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Other Time Server Products

Spectracoms Skylight System


Skylight Indoor GPS Timing System
Even though synchronizing network master clocks and time servers to GPS is well-known as the standard for the most time-sensitive applications, some data centers and critical server locations are not conducive to traditional roof-top GPS antenna installation. 


spectracom presentense software

Spectracom Synchronization Software
Windows and Linux software applications improves NTP and PTP deployments

Spectracom Answers for Network Time Servers

Why you Need a Network Time Server

Clocks in electronic devices are not designed for accuracy. A typical clock can drift more than one hour in a year. The solution is to employ network time synchronization.

Time synchronization is an important criterion for efficient network operations. A network time synchronization implementation is simple and relies on a network time server as a network master clock. The characteristics of a network time server determine the security, reliability, and accuracy as well as the ease of manageability of the network time application.

Characteristics of a secure, reliable and accurate network time synchronization application:

  • Network time synchronization occurs between servers and clients via network time protocol (NTP).
  • A master time source known as an NTP time server is used to time synchronize a network.
  • The time server must be behind the firewall for security.
  • A stratum-1 time server is directly traceable to national standards for accuracy; typically through GPS transmissions.
  • The time server must be available and accurate 24/7 for reliability.
  • A hardware time server appliance greatly improves the manageability of the network.
Make a NetClock GPS NTP server the core of your time synchronization deployment. We’ll recommend a complete solution for your exact needs. 

How are stratum levels related to accuracy?

Stratum levels are used to indicate the traceability path from the atomic clocks operated by national standards organizations. These “official time clocks” are defined as stratum-0 clocks as they are the most accurate. However stratum-0 time sources can not be used on a network. Stratum-1 time sources are directly traceable to national standards. Stratum-1 time servers get their time by direct connection to atomic clocks through GPS transmissions, long-wave radio signals such as WWV, or dial-up modem.

Stratum-1 time servers act as the primary network time standard. Stratum-2 time servers get their time from stratum 1 sources, and so on. Higher stratum levels (stratum-2, stratum-3, stratum-4, etc) are deemed less accurate than their source due to transmission delays by about 10-100 milliseconds per stratum level. Typically NetClock time servers use the GPS broadcast as the primary source of official time, although other time sources can be used as primary or as back-up to GPS time as is the case with dial-up modem.

NetClocks are stratum-1 time servers that offer the accuracy, reliability and security that you need for an efficient and reliable network.

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 formalized NTP in RFC 1305. Simple network time protocol, SNTP, formalized in RFC 2030, uses a less complex client implementation.

NTP is a protocol. A time synchronization solution requires client software to read NTP packets generated by an NTP server and synchronize the local clock.

NetClock time servers support that latest version of NTPv4 to take advantage of the latest NTP reliability and security features. 

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 effect 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 actually 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.

Use a NetClock GPS time server for your network and never again worry about your network time synchronization.

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.

Download a free trial version of PresenTense NTP Software

How a time server supports regulatory compliance

Network time synchronization supports many laws and standards requiring network accuracy, security, and reliability.

The following are examples of regulations that drive the need for time synchronization in the network.

Regulation Driver
Sarbanes-Oxley accuracy of financial reporting
HIPAA patient privacy in health care
Order Audit Trail System (OATS) elimination of fraudulent security trades
Gramm-Leach-Bliley customer privacy
CFR 21, Part 11 accuracy of electronic records for drug manufacturers and others
Payment Card Industry - Data Security Standards security of cardholder data
North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) Requirements for a reliable and secure bulk power system.
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.

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.

What is a reliable and redundant time server?

NetClock time servers are designed to achieve over 100,000 hours MTBF. More importantly, Spectracom backs its commitment to quality with an industry-leading 5-year warranty. We take reliability of the network time application much further than do our competitors. As with any critical network application, mechanisms should be considered to achieve the highest level of reliability. For instance, NTP deployments can utilize multiple NetClock stratum-1 NTP servers for redundancy. NetClock time servers also support NTP peering and stratum-2 operation to add resiliency to the network. Additionally, a dial-out modem back-up is an extremely reliable and cost-effective solution for maintaining stratum-1 accuracy by leveraging the reliable telecommunications network to synchronize to NIST and other official reference points. Lastly, an internal oscillator is an important consideration to achieve the results you need.

Why you need an oscillator

NetClock NTP servers are designed to maintain accuracy in the event of loss of the GPS signal due to severe weather (lightning strikes, high winds, etc.), physical damage to the antenna, GPS signal jamming and electromagnetic pulse (EMP), and even if the federal government disables the GPS signal. Internal oscillators ensure seamless operation if the GPS signal is lost by maintaining synchronization accuracy until the GPS signal is restored.

A choice of 3 oscillators are available depending on the needs of the application. A temperature controlled crystal oscillator (TCXO) is standard. Optional oven-controlled crystal oscillators (OCXO) and Rubidium-stabilized (Rb) oscillators offer extended "holdover" accuracy.

Oscillator Drift Rate (nanosec/sec) Holdover Accuracy (millsec/day) Recommended Holdover
TCXO 2,000 172.8 days
OCXO 20 1.728 months
Rb 0.05 0.1296 years
We’ll recommend the best combination of NetClock time server reliability and redundancy options based on your needs.

What is an IPv6Ready time server?

Internet Protocol is the method by which data is sent from one computer to another over the Internet. Version 4 of the Internet Protocol (IPv4) has been in use for over 25 years. Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is proposed to replace IPv4 to support the increase in addresses needed for the proliferation of network devices. Other advantages of IPv6 include improvements for security, mobile communications, quality of service, and system management.

The US military is implementing IPv6 to support the future of network-centric warfare envisioned by a global information grid of interconnected sensors, platforms, and other network capabilities. The Department of Defense (DoD) has mandated IPv6 for all new networking equipment. All federal agencies must deploy IPv6 by 2008.

To ensure product quality and interoperability, the IPv6Ready program was developed by the IPv6 Forum. Independent test labs certify devices as IPv6Ready. NetClock time servers are the only time servers that have been certified as IPv6Ready. Additionally, NetClock time servers demonstrated interoperability with the DoD and industry leaders on the largest IPv6 network known as Moonv6. NetClock time servers can operate on a mixed IPv4 and IPv6 network or on either network.

NetClocks are the only IPv6Ready certified and tested time servers. They protect your network investment well into the future.

How scalable are time servers?

NetClock time servers are high bandwidth network devices that can process more than 4,000 NTP requests per second. This capability can support hundreds of thousands of NTP clients on a network. More often than not, large NTP deployments utilize a distributed time servers in a hierarchy of stratum levels depending on the network topology.

NetClock time servers are scalable network devices. A variety of features and options are available to match network different needs and topologies.

Why different time server models?

We understand that one size doesn’t always fit all, so we offer our two NetClock time server series in three main models with various hardware configurations and options. Security and manageability software features are common among all models.

The model 9283/9383 is recommended for the most critical network applications. It offers the most reliability and flexibility for a GPS-synchronized time server: precision oscillator upgrades for long holdover in case of loss of GPS signal and optional back-up modem, front panel displays, and outputs including 1 PPS, 10 MHz, IRIG and serial time codes to synchronize specific devices in addition to NTP.

The model 9289/9289 also synchronizes to GPS with optional modem back-up (or as primary if GPS antenna installation is impractical). It is typically used in smaller NTP deployments and does not have the range of alternate time and frequency outputs compared to the 9283. It is typically used specifically for network synchronization via NTP.

The model 9288/9388 is device dedicated to synchronize an isolated network in a facility where a GPS time server exists such as a model 9283 or a 9289. It eliminates the expense of having duplicate GPS receivers but is a fully functioning stratum-1 NTP time server. It synchronizes to a continuous time code signal from another time server via twisted pair up to 4,000 feet. It is also an ideal stratum-2 hardware time server.

Let us recommend the solution that is right for your needs.

What service and support options are available?

With any Spectracom product, you’ll receive the highest level of personal support from a knowledgeable staff. Our customer service department has over 80 years of time synchronization experience. 85% of tech support requests are closed in one phone call. Our standard 5-year warranty is tops in the business. But we don’t stop there. We offer standard and customized service programs so you can have the most comprehensive support available. Our Premium Support Package is available on all our time servers to feature 24/7 tech support, 24-hour loaners, and expedited repair service. Warranty extensions are also available.