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The importance of network time synchronization

September 02, 2021

The importance of network time synchronization
 
powered by Sounder


Why is it so important to have the correct synchronized time across your entire network? And what’s the best way to go about doing it?
 
Shelby Skrhak speaks with Paul Skoog, Sr. Product Manager, Microchip, about:
 
  • Network time servers
  • Why log file timestamps are useful
  • Potential issues with using “free time” from the internet
  • How the SyncServer offers security and reliability


Network time servers

“In short, a network time server is a very accurate clock,” Paul says.
 
Microchip makes a time server called the SyncServer that pulls the time from a GPS satellite system. It does that through an antenna that’s mounted on the roof and connected to the SyncServer device by a cable.
 
Additionally, each device has an atomic clock on board.
 
Now, why is it important?
 
The time server communicates in Network Time Protocol, NTP, and the IT administrator uses NTP to synchronize time across all servers, routers and workstations across the network.
 
As a result, you have a network clock that can be trusted.


Log timestamps

For the most part, time gets used for network and business operations.
 
In fact, it plays a major role in network security: accurate timestamps on log files are integral in the event of a network problem or security breach. They help the IT admin get to the bottom of the issue as quickly and accurately as possible.
 
“If they’re not properly timestamped, then the logs aren’t going to make sense and the events aren’t going to be in order,” Paul says.


Issues with “free time”

“Free time” involves sending a request for time to an IP address which responds with a timestamp.
 
There are fundamental issues with this setup:
 
  • It’s not your clock, so you don’t have control over it.
  • It means your firewalls are open, making you vulnerable to security threats.
  • You can’t authenticate it.


SyncServer

Security

Over the years, the SyncServer has become the most security-hardened time server on the market.
 
Increasingly, many time servers come under attack through GPS jamming and spoofing. SyncServer has BlueSky technology that detects both and can protect the GPS receiver and ensure accurate and reliable time.


Reliability

There are two dimensions to this. SyncServer ensures timing reliability by installing an atomic clock in the time server which will be accurate for days and days.
 
SyncServer also ensures product reliability. The product has greater than a 30-year meantime between failure.


Ease of purchase

The device is easy to purchase through a partnership with Ingram Micro. Plus, it’s easy to install and you can set it and forget it.
 
For more information on network time servers, reach out to Ricky Needham or visit Microchip.