Network Time Protocol

What Does Network Time Protocol Mean?

Network Time Protocol (NTP) is a TCP/IP protocol used to synchronize computer clocks across data networks. NTP was developed in the 1980s by D.L. Mills at the University of Delaware to achieve highly accurate time synchronization and to sustain the effects of variable latency over packet-switched data networks through a jitter buffer.


Techopedia Explains Network Time Protocol

NTP enables the synchronization of computer clocks distributed across the network by ensuring accurate local timekeeping with reference to some particular time on the Internet. NTP communicates between clients and servers using the User Datagram Protocol on port No.123. The NTP software package includes a background program known as a daemon or service, which synchronizes the computer’s clock to a particular reference time such as radio clock or a certain device connected to a network.

NTP uses a systematic, hierarchical level of clock sources for its reference. Each level is called a stratum and has a layer number that usually begins with zero. The stratum level serves as an indicator of the distance from the reference clock in order to avoid cyclic dependenc in the hierarchy. However, the stratum does not represent the quality or reliability of time.

Some of the advantages of using NTP include:

  1. NTP can be easily deployed on servers hosting different services.
  2. NTP requires less resource overhead.
  3. NTP has minimal bandwidth requirements.
  4. NTP can handle hundreds of clients at a time with minimum CPU usage.

NTP support has now been extended to UNIX-like systems, and NTPv4 can be implemented on Windows NT, Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…