What Does NTP Stand For?

NTP stands for Network Time Protocol, which is a protocol that allows for the synchronization of system clocks (whether the systems are desktops or servers). 

The main benefit of having synchronized clocks is convenience, but a lot of distributed applications require it, meaning that the firewall policy has to allow for the Network Time Protocol if an external server is required. 

What Does NTP Stand For

So, what else is there to know about Network Time Protocol? Is there more to this program than what meets the eye? And what do you need to know about it? 

Let’s find out together! Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about NTP! 

Why Is Network Time Protocol Important? 

If you’ve got communicating programs that are running on different systems (computers, for example), and the time on one of those systems is ahead of the time on the other systems, switching back and forth between the systems will mean that the time is jumping backward and forwards.

Naturally, this isn’t very convenient; hence the importance of Network Time Protocol. 


Network Time Protocol exists so that while isolated networks (networks that aren’t connected to the internet) run on their own time, which may of course be the wrong time, connecting to the internet will correct the time. 

Several industries rely very heavily on Network Time Protocol, particularly in the modern era, now that so much of our lives are digitized. 

The telecommunications industry needs accurate clocks because they’re responsible for the transfer of staggering amounts of data every day. 

Financial technology companies need to synchronize their clocks so the exact times of transactions can be noted, utility companies need it to manage power distribution, speed cameras and security cameras need an accurate timestamp for their footage to be admissible evidence, and satellites need exact times for correct positioning. 

What Does NTP Stand For (1)

Many businesses around the world are highly reliant on Network Time Protocol to manage their processes. NTP is cost-effective and user-friendly, and has many direct benefits that most people won’t ever even think about- better customer service, enhanced security, and so many more.

How Does Network Time Protocol Actually Work?

Essentially, the Network Time Protocol client sparks a time request exchange with the Network Time Protocol server. This exchange allows the client to calculate the link delay and the local offset of this link delay, at which point the client will adjust its local clock so that the time matches that of the server’s time.

For the client to set the clock initially, there are six exchanges over five to 10 minutes. 

Once the client’s clock matches the server’s clock, the client’s clock is updated once every 10 or so minutes, and this tends to be carried out via just one exchange. This process takes as little as microseconds.

What’s The Difference Between NTP And SNTP?

SNTP stands for Simple Network Time Protocol, and is very similar to Network Time Protocol, but lacks some of the internal algorithms that all kinds of servers don’t require. 

The simplified Network Time Protocol will be used when full implementation of NTP is too complicated for the system in question. Nowadays, though, Simple Network Time Protocol is more or less obsolete. 

The Hierarchy Of Time Servers

The degrees of separation from the source used for NTP, which is UTC (the standard time across the globe) are known as strata. 

The reference clock, which is at the top of the time server hierarchy, receives the time from a satellite navigation system or a transmitter. This clock is referred to as stratum-0. The computer linked to this reference clock directly is referred to as straum-1. 

The computer linked to this computer is called stratum-2, and so on. With each additional stratum, the accuracy is slightly reduced. 

Network Time Protocol isn’t perfect when it comes to security. It’s a protocol that can be exploited and used for denial-of-service attacks. This is done via spoofed IP addresses, which is essentially when the source IP address of a system is faked. 

The History Of Network Time Protocol

Network Time Protocol was first implemented around 1980 and is now one of the oldest internet protocols that we still use. Back then, its accuracy was several hundred milliseconds.

This implementation was noted within Internet Engineering Note IEN-173, and when the first specification regarding NTP appeared in RFC 778, the protocol was still being referred to as Internet Clock Service. 

The form of Network Time Protocol as we know it today was introduced in RFC 958, but these early versions didn’t compensate for frequency errors. 

After many tweaks, work on the fourth version of Network Time Protocol is believed to have started around 1994, and this was issued in 1996. Despite the changes that have been made to NTP over the years to bring it up to version 4, it still retains the basic principles of its earliest incarnations. 

Are There Alternatives To Network Time Protocol?

There are some alternatives to Network Time Protocol. These include Time-Sync, Chrony (which consists of two programs, chronyd, and chronyc), Meinberg NTP, AboutTime, and Network Time System.

NTP And Y2K 

As the world approached 2000, the new millennium, there were fears that the Network Time Protocol was going to lead to a disastrous internet meltdown because the clocks on our systems didn’t go past that year. 

The Y2K bug didn’t end up being quite so catastrophic, but there have been renewed fears in recent years as we approach the year 2036, which is when the unsigned 64-bit Network Time Protocol timestamp will rollover. 

Final Thoughts 

NTP stands for Network Time Protocol, which is a protocol that lets organizations and businesses have synchronized clocks across all of their systems, in a cost-effective and user-friendly way.

Connecting all of the devices on a network to a dedicated time server means that a signal will be received from a definite and reliable time source. This leads to a whole host of benefits for businesses and customers alike.

Melanie Nilsen
Latest posts by Melanie Nilsen (see all)