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When You’ve Got to Be on Time: All About NTP and PTP Protocols in Modern Clocks

Time is Relative: Using It or Losing It

In any organization, business or otherwise, time is the most important resource available. Not only can it not be bought on the open market, but having all your employees, contractors, and professionals on the same synchronized time can do wonders in terms of efficiency. This is not a new problem, and humans have been trying to measure time for quite a while.

Keeping accurate time has been important to business for a long time. In fact, humans have been keeping time for more than 6,000 years. The ancient Egyptians are usually credited with being the first to tell time using obelisks in a similar fashion to sundials. Later, Europeans invented mechanical clocks in the 14th century. In our modern era, the realm of accurate timekeeping has shifted to digital clocks via the internet as the latest and greatest way to have synchronized clocks.

The Differences Between NTP and PTP Protocols in Time Keeping

When we discuss digital timekeeping via the internet, we are almost always talking about the Precision Time Protocol (PTP) or the Network Time Protocol (NTP). Both are part of what are called communication protocols, which are simply systems of rules that allow two or more entities in any communication system to transmit information via any kind of variation in a physical quantity. NTP is the older of the two, with its invention happening in 1979. PTP and the first associated ptp server was first set up in 2002.

The NTP system is usually connected to a highly accurate timekeeping source such as a GPS satellite. By receiving time information from a satellite and broadcasting to the network, it can be accurate to the tune of tens of milliseconds over the public internet. In ideal conditions (such as local area networks) it can have better than one-millisecond accuracy but has a difficult time exceeding this. NTP has worked well for most industrial and commercial purposes for years, but for even more exact synchronization PTP is needed.

The PTP system is also connected to a highly accurate timekeeping source, but adds in the processing power of various algorithms and hardware to report time as quickly as possible. A highly functioning PTP server can broadcast time that is within one microsecond, 1,000 times faster than a millisecond, blowing NTP reporting times out of the water in terms of accuracy. PTP also adds an additional layer of productivity by including network latency information and hardware time stamping to give you even more information.

Which One is Right for You?

Some organizations actually choose to keep both NTP and PTP systems connected to different clocks for differing reasons of accuracy, or in case one fails. Some connect both on the same network at the same time and are “protocol agnostic.” While both are more accurate and synchronized than your wristwatch, there is always the possibility of failure or delay that is present in any technology, and you should seek out competent and highly reviewed professionals to instruct you on the best use for your business or organization.

The location of where you need your timekeeping devices may also influence your decision. Since they are connected to the internet and synced with GPS, you will need to be in an area with quality internet access to reach your preferred PTP server or put up a GPS antenna to set up your own. Keep this in mind when you’re designing your business systems.

When You’ve Got the Correct Time, You’re Moving Forward

It can be difficult sometimes to set up the correct timekeeping pieces for any organization, especially if they are technologically advanced and depend on other systems (such as WiFI or GPS) for proper functioning. Whether you’re installing a wifi clock or simply trying to sync with your preferred clock server via PTP/NTP, it can be a hassle that goes beyond a frustrating PTP server. But rest assured that like any significant piece of equipment, there is both a learning curve and familiarity process that must occur before a level of comfort is reached. And that’s never been easier with timepieces made and supported in the USA by competent and friendly professionals.

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