux NTP Server Configuration

Having been designed on Linux, NTP (Network Time Protocol) is relatively simple to configure on a Linux machine. By using NTP (available free to download via NTP.org) any Linux machine can be easily set up to run as an NTP server.

Once downloaded the NTP distribution should contain the NTP daemon and also a number of utilities and configuration scripts. These aid the installation process and provide debugging facilities. The NTP daemon is configured using the file ‘ntp.conf’. A list of commands can be specified in the ‘ntp.conf’ file to indicate which servers to synchronise to and to specify various authentication and access options.

The NTP daemon synchronises to an external reference clock. The internet can be used as a time source but these can’t be authenticated and being the wrong side of the firewall could leave the system compromised. It’s much better to use an external source such as a GPS clock or radio clock that receive time from long wave transmissions (broadcast by such institutions as NIST or NPL).

Multiple external time servers can be specified in the configuration file, which allows NTP server to select the most appropriate time server and to use an average of the most reliable sources ensuing a higher level of accuracy.

The NTP daemon is controlled by a series of scripts such as ‘ntpd start’, ‘ntp stop’ or ‘ntpd restart’. Debugging and querying can be done by using the ‘ntpq’ utility. This utility provides information relating to the synchronisation status of the NTP daemon.

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