What is the difference between NTP and SNTP?

SNTP (Simple Network Time Protocol) and NTP (Network Time Protocol) are describing exactly the same network package format, the differences can be found in the way how a system deals with the content of these packages in order to synchronize its time. They are basically two different ways of how to deal with time synchronization.


While a full featured NTP server or -client reaches a very high level of accuracy and avoids abrupt timestamps as much as possible by using different mathematical and statistical methods and smooth clock speed adjustments, SNTP can only be recommended for simple applications, where the requirements for accuracy and reliability are not too demanding.


By disregarding drift values and using simplified ways of system clock adjustment methods (often simple time stepping), SNTP achieves only a low quality time synchronization when compared with a full NTP implementation. SNTP version 4 is defined in RFC2030, where it reads:


“It is strongly recommended that SNTP be used only at the extremities of the synchronization subnet. SNTP clients should operate only at the leaves (highest stratum) of the subnet and in configurations where no NTP or SNTP client is dependent on another SNTP client for synchronization. SNTP servers should operate only at the root (stratum 1) of the subnet and then only in configurations where no other source of synchronization other than a reliable radio or modem time service is available. The full degree of reliability ordinarily expected of primary servers is possible only using the redundant sources, diverse subnet paths and crafted algorithms of a full NTP implementation.”


Therefore the term “NTP time server” or “NTP compatible client” can – by definition – describe a system with a fully implemented NTP as well as any other product which uses and understands the NTP protocol but achieves far worse levels of reliability, accuracy and security.

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