One of the oldest internet communication protocols still in use today, NTP enables time synchronization across network devices. Despite being a critical part of many computer processes, it’s very easy to overlook. The goal of NTP is to synchronize computers with respect to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Every network relies on time through internal clocks. NTP allows you to be better coordinated and increase efficiency, as each network device is working to the same, accurate time as you synchronize their clocks across your business.
It’s easy to understand the dangers of unsynchronized time in sectors such as finance, healthcare and transport. Particularly for the latter two, it can be the difference between life and death in timed medical procedures and air traffic control systems. However, there are many reasons why NTP is important for all organisations.
How NTP can help you
System updates are a necessary part of computer software. However, managing this process across a network can be complicated, since it’s best practise to carry out critical system updates for all clients at the same time. This avoids leaving your systems vulnerable to hackers. Synchronizing time through NTP makes simultaneous updates possible.
Timestamps are used in many different computer network processes. They are a record of exactly when a digital event occurred, such as an email being sent, or a financial transaction taking place. NTP gives you peace of mind, knowing that you can rely on the accuracy of timestamps. Without this, errors such as transaction failures and data loss can occur.
Accurate and synchronized time is also a key component of maintaining network security. Whilst there will always be cyberattacks, using NTP allows you to fully investigate any breaches, with the timing of all events in system logs being precisely recorded.
It’s not just security where NTP can be a useful investigative tool. If you detect any unauthorised network usage, knowing the definitive time this activity occurred makes it much easier for you to find the culprit.
Synchronizing time across your business has a big effect on overall efficiency. With all your staff now working to the same correct time, it ensures that meetings and appointments take place promptly, orders are sent out on schedule and deadlines are clear. It also promotes punctuality as a value within your organisation.
Local NTP Time Servers: Safe and Secure
To ensure network security when using NTP, it is highly recommended that you use a local dedicated NTP time server.
Free internet time servers are available, but they are vulnerable to cyberattacks and require an open port in your firewall. They make you a prime target for hackers looking to interfere with the time synchronization process by distributing false time and causing network outages. These actions are often a precursor to further malicious activities such as data theft.
A local NTP time server sits within your firewall, meaning that you don’t have to create a potential vulnerability in your network with an open port and reconfigure your firewall settings.
Further Advantages of a Local NTP Time Server
Free internet time servers just cannot compete with local NTP time servers, not only on security, but also on accuracy and reliability.
Local time servers can use sources such as GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) for extremely precise time, and won’t be affected by server load. They use high-performance internal oscillators to maintain accuracy if the time signal is lost, and can also use peering with other servers.
Using your own local NTP time server means that you are fully aware of how accurate your server’s time source is. It gives you far more control, and you no longer have to worry about your time server suffering disruptions in service, or simply being switched off.