To some, the topic of a network time server may not be a part of our daily lexicon, but rather a phrase more commonly used by the techies of the world. Yet, our entire modern world relies on the concept of network time. Regardless of whether you are an experienced server technician, or only a beginner this article will explain the five things that everyone needs to know about network time servers, and why we need them.
1. What a Network Time Server Is
A time server exists inside every computer, laptop, and even smartphone that you own and helps maintain accurate time on these devices. Accurate time does not necessarily mean simply the time that is displayed on your computer or phone's clock feature, but rather the time that the entire computer system runs on.
For instance, consider running some program that sends information to another program and tells it what to do. In order for tasks to be completed correctly, commands need to be received and carried out in a specific order, which requires accurate time. A time server is a device that reads the actual time from a reference clock, usually on the Internet, and communicates this time to the rest of the computer components through its network.
2. Who Keeps Time for the Server
The time that your computer's internal server clock references before communicating it to the other parts of the system could be a different network server on your computer's local network, or on the Internet. Alternatively, you could use a radio clock, which receives accurate time via radio waves, or an internal atomic clock to make sure that your computer always runs accurate time, even when not connected to a network.
The most common source of accurate time however is a GPS master clock that uses global-positioning to maintain time as measured by the earth moving around the sun.
3. How Time is Maintained
In order for all of the computers of the world to agree upon an accurate time so that our worldwide systems can function normally, there must be some form of synchronization in place. That synchronization system is known as the Network Time Protocol, often referred to simply as NTP. While there are other synchronization systems, most are outdated and NTP Is by far the most widely used.
4. Time Servers Vary In Purpose and Design
While time servers seem like highly dedicated pieces of machinery, in fact they can be a multi-purpose server on a network. For instance, you can turn an existing network or file server into a time keeper with just a bit of extra software. This software can be downloaded from the NTP homepage. On the other hand you could use a dedicated server, or even a dedicated device that does nothing more than provide accurate time.
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