The NTP (network time protocol) mechanism is a protocol for synchronizing the system time over the network. First, a machine can obtain the time from a server that is a reliable time source. Second, a machine can itself act as a time source for other computers in the network. The goal is twofold—maintaining the absolute time and synchronizing the system time of all machines within a network.
Maintaining an exact system time is important in many situations. The built-in hardware clock does often not meet the requirements of applications such as databases or clusters. Manual correction of the system time would lead to severe problems because, for example, a backward leap can cause malfunction of critical applications. Within a network, it is usually necessary to synchronize the system time of all machines, but manual time adjustment is a bad approach. NTP provides a mechanism to solve these problems. The NTP service continuously adjusts the system time with the help of reliable time servers in the network. It further enables the management of local reference clocks, such as radio-controlled clocks.