Time Servers

Why You Need An NTP Time Server

Time accuracy is paramount, and many network events, from process control to authentication, hinge on precise timing. Reliable timestamps and log files are crucial for billing systems, diagnostics, forensics, databases, and analysis. However, the internal clocks of electronic devices are often imprecise, drifting significantly over time. The solution is to employ network time synchronization.

Implementing network time synchronization is straightforward, relying on a designated NTP time server as the master clock and reference point. The choice of time server influences the security, reliability, accuracy, and manageability of the network time application, making it a critical decision for efficient network operations.

VersaSync Master Clock

VersaSync Master Clock

A low SWaP, high performance GPS master clock and network time server that delivers accurate, software configurable time and frequency signals. VersaSync is your solution for mobile mission rugged timing.

VersaSync GPS Master Clock
White Rabbit: Sub-Nanosecond Timing

White Rabbit: Sub-Nanosecond Timing

White Rabbit is a collaborative project including CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research and other partners from universities and industry to develop a fully deterministic Ethernet-based network for general purpose data transfer and sub-nanosecond accuracy time transfer.

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High Energy Physics (HEP)

High Energy Physics (HEP)

Safran HEP products ensure accurate timing in control and diagnostic systems for particle accelerators.

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PCIe Timing Boards

PCIe Timing Boards

Synchronize one or more computer- or instrument chassis-based systems to a time code, providing accurate timing, time stamps for external events, time-based interrupts, and time reference & frequency signals to other devices.

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Time Displays

Time Displays

Visualize your accurate timing by integrating with a Safran network time server.

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  • What is NTP (network time protocol)?

    While a variety of time services are available to use for network time synchronization, the most widely used and well established protocol is known as network time protocol or NTP. NTP is a UDP protocol for IP networks. The Internet Engineering Task Force has formalized the current standard of NTP (version 4) in RFC 5905. Simple network time protocol, SNTP, the latest standard formalized as RFC 4330, uses a less complex client implementation.

    A time synchronization solution requires client software to read NTP packets generated by an NTP server and synchronize the local clock. The time server function is the same in either NTP or SNTP, the only difference is with the client software.

  • How do I configure NTP clients?

    Client software for network time protocol is widely available for a variety of operating systems and is typically pre-installed in servers, workstations, firewalls and routers. Configuring an NTP or SNTP client is straightforward. Support can be found on this site and many others for configuring Windows time services such as W32time. Third-party software is available to improve the functionality of the NTP client application. We offer a suite of NTP software for Windows clients called PresenTense. PresenTense greatly improves the management and reliability of the time synchronization application through the use of real-time monitoring, extensive logging, email alerts, built-in redundancy, and higher accuracy.

  • Why not use an internet time server?

    Internet-based time servers operated by universities and government organizations are available for public use. However, NTP requires an open port (UDP port 123) in the firewall for the NTP packets to get through. Open ports in the firewall are a security risk for you, as a network operator, and can affect the reliability and accuracy of public time servers as they are easily exploited in “Denial of Service” attacks even if inadvertent.

    In May 2003, an internet time server operated by the University of Wisconsin, Madison was the recipient of a continuous large-scale flood of traffic resulting in greatly reduced availability of the server for many months. It was later determined that the source of the “attack” was based on a programming bug in the firmware of inexpensive routers for home and small business use.

    Accuracy is another concern of internet time servers. The latest survey of the NTP time server network from MIT uncovered two problems: the number of bad time servers on the internet, as well as the unbalanced load. Only 28% of the time servers indicated as stratum 1, appeared to be useful.

    Another concern effecting accuracy is the concern over spoofing. Spoofing is the act by a third party to create IP packets using someone else’s IP address. Don’t take the chance of using fake NTP packets for your network synchronization.

Regulation Details

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act

“SOX” requires top executives of public companies to personally certify the accuracy of financial reports. Section 404 requires an organization to assess internal control systems for accuracy. Typically you need to answer the following questions: who was in what system, what they did, why they were there, and how long they were there. The accuracy of log files and time stamps is important for the network control required to ensure compliance. Accurate time synchronization of the entire IT infrastructure supports SOX compliance.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

HIPAA legislation was a wide ranging act to improve various aspects of the health care industry. In addition to ensuring portability and continuity of health insurance coverage, rules and standards have been added to ensure privacy of patient records and specifically for the security of health information. A network access control is crucial to show compliance to HIPAA. Accurate time stamps are particularly called out in the regulation as a contributing factor for appropriate access controls. Time synchronization of the network of health care providers helps ensure compliance to the HIPAA regulations.

NASD’s Order Audit Trail System (OATS)

National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) order audit trail system (OATS) requires those involved with financial exchanges to track trades to within 3 seconds of the international time standard known as UTC, including latencies.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

In an attempt to reduce identity theft, this 1999 law protects the privacy of customers of financial institutions. It is crucial that financial organizations take reasonable steps to secure the privacy of customer records from the inside and outside the network. Similar to other regulations, time synchronization of the business systems is an enabler for securing records such as customer data.

Code of Federal Regulations (FDA)

The code of federal regulations includes Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines for the development, manufacture and sale of products that can affect the health and safety of the public. Specifically title 21, part 11 requires businesses in certain industries such as pharmaceutical manufacturing to employ procedures and controls to ensure the authenticity, integrity and confidentiality of electronic records. To satisfy this requirement, organizations must ensure that computer generated time stamps are accurate.

Payment Card Industry – Data Security Standards

PCI-DSS applies to all who store, process or transmit cardholder data. A requirement include data and time stamping with synchronized system clocks.

North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC)

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has backed NERC’s requirements for all users, owners and oeprators of the bulk-power system including mandatory cyber security standards. NERC’s Control System Working Group lists inadequate or non-existant digital forensic and audit trails as a top 10 vulnerabilty of the power grid. Top mitigation requirements include time synchronization of system logs and sequence-of-event recorders as described in Security Guideline for the Electricity Sector: Time Stamping of Operational Data Logs. Along with the benefits of new network applications, controls are required to ensure the accuracy and security of data. A NetClock time synchronization solution directly supports the mission of the network administrator.