Network Time Protocol (NTP)

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Network Time Protocol (NTP) synchronizes the timing of all devices and servers to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to a trusted source of timing via the internet, or better, to a GPS-referenced NTP Server inside your network.

Accurate, reliable and secure time has become essential to many types of systems, applications, and key services considered part of today’s enterprise networks.

Time synchronization keeps Active Directory, authentication, network security services, backups, log files and audit trails in synch across different systems, for troubleshooting, auditing, and forensics.  For E-commerce, having “protected” time sources, and accurate timestamps referenced to Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) is a compliance requirement.

Implementing an NTP Server helps you ensure timing is accurate, reliable and secure throughout your enterprise. Here’s some best practices we recommend:

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Permitting NTP to pass through your firewall is considered a risk for security and compliance. NTP can be an attack vector, or avenue for Denial of Service attacks.

Security of an NTP server implementation refers to providing adequate control over access, configuration and management of the server itself, authentication and integrity of the communications between NTP servers and clients, and protection from security vulnerabilities.

Trusting NTP from an Internet source beyond your control is a risk in itself. Many compliance mandates require that all systems and applications be synchronized to UTC, with different degrees of accuracy and precision.

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Accuracy (and Precision) of an NTP server implementation refers to delivering “correct” time, with acceptable precision, relative to Universal Coordinated Time (UTC).

GPS/GNSS is by far the industry standard and most authoritative source for Universal Coordinated Time (UTC).  A GPS/GNSS Antenna that can see, and track, the signals from multiple satellites provides and accurate, precise source of timing for your NTP Server.

Other options exist to provide an alternative source of accurate timing where GPS/GNSS is not accessible, unreliable, or where extreme accuracy and precision is required.

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Reliability of an NTP server implementation is mainly about “holdover” – What happens when your NTP server loses sync with its reference source, eg. GPS/GNSS?  Issues and errors with timing can quickly accumulate, impacting your applications and services.

A reliable implementation will detect and alarm when issues occur, and “holdover” until problems can be resolved.  Look for flexible monitoring options, like alerts via SNMP or email.

Extended Holdover options ensure your NTP server will continue to serve up accurate, precise time when problems occur. A Rubidum “Atomic Clock” option extends holdover for weeks.

Deploying redundant NTP servers in a site, or in different sites, protects from individual device failures. The NTP protocol is designed to work with 2 or more NTP “peer” servers.

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Trusting NTP from an Internet source beyond your control is a risk in itself. Many compliance mandates require that all systems and applications be synchronized to UTC, with different degrees of accuracy and precision.

In E-commerce, having “protected” time sources, and accurate timestamps referenced to Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) is a compliance requirement. Key regulatory regimes, like PCI DSS 3.0 Section 10.4, SEC Rule 613 and FINRA OATS Rule 7430, have all tightened requirements for time synchronization over the last several years.  Most recently, MiFID II’s RTS 25 mandates took effect in January 2018.

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For most Enterprise requirements, Empowered recommends the SyncServer S600 Stratum 1 Network Time Server from Microchip, with the Security hardened NTP Reflector option, and Software Support and extended Warranty.

For large datacenter environments, or where diverse timing I/O signal outputs are required, let’s talk about your requirements.

Empowered knows Synchronization & Timing

NTP taps into a foundation of Empowered Networks –

our practice in Synchronization and Timing.

For more information, visit our sister site,

Empowered Networks - Your Primary Reference for Synchronization & Timing

20th Anniversary

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