What is a Time Server?
Have you ever wondered how your computer or phone can tell the time so accurately? Probably not.
The answer is that they all look somewhere to find the time, and the thing that they look at is looking at another thing, that is looking at another thing, that eventually is looking at the El Supremo Time Keeper.
That’s the technical description. In laymen’s speak, they look at a “Time Server”.
And the great news is that they are all over the place, and you don’t even know it. That internet router that you have at home, it is probably also acting as a time server. That’s great news, because now your smart fridge also knows the time!
Why are time servers important?
Up until recently, it really wasn’t the end of the world if your computer was slightly fast or slow. It always helped to have a computer running slightly fast when it came to knock-off time!
Now, however, we live in different times…dangerous times…paranoid times…we live in the age of digital terrorism!
Which means that we can’t just send your fridge temperatures over the internet without expecting someone to have nefarious intents. And (unlike this post) we don’t take digital security lightly.
We encrypt your data. That’s right, we put it in crypts. (Editor: No we don’t. We make it impossible for anyone else to read by making it gibberish to everyone else).
But to decrypt the message (remove it from the crypt) at the other end, there is some things that both the sender and receiver need to know. Things like secret handshakes, passwords, wearing a white carnation, and … knowing the time.
I was amazed too. I would have thought that the white carnation was enough, but modern encryption relies on your gateway and our server agreeing on the time.
And by “agreeing on the time”, we mean to be within seconds.
The only way that is possible, is to make sure that your gateway is talking to a time server.
What's the problem?
It appears that our gateway isn’t able to find a time server on your network.
There are a number of causes for this, and all of them pretty much involve “Your IT Department”. (We capitalise it, because they really are their own person).
A common one is that they make a public network (thank you) and then keep the time server in the private section. It’s not that they did it deliberately, they just forgot (LOL, half didn’t even know) that the grey box thingy was also a time server.
Another cause is that they turned it off. Why? Who knows.
Now at this stage hopefully an IT person is reading this and trying to fix the problem. At this stage we have a discussion that goes around in circles where we say “where is your time server and why can’t we access it?” and you say “it’s on and you can”, and then there is the a-ha moment and you flick a metaphysical switch and everything works. You then say “I didn’t change anything” and we just sagely nod and move on with our day.
(At this stage the IT person is picking up on my lack of networky jargon, and other readers are still impressed with my knowledge of all things technical.)
But seriously, you have either turned off your time server or thrown it behind a firewall, or both.
What's the solution?
There’s a bunch of answers I would like to give, but can’t. Things like “quit and work for a friendlier company”, or “employ a 12 year old to hack the system for you”.
But let’s go for a more practical one. Talk to IT.
For IT, enable the time server and make sure our gateway can reach it.
Still not working? We do have the option to use a time server on our own server. It’s not the best solution, but it works. Your supplier can enable this on the gateway page.