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Network Time Precision

by Brent Kirkpatrick

(Date Published: .)

Precision in network time is a dubious notion.

Setting network time is an engineering process. In the old days, we would set timepieces off of each other. This process involves some discrepancies. The precision of the resulting time settings is up for discussion.

Setting of the time is done with an precision that can diverge. This means that if the wrong engineering process is used to set the time, the resulting set times can get worse and worse.


The engineering standard that underlies network time is the DHCP standard for dynamic hosts and time configuration. This standard proposes that engineers responsible for servers attempt to maintain a time that is within 5-10 minutes of that displayed on the best clocks in the world.

This engineering standard is time-tested and difficult to maintain. Given that the problem of setting timepieces is identical to the problem of setting network time, this engineering standard has weathered the test of time.

Precision of Network Time

Properties of Network Time

RFC 6926: DHCPv4 Bulk Leasequery

Please contact us at Intrepid Net Computing if you have questions about network time.

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