The PublicNTP Blog

Follow our journey to bring accurate time to the world.


[{"permalink":"2018-year-in-review","timestamp":"2019-01-07T14:11:00-05:00","title":"Year in review","excerpt":"PublicNTP has its annual board meeting in November, where the directors review the changes, achievements, and progress made in the previous twelve months. As always, it was a delight to get all four board members face to face to discuss what has happened.","image_urls":[{"url":"images/elephant-sunset-silhouette.jpg","alt":"Elephant Sunset."},{"url":"images/hockey_game.jpg","alt":"Enjoying a hockey game."}],"content":"<h4>Terry D. Ott</h4><p>The calendar already shows November again -- does having a time-based charity somehow make time fly by even faster?</p><p>PublicNTP has its annual board meeting in November, where the directors review the changes, achievements, and progress made in the previous twelve months. As always, it was a delight to get all four board members face to face to discuss what has happened.</p><p><strong>Our Website</strong></p><p>PublicNTP’s web presence has been under constant iteration all of 2018. Thanks to our <a href=''>dev team</a> it’s looking better than ever. From image optimization to implementing what I can only describe as JSON wizardry for content pushing, the site has seen unexpected and remarkable progress. It’s allowed our dev team and writers to kick off our content engine with regular blog posts. But most importantly our <a href='/donate.html'>donate page</a> is up and running for international use as of this last summer!</p><p><strong>Server Deployments</strong></p><p>In the last year, we’ve established many cloud servers on both Western and Eastern hemispheres.</p><p>Western deployments: <ul><li>Miami, Florida</li><li>Dallas, Texas</li><li>Buenos Aires, Argentina</li><li>Santiago, Chile</li></ul></p><p>As discussed in our <a href=''>last board meeting article</a> our efforts to deploy in China met a steep wall and we’ve instead created servers at surrounding entry points:<ul><li>Tokyo, Japan</li><li>Seoul, Korea</li><li>Hong Kong</li><li>Singapore</li><li>India</li></ul></p><p>We’re eager to add more, including Taiwan.</p><p><strong>2018 Financials</strong></p><p>PublicNTP’s first full year as a recognized non-profit charity was a great success. We have several months of expenses already set aside which will allow us to further use donations toward expanding projects and increasing server stability.</p><p>The best part is PublicNTP received donations from a larger number of sources compared to our 2017 financial year. Constantly expanding our donor base is a critical push for the stable financial net that all non-profits need.</p><p><strong>2018 Challenges</strong></p><p>Not all things have been so rosy though. We’ve seen companies hosting our cloud servers go out of business with no warning, recycle their management, or simply demand a pay plan that’s not sustainable with our budget. It’s a natural progression of business, especially in underserved countries. Our infrastructure has been and always will be evolving, as we constantly explore how to maximize the impact that every donated dollar can have.</p><p><strong>Post-Meeting Socializing</strong></p><p>Once the work was done, the four officers did dinner at <a href=''>Bibiana</a>, followed by a Washington Capitals hockey game!</p><p>With the successes and learning opportunities of 2018, the coming year looms over PublicNTP with promises of even greater opportunity and challenges. We’re excited to face them and discuss them in the next article.</p>","tags":["Year in review","2018","Board Meeting"],"time":"<b>Jan</b> 7, 2019"},{"permalink":"bring-time-to-the-world","timestamp":"2018-12-12T14:11:00-05:00","title":"The Time Server App Has Launched!","excerpt":"The Time Server app is a reflection of both PublicNTP’s vision for the future and a sizeable portion of our concerted efforts in the last two years. With Time Server, you’ll be able to have and redistribute some of the most accurate time on the planet.","image_urls":[{"url":"images/blog-time-server-app-pixel_2-gps.jpg","alt":"Time Server App on Pixel 2"},{"url":"images/blog-time-server-app-meeting-room.jpg","alt":"Time Server App in Meeting Room"},{"url":"images/blog-time-server-app-outside-gps.jpg","alt":"Time Server App Outside using GPS"},{"url":"images/blog-time-server-app-showcase-server.jpg","alt":"Time Server App Showcase Image"}],"content":"<h4>Terry D. Ott</h4><p>PublicNTP is thrilled to announce the release of our free Android app <a href=''>Time Server</a>.</p><p>The Time Server app is a reflection of both PublicNTP’s vision for the future and a sizeable portion of our concerted efforts in the last two years. With Time Server, you’ll be able to have and redistribute some of the most accurate time on the planet.</p><a href=''><img style='width:150px;' src='/images/google-play.png' alt='Download from the play store' /></a><p><strong>Features</strong></p><p>Our Time Server app is a straightforward, easy to understand tool providing highly-accurate time and location information.</p><p>The first function, in line with the PublicNTP mission, is time-keeping. You’ll see time down to the fraction of a second (with estimated error margin) in both <a href=''>Coordinated Universal Time</a> (“UTC”) and your local time, thanks to data directly obtained from the <a href=''>Global Position Satellite</a> (GPS) system.</p><p>As GPS serves as both a time and location reference, with Time Server you’ll be able to track where you are on the globe using four different reference systems:<ul><li><a href=''>Latitude/Longitude</a> (WGS84)</li><li><a href=''>Universal Transverse Mercator</a> (UTM)</li><li><a href=''>Military Grid Reference System </a>(MGRS)</li><li><a href=''>Open Location Code</a> (OLC)</li></ul></p><p>You also have the option of linking your location to Google Maps or sharing it with others.</p><p>One of Time Server’s coolest functions is the ability to display the navigation satellites providing time/location information to your phone in real time.</p><p>Using our compass-bound interface, you can tell where you stand in relation to the current constellation orbiting satellites along with their signal strength. Tapping displays specific information for each GPS satellite including Signal-to-Noise Ratio, Altitude Angle from your position, and its heading.</p><p>Saving the best for last, the Time Server app lets you host -- you guessed it -- a time server!</p><p>For a miniscule amount of battery and processing, you can become a point of light in the world’s time network. You’ll act as a small but integral part in the future of keeping the world’s digital clocks synchronized.</p><p>We have strived to maintain an intuitive interface for tracking your server traffic -- allowing you to watch your contributions to the world.</p><p><strong>An Open Source Community</strong></p><p>PublicNTP’s mission is increasing the number of unrestricted, accurate, reliable, network-accessible digital time references around the world. To achieve our mission, PublicNTP takes maximum advantage of technology built by others who came before us and was generously open-sourced for the public good.</p><p>In line with that spirit of openness, PublicNTP is dedicated to proliferating tools and information with the express hope others can and will build upon our work.</p><p>PublicNTP hopes you’ll explore the <a href=''>Time Server’s open-source, MIT-licensed source code on GitHub</a> and contribute changes that take it far beyond PublicNTP’s original vision.</p><p>PublicNTP’s Time Server is a fun, informational tool bringing accurate time and location information to the corners of the globe. Give it a try, if you’re interested <a href=''>visit our site</a> to learn more, and if you enjoy the app be sure to give us a review in the store!</p>","tags":["Time Server App","Android"],"time":"<b>Dec</b> 12, 2018"},{"permalink":"keeping-company-pointed","timestamp":"2018-09-12T14:11:00-05:00","title":"A Tale of Two Meetings","excerpt":"A big part of keeping any company pointed in the right direction is making sure the leadership team is communicating regularly.","image_urls":[{"url":"images/blog-board-restaurant.jpg","alt":"The Board"}],"content":"<h4>Terry D. Ott</h4><p>A big part of keeping any company pointed in the right direction is making sure the leadership team is communicating regularly.</p><p>Even though the four members of our Board of Directors are distributed across four states and two time zones, we’ve made a point to meet face to face twice since the company was founded.</p><h4>Sunday, November 19, 2017</h4><p>The four PublicNTP Directors held our 2017 annual board meeting (as captured in our <a href='/documents/bylaws.pdf'>company bylaws</a>!) in Northern Virginia. With Dan and I both living in different suburbs of Washington, DC, having everyone gather near the nation’s capital was convenient.</p><div class='blog__img'><img src='/images/blog-ice-meeting.jpg' /><p class='blog__img-text'>Here’s a pic of the four directors after we broke the ice (terrible pun entirely intentional) at our post-meeting hockey game (L to R: <a href='/people.html#terry-ott'>Terry Ott</a>, <a href='/people.html#dan-noland'>Dan Noland</a>, <a href='/people.html#brad-woodfin'>J. Brad Woodfin</a>, <a href='/people.html#scott-waddell'>Scott Waddell</a>)</p></div><p>The 2017 meetup was our inaugural board meeting since having formed the company -- one where we recognized and performed the official steps as the board for a public charity.</p><p>Once those formalities were addressed, <a href='/people.html#scott-waddell'>Scott</a>, <a href='/people.html#brad-woodfin'>Brad</a>, <a href='/people.html#dan-noland'>Dan</a>, and I discussed where PublicNTP was headed. We had just been granted 501(c)(3) public charity status by the IRS. With that all settled, the road had opened up to us, and the pieces were in place for PublicNTP to really take off.</p><p>Instead of focusing on a global web of time servers in any location, we agreed that in the short time our company had existed, our mission statement had already shifted to deploying time servers to primarily underserved countries. With that narrowing of focus, we discussed our plan of attack. I suggested we to tackle a South America deployment first with Project Tonatiuh. <a href='/people.html#scott-waddell'>Scott Waddell</a> lobbied that Project Ikenga, the plan to deploy servers in Africa, was a more pressing priority.</p><p>After an energetic discussion, the group agreed Ikenga should be a higher priority due to the greater shortage of existing network time infrastructure.</p><p>The rest of our meeting discussed the details of our relationship with Network Time Foundation (NTF). NTF has been the go-to name in NTP software research and development for decades. A formal partnership with one of our key software vendors (their software was running on all our deployments at the time, and it’s still true almost a year later) would provide great traction out of the starting gates. The four of us agreed to pursue a public, formal partnership with Network Time Foundation. <a href='/blog/posts/publicntp-partners-network-time-foundation.html'>You can check out our article about it here.</a></p><h4>Saturday, June 15, 2018</h4><p>In just eight months since our last board meeting, PublicNTP had made huge progress and undertaken several new initatives. In the time between meetings, the company has been heavily focused on a mobile app (to be announced later in 2018), dramatic improvements to the company’s website, and the ongoing effort to build/foster our community and the network time community at large. PublicNTP is actively seeking partners, conferences, and other authors of network time software in order to build our foundation and professional network.</p><div class='blog__img'><img src='/images/blog-desk-meeting.jpg' /><p class='blog__img-text'><a href='/people.html#scott-waddell'>Scott</a> leads the presentation on the state of the mobile app with <a href='/people.html#brad-woodfin'>Brad</a> as they discuss where it should go next.</p></div><p>The board also discussed the issue of how difficult it is to find good hosting locations for time servers, and how we might address that going forward.</p><p>Project Tonatiuh and Ikenga have been progressing, but slowly. Due to issues finding reliable -- but affordable! -- hosting providers, it has been difficult to establish longer-lasting cloud deployments in South America and Africa. We’ve been looking into other options, including taking trips to deploy our own hardware in those locations.</p><p>During both meetings to date, the board has discussed a cohesive approach to deploying servers in Asia, especially in China. In November 2017 we were excited to explore the options. By June 2018 we had become aware of significant challenges.</p><p>Doing business within China’s borders, even deploying cloud resources, requires a formal partnership with a Chinese business and filing for a business license with the Chinese government. In light of this new information, we decided it would be more effective to find places <strong>near and around</strong> China for our servers. While we were disappointed that we couldn’t hit our original goal, we found many companies have made the same realization and taken the same approach</p><p>Since achieving 503(c)(3) tax-exempt status, PublicNTP has been steadily chugging along. Since November of 2017, the company deployed multiple servers in South America (Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and Chile) and Africa (Nigeria and South Africa). We came away with a clear vision and trajectory of the company until our next annual Board of Directors meeting in November 2018.</p><p>We invite you to keep an eye on our progress, and perhaps join us along the way!</p>","tags":["Time Server Deployments","Mission Statement"],"time":"<b>Sep</b> 12, 2018"},{"permalink":"publicntp-partners-network-time-foundation","timestamp":"2018-05-14T14:11:00-05:00","title":"PublicNTP partners with Network Time Foundation","excerpt":"Network Time Protocol (NTP) remains one of the oldest and most fundamental internet protocols in use. It has provided a bedrock of reliable time for us since 1985. NTP started out rough, as all innovations do","image_urls":[{"url":"images/blog-guardian-of-time.jpg","alt":"Guardian of time"}],"content":"<h4>Terry D. Ott</h4><p>Network Time Protocol (NTP) remains one of the oldest and most fundamental internet protocols in use. It has provided a bedrock of reliable time for us since 1985. NTP started out rough, as all innovations do, providing us with accurate time within 100 milliseconds across the few hosts on the network. With faster computers, more reliable networks, and research resulting in four different versions of the NTP protocol, the accuracy has improved exponentially.</p><p>In order to emphasize the integral role that NTP plays in PublicNTP’s vision and mission, we included it in our company’s name. In order to support PublicNTP’s global deployment of NTP servers, PublicNTP has established formal ties with the source of NTP software.</p><p>PublicNTP is proud to officially announce we have been accepted as an <a href=''>Insitutional Member</a> of the <a href=''>Network Time Foundation</a> -- the non-profit public charity responsible for maintaining the source for the NTP reference implementation.</p><p>Network Time Foundation (NTF) has been an IRS-recognized public charity since 2014, but came into existence several decades before then. The NTF team, led by president Harlan Stenn, has worked closely with Professor <a href=''>David L. Mills</a>, the original inventor of NTP, since 1990. NTF has ensured that Professor Mills’ pioneering work to enable global, synchronized time continues to improve and meet the evolving needs of today’s increasingly-digital society.</p><p>Network Time Foundation’s passion enables PublicNTP to deliver on our mission. PublicNTP is proud to partner with Network Time Foundation as an Institutional Member, and we look forward to working more closely together as a result.</p><p class='italic'>Image above copyrighted by Network Time Foundation, used with permission.</p>","tags":["Time Server Deployments","Mission Statement"],"time":"<b>May</b> 14, 2018"},{"permalink":"donating-time","timestamp":"2018-02-24T14:11:00-05:00","title":"Donating Time","excerpt":"PublicNTP receives federal public charity status","image_urls":[{"url":"images/blog-teamwork.jpg","alt":"Teamwork"}],"content":"<h4>Terry D. Ott</h4><p>In 2008, I started PublicNTP as a personal hobby project. Back then, PublicNTP consisted of a small set of cloud-based Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers, all inside the United States, that with the help of hyper-accurate time provided by atomic clocks, provided time references for computers around the world.</p><p>Starting in 2016, PublicNTP added its first NTP servers outside the United States. It quickly became clear that the need to deploy NTP servers in less-developed parts of the world was orders of magnitude more urgent than inside first-world countries such as the US. Much of the world faces desperately inadequate access to any local network-based time sources--much less high-quality sources.</p><p>At the same time, it became evident that PublicNTP would need to grow bigger and faster than one person could hope to do on their own. I reached out to three decades-long friends and peers, Dan Noland, Brad Woodfin, and Scott Waddel, and invited them to help PublicNTP make the transitions needed to take on a much bigger challenge.</p><p>On July 26, 2017, the Commonwealth of Virginia issued PublicNTP, Inc. its <a href='/documents/certificate_of_incorp.pdf'>certificate of incorporation</a> as a nonstock corporation, with Dan, Brad, Scott, and I serving as the first four directors and officers.</p><p>In early August 2017, the Internal Revenue Service granted PublicNTP, Inc. <a href='/documents/acceptance_letter.pdf'>tax-exempt public charity status</a> (commonly known as a “501(c)(3)” nonprofit corporation).</p><p>As with all IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) public charities, <a href='/donate.html'>charitable contributions</a> to PublicNTP (both cash and noncash) are now tax-deductible to the <a href=''>limits allowed by the IRS</a>. Consult your tax advisor regarding how charitable contributions to PublicNTP can benefit your personal financial situation.</p><p>PublicNTP started in 2008 with a single time server in the midwest United States. As of this writing, PublicNTP has deployed servers across 22 cities, 15 countries, and six continents. The newly-gained ability to accept <a href='/donate.html'>charitable donations</a> empowers PublicNTP to deliver on its mission statement of improving unrestricted access to no-cost, highly-accurate time sources in those parts of the world with the most dire shortage of publicly-accessible NTP servers.</p><p>More developed parts of the world often take a robust infrastructure, including access to highly-accurate time references, for granted. Access to a robust infrastructure reduces the difficulties of making a wide variety of breakthroughs, technological as well as social.</p><p><a href='/donate.html'>Charitable donations</a> will enable PublicNTP to continue its decades-long effort to gradually improve the global IT infrastructure. On behalf of PublicNTP, I hope you’ll consider supporting our efforts!</p>","tags":["Time Server Deployments","Mission Statement"],"time":"<b>Feb</b> 24, 2018"},{"permalink":"paperwork-puzzle","timestamp":"2017-08-21T07:32:00-04:00","title":"PublicNTP's Paperwork Puzzle","excerpt":"Part 4: Our 15 step checklist","image_urls":[{"url":"images/blog-paperwork.jpg","alt":"paperwork"}],"content":"<section class='section__puzzle'><h4>Terry D. Ott</h4><h4>Checklist</h4><ul class='table_contents'><li>Step 1: Hire a Law Firm That Specializes In Nonprofits (Optional)</li><li>Step 2: Determine the (Possibly Virtual) Company Address</li><li>Step 3: Select the Registered Agent</li><li>Step 4: Select Directors</li><li>Step 5: Select Officers</li><li>Step 6: Write Bylaws</li><li>Step 7: Write Policies/Procedures</li><li>Step 8: Write Articles of Incorporation</li><li>Step 9: Apply for State Incorporation</li><li>Step 10: Announce First Board of Directors Meeting</li><li>Step 11: Register for Charitable Solicitation with States</li><li>Step 12: Apply for IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN)</li><li>Step 13: Apply for Federal Tax Exempt Status (501(c)(3))</li><li>Step 14: Apply for State Tax Exempt Status</li><li>Step 15: Purchase Liability Insurance</li></ul><h4>Step 1: Hire a Law Firm That Specializes In Nonprofits (Optional)</h4><p>Considering neither Scott nor I had attempted to form a tax-exempt nonprofit corporation before, we retained the services of a legal firm specializing in nonprofit law to increase the odds of a smooth journey to successful incorporation and declaration of tax-exempt status for PublicNTP.</p><p>Scott and I feel strongly that hiring a legal team was a vital investment for PublicNTP, based on our particular situation/set of circumstances.</p><p>If you are reading this and wondering if your team should retain lawyers for the purpose of incorporating and applying for tax-exemption status, please do not ask our opinion. Exactly zero of the PublicNTP directors are lawyers; you will find us exceedingly reluctant to give any opinions on legal matters! :)</p><p>Your group should discuss the tradeoffs involved with retaining a legal team based on your combined levels of experience, confidence, and risk-tolerance.</p><p>The only opinion I will share on this topic is I personally feel any group considering undertaking this path would benefit from at least considering scheduling an “initial consultation” with a law firm.</p><p>Initial consultations are a set, fixed price -- regardless of how much time they take. Your team may find you are all very glad you made the very modest investment required for an initial consultation with a lawyer!</p><h4>Step 2: Determine the (Possibly Virtual) Company Address</h4><p>Remember that the address of the corporation will be part of the public record. If you’re comfortable publishing your address the entire world on the internet, then by all means go for it.</p><p>PublicNTP chose to use the services of Traveling Mailbox, a “virtual mail service”. Mail received at our virtual address is scanned and we receive an email about new mail. I can look at the image of the envelope, and click a button to indicate “shred,” “open and scan,” or forward to my actual address. Any checks that are received can be automatically deposited in the company’s checking account.</p><h4>Step 3: Select the Registered Agent</h4><p>While you can simply list the home address of one of your director or officers, remember that if they move, you may not receive notice of being served with legal paperwork -- like a lawsuit!</p><p>Legal services, such a LegalZoom, offer Registered Agent service for a yearly fee.</p><h4>Step 4: Select Directors</h4><p>Determine who you want to serve on your organization’s board. These individuals will be able to wield a tremendous amount of influence on the vision/mission of your organization, so pick carefully!</p><h4>Step 5: Select Officers</h4><p>Decide who will serve as the President, Secretary, and Treasurer of your organization.</p><p>It’s very common in very small nonprofits to have members of your Board of Directors serve two roles (for example: Director and Secretary).</p><p>You may want to consider ensuring that no officers have undue influence on the group. Many organizations use their bylaws to specifically prevent individuals from assuming more than one officer position at any time, or prevent certain combinations of roles to held by one person (such as preventing someone from being both the president and treasurer).</p><h4>Step 6: Write Bylaws</h4><p>At this point, it’s a very good time to <a href='/documents/bylaws.pdf'>write your bylaws</a>. There are tons of examples on the internet. While this document is terribly dry to write, invest the time this step needs.</p><p>Remember, the bylaws give you a chance to develop processes that are a good fit your organization, and set rules that help protect the organization and the indiduals that are involved with it.</p><p>If you hire a legal team, I’d recommend running your bylaws past your legal team before proceeding past this step. Make sure that they agree all the contents are appropriate, and that no key items are missing.</p><h4>Step 7: Write Policies/Procedures</h4><p>You’ll find you want to procrastinate on these.</p><p><span style='text-decoration: underline;'>Don’t.</span></p><p>Take the time up front and write them now.</p><p>No, they’re absolutely no fun. They’re probably worse than writing bylaws. Trust me, if you don’t write them now, you won’t write them until after your first painful learning lesson. Get them done, be glad they’re locked up and stored safely on a shelf.</p><h4>Step 8: Write Articles of Incorporation</h4><p>This is a very short document, usually less than two pages. Lots of templates exist on the web.</p><p>Again, if you have hired a legal team, have them review before you file for incorporation.</p><h4>Step 9: Apply for State Incorporation</h4><p>This is an easy step and just requires you to provide your Articles of Incorporation, provide contact info, and pay a filing fee. In Virginia, you can <a href=''>apply online</a> and have a response within one to two days.</p><p>When approved, the state will send you a Certificate of Incorporation, which is the legal proof that your company is now a legal corporate entity within the state you filed in.</p><h4>Step 10: Announce First Board of Directors Meeting</h4><p>When the company’s Certificate of Incorporation is received from the state, adhering to the corporate bylaws, find a date/time (and, if meeting in person, place) that works for the majority of the board to have their first meeting, then properly post announcement of that meeting with enough notice.</p><p>The announcement should include the following agenda items:</p><ul><li>Articles of Incorporation<ul><li>Adopt, ratify, and affirm the Articles of Incorporation filed with Secretary of State</li><li>Authorize and direct the Secretary to insert a certified copy of the Articles of Incorporation in the Corporation’s minute book</li></ul></li><li>Bylaws<ul><li>Adopt the bylaws</li><li>Authorize and direct the Secretary to insert a certificate of the adoption of the Bylaws, and to insert a certified copy of the Bylaws, into the minute book</li></ul></li><li>Officers<ul><li>Elect (named) people to the three officer positions: President, Secretary, and Treasurer</li></ul></li><li>Corporate records and minute book<ul><li>Authorize and direct the officers to procure all corporate books and books of account that may be required by the laws of the state in connection with the business of the corporation</li><li>Authorize and direct the officers to maintain a minute book containing:<ul><li>Certified Articles of Incorporation</li><li>Bylaws and any amendments</li><li>Minutes of any and all meetings</li><li>All actions of the Board and Board committees</li></ul></li></ul></li><li>Annual Accounting Period<ul><li>Approve the date the fiscal year of the corporation ends</li></ul></li><li>Principal Executive Office<ul><li>Confirm the address of the company</li></ul></li><li>Open bank accounts for the company, apply for debit card</li><br></ul><h4>Step 11: Register for Charitable Solicitation with States</h4><p>It’s required by law to register with each state that your charity solicits donations in.</p><h4>Step 12: Apply for IRS Employer Identification Number</h4><p>Once your Certificate for Incorporation is issued, the next step is to apply with the IRS for an <a href=''>Employer Identification Number</a> (EIN) for the company. This should be done by an officer of the company. The applicant will need to provide their own personal Social Security Number (SSN) during the application.</p><p>You’ll receive an instant response, with the ability to download/print the paperwork with your company’s newly-assigned EIN.</p><h4>Step 13: Apply for Federal 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status</h4><p>Now that you’ve formed your state nonprofit, it’s time to apply for your 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.</p><p>Small nonprofits <a href=''>may be eligible</a> to file the much shorter/easier three-page <a href=''>1023-EZ</a> form as opposed to the full <a href=''>26-page 1023 form</a>.</p><p>The PublicNTP legal team was able to start, finish, and submit our 1023-EZ form -- all in under two hours of billed time. </p><p><a href=''>A March 2016 article in the Journal of Accountancy</a> indicates that processing times for the 1023-EZ form (13 days) are much faster than the 1023 (181 days), and 77% of the applications were approved for 501(c)(3) tax exemption status.</p><p>PublicNTP’s legal team submitted our online 1023-EZ application on August 1, 2017. We received our 501(c)(3) acceptance letter with a date stamp of August 8, 2017.</p><p>It only took the IRS five working days to approve our application (!!!).</p><h4>Step 14: Apply for State Tax Exemptions</h4><p>After you receive your 501(c)(3) acceptance letter for federal tax exemption, check to find out if you need to file any forms to receive exemption at the state level as well.</p><p style='font-style: italic;'>State Income Tax</p><p>After you receive your 501(c)(3) acceptance letter, check to find out if you need to file at the state level as well.</p><p>Some states (such as Virginia) automatically grant state income tax exemptions to organizations who have received IRS 501(c)(3) status without needing any paperwork to be filed.</p><p>Other states, however, do require paperwork to be filed which contain a copy of the 501(c)(3) letter before they grant state-level income tax exemption to the company.</p><p style='font-style: italic;'>State Sales/Use Tax</p><p>Virginia does not automatically grant 501(c)(3) organizations an exemption from state sales and use taxes. Companies are required to file paperwork with the state including copies of their most recent 990/990-EZ, articles of incorporation, etc. before being granted exemption from state sales/use tax.</p><p>Make sure you do all the homework necessary to ensure your corporation is compliant! Your legal team, if you have one, can be a huge help here.</p><h4>Step 15: Purchase Liability Insurance</h4><p>A lawsuit can really ruin your whole day -- not to mention bankrupt your nonprofit.</p><p>Each corporation’s board should do a cost/risk/benefit analysis to find out if any forms of liability insurance are a good fit for their needs.</p><p>While (yet again) it’s likely overkill, after consulting our legal team and doing our own research into best practices, PublicNTP decided to purchase the following insurance policies at the listed coverage levels:</p><p><ul><li><a href=''>General liability</a>: $1 million</li><li><a href=''>Directors & Officers liability</a>: $1 million <ul><li>Ensures that volunteers serve as an officer or director have a legal shield protecting their personal assets </li></ul></li></ul></p><p>Some steps are harder than others but those are the fourteen steps we needed to take. And, in fact, it was a process that I thought would take perhaps a year of time and planning panned out to only be a few months of work.</p><p>Now that we’re here, PublicNTP is ready to begin taking donations and deploying free, accurate digital clocks across the world.</p><div class='blog__nav'><a href='/blog/posts/financial-structure.html' class='blog__nav-btn'><img src='../../images/left-arrow.svg' />Financial Structure</a><div class='blog__nav-spacer'></div>","tags":["Time Server Deployments","Mission Statement","Stratum 1","Stratum 2","OCONUS (Non-US) Deployments"],"time":"<b>Aug</b> 21, 2017"},{"permalink":"financial-structure","timestamp":"2017-08-21T07:32:00-04:00","title":"PublicNTP’s Financial Structure","excerpt":"Part 3: When considering the public charity path, make sure you know how you’re reconciling your finances and how often","image_urls":[{"url":"images/blog-financial.jpg","alt":"Finances"}],"content":"<h4>Terry D. Ott</h4><p>As mentioned in our source article, creating spotless financial records early on -- plus supporting documentation of the financial policies -- is crucial when running a tax-exempt corporation.</p><p>The company is subject to audits by state or federal organizations at any point. After all, a company that’s considered a 501(c)(3) can all too easily become a fraudulent business without close monitoring.</p><p>When considering the public charity path, make sure you know how you’re reconciling your finances and how often. </p><p>Being a time-centric company, it should come as no surprise that PublicNTP reviews our records quite frequently!</p><h4>Day-To-Day Books</h4><p>Managing the financial books for a small nonprofit is not difficult, but it demands a lot of learning, careful attention, and constant diligence.</p><p>Your treasurer can certainly learn how to do the task well by doing some brief research on the internet, reading a book or two, and by using the right tools.</p><p>PublicNTP decided to outsource its bookkeeping to an accounting firm that specializes in nonprofit organizations and is staffed entirely by Certified Public Accountants (CPA’s).</p><p>In addition to shifting this task to another team, our board of directors can be confident in the knowledge that our books are being worked by CPA’s, specialists in the field who are required to complete many hours of continuing education per year in order to keep up on the latest developments in the field.</p><p>It’s worth the cost to know our financials are being handled by a trained, licensed professional in accordance with <span class='italics'>Generally Accepted Accounting Practices</span> (GAAP) at every opportunity.</p><h4>Monthly Reconciliation and Statements</h4><p>At the end of each month, do a reconciliation run across the financials. Make sure that all the columns that should add up and be equal still are!</p><p>Forgetting to do this over 3-4 months can make balancing the books a big challenge. Put a monthly reminder in your phone, and force yourself to take the hour to square everything up. In a couple months, it could easily end up taking a full day.</p><p>A brief monthly financial statement should be created at the end of the reconciliation that should be entered by the Secretary into the organization’s formal recordkeepingsystem.</p><h4>Quarterly Financial Reports</h4><p>The bookkeeper should generate quarterly financial reports that are delivered to all members of the Board of Directors.</p><p>These reports summarize income, expenses, etc. These are incredibly valuable in the event of an audit of your group’s finances. Showing that a detailed summary was generated every three months is great evidence to present during an audits. It serves as proof that the books were in order and the directors were doing all necessary due diligence in keeping current with the financial health of the organization.</p><h4>Yearly Financial Reports</h4><p>The yearly report should be generated from the quarterly reports, and formally presented at the Board of Directors meeting. By insisting on monthly and quarterly check-ups, this monumental annual task is reduced to a swift compilation of the existing monthly/quarterly reports.</p><h4>Board Meetings</h4><p>If you decide to outsource your company’s bookkeeping, require that the accountant attends (even if virtually) the annual Board of Directors meeting, so they can provide assistance to the Treasurer when financial matters are being discussed. This will remove any risk of communication problems about the initial recordings and any interpretations the directors may have.</p><h4>Consider Annual, Independent Financial Statement Reviews or Audits</h4><p>For a small nonprofit, this may well be overkill. That said, the PublicNTP leadership are big fans of overkill when it comes to financial transparency.</p><p>Retaining an independent CPA to either do a full-blown audit, or a more limited “financial statement review,” is a way for small nonprofits to help give confidence to donors that the organization will handle their money properly.</p><p>If your treasurer is keeping your books, hire a CPA to perform this task. If you are outsourcing your bookkeeping to an accounting firm, hire a CPA with an accounting firm completely independent of the accounting firm handling your books to generate this report.</p><p>It’s a lot to process. But at its core, this financial organization simply demands diligence. You may decide on a different structure but it’s important to ensure that your process is comprehensive and accurate, whatever it is.</p><p>Now that you’ve determined how finances are going to be organized for your tax-exempt company, you can progress to the last stage of this application: <a href='/blog/posts/paperwork-puzzle.html'>the stacks of paperwork that need filling out.</a></p><div class='blog__nav'><a href='/blog/posts/organizational-structure.html' class='blog__nav-btn'><img src='../../images/left-arrow.svg' />Organizational Structure</a><div class='blog__nav-spacer'></div><a href='/blog/posts/paperwork-puzzle.html' class='blog__nav-btn'> Paperwork Puzzle <img src='../../images/right-arrow.svg' /></a></div>","tags":["Time Server Deployments","Mission Statement","Stratum 1","Stratum 2","OCONUS (Non-US) Deployments"],"time":"<b>Aug</b> 21, 2017"},{"permalink":"organizational-structure","timestamp":"2017-08-21T07:32:00-04:00","title":"PublicNTP’s Organizational Structure","excerpt":"Part 2: We needed to establish some structure to the corporation","image_urls":[{"url":"images/blog-organizational.jpg","alt":"organization"}],"content":"<h4>Terry D. Ott</h4><p>PublicNTP’s mission is to provide free, global, digital clocks. In order to become tax-exempt, avoid legal issues, and be a legitimate corporation, we needed to establish some structure to the corporation.</p><p>For those considering creating your own tax-exempt corporation, all states require the application to include a description of some key formal positions that will need to be filled.</p><p>This post discusses the PublicNTP organization structure along with descriptions.</p><p>What worked for us is certainly not universal; our legal team shared their professional opinion about what the IRS “likes” to see with us as we were incorporating.</p><p>Feel free to use our structure an example, but definitely go with what works for your team and company needs.</p><p style='font-style:italic;'><strong>Note:</strong> providing legal advice is certainly not something in the PublicNTP mission! :) If in doubt, consult legal advisors that you trust.</p><h2>Directors</h2><p>The Board of Directors is a nonprofit corporation’s governing body.</p><p>Individuals serving on the Board of Directors (properly referred to as “directors”) are responsible for overseeing all the corporation’s activities.</p><p>Directors ensure the corporation stays focused on its mission, strategy, and goals.</p><p>The advice we received from the PublicNTP legal team was to have at least three directors on its board. We were instructed that less than three directors could potentially complicate our application for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).</p><h2>Officers</h2><p>Officers are individuals who are selected by the Board of Directors and tasked to execute the Board’s vision and mission for the corporation.</p><p>The PublicNTP legal team advised us to create the following three officer positions at an absolute minimum: <ol style='padding-left: 58px;'><li>President</li><li>Secretary</li><li>Treasurer</li></ol></p><h4 class='italic'>President</h4><p class='indent__left'>The president is responsible for the day-to- day operation of the corporation, ensuring all other officers are fulfilling their duties.</p><p class='indent__left'></p><p class='indent__left'></p><p class='indent__left'>Short- and long-term planning also fall under the president’s stewardship, as he or she directs programs to further the organization’s mission.</p><p class='indent__left'>The president also oversees fundraising operations, including acting as the primary spokesperson for the organization, recruiting donors, and attending fundraising functions.</p><p class='indent__left'>He or she has the authority to sign all legal documents on behalf of the corporation.</p><h4 class='italic'>Secretary</h4><p class='indent__left'>The secretary is responsible for maintaining all the corporation’s records, scheduling/giving proper notice for any meetings, and distributing agendas/meeting minutes.</p><p class='indent__left'>The secretary also maintains accurate documentation and enforces legal requirements, such as periodic registrations for the company (state corporation registration, charitable donation registrations with states, etc.).</p><h4 class='italic'>Treasurer</h4><p class='indent__left'>The treasurer oversees the management and reporting of the corporation’s finances.</p><p class='indent__left'></p><p class='indent__left'>This generally includes: <ul style='list-style-type: disc;'><li>Selecting a bank for the company’s accounts</li><li>Maintaining the company’s financial books (either personally or outsourcing</li><li>Managing cash flows</li><li>Ensuring vendors are paid promptly</li><li>Developing and tracking budgets</li><li>Delivering quarterly financial reports to the Board of Directors</li><li>Ensuring all financial filings for the corporation are filed properly and on-time (example: IRS form 990-EZ)</li></ul></p><p>Thanks to our legal team and some deliberation, PublicNTP put together a small, agile team of directors and officers to meet our particular needs.</p><div class='blog__nav'><a href='/blog/posts/dizzying-terminology.html' class='blog__nav-btn'><img src='../../images/left-arrow.svg' />Dizzying Terminology</a><div class='blog__nav-spacer'></div><a href='/blog/posts/financial-structure.html' class='blog__nav-btn'>Financial Structure <img src='../../images/right-arrow.svg' /></a></div>","tags":["Time Server Deployments","Mission Statement","Stratum 1","Stratum 2","OCONUS (Non-US) Deployments"],"time":"<b>Aug</b> 21, 2017"},{"permalink":"dizzying-terminology","timestamp":"2017-08-21T07:32:00-04:00","title":"PublicNTP’s Dizzying Terminology","excerpt":"Part 1: The first steps to becoming tax-exempt","image_urls":[{"url":"images/blog-terminology.jpg","alt":"terminology"}],"content":"<h4>Terry D. Ott</h4><p>The first steps to becoming tax-exempt required we know a series of new terms that were interpreted specifically by the IRS. It was important to make sure we knew the specifics of these terms because, at first glance, some of them seem similar enough to be interchangeable. As the IRS doesn’t play in gray areas, we couldn’t either.</p><h4>Employer Identification Number (EIN)</h4><p>This one’s pretty straightforward. Any business, from individual startups to large corporations, needs one of these. It’s used to identify the company for tax-purposes. For our tax-exempt company, it would also be given to our donors for their own records when claiming the charity on their taxes. It takes about five minutes to apply for online.</p><h4>Non-stock Corporation</h4><p>A non-stock corporation is a corporation which does not issue any shares of stock. What that meant for our organization purposes was that <strong>non-stock corporations have no owners.</strong></p><p>A nonprofit is, by definition, a non-stock corporation.</p><h4>Non-profit/Not-for-profit Corporation</h4><p>There’s no gray area between these two terms; they are synonymous.</p><p>Nonprofit corporations <span style='text-decoration:underline;'>cannot distribute dividends or income to their directors, officers, or individual members</span>, <span style='font-style:italic;'>except</span> as compensation for services rendered, or upon dissolution of the corporation.</p><p>However, this doesn’t mean nonprofits can’t be profitable—<strong>they absolutely can be, and often are!</strong> The critical difference is all profits must be reinvested into the company’s operations. Individuals cannot financially benefit from profits generated by a nonprofit, only the company itself is permitted to do so.</p><h4>Nonprofit versus Tax-exempt</h4><p>All corporations exempt from paying taxes, either at the state or federal level, are non-profit corporations. <strong>However, not all nonprofit corporations are tax-exempt.</strong></p><h4>Tax-exempt Status</h4><p>Nonprofits, depending on the purpose for which they are organized, may apply to the Internal Revenue Service and/or the state in which they incorporated for exemption from some taxes.</p><p>Our target exemption status would shield PublicNTP from having to pay income tax, as well as make all donations to the corporation a legal income tax deduction for donors. </p><p>Most charities calling themselves “tax-exempt” or “tax-deductible” are referring to this type of exemption status, meaning the full dollar amount of all donations can legally be deducted from donors’ income tax filings. Both individuals and for-profit corporations can legally donate to a tax-exempt corporation and benefit from the resulting income tax deductions.</p><h4>Registered Agent</h4><p>The registered agent is the point of contact for the corporation when being served when the company is being served with legal papers (such as a lawsuit).</p><p>There was a bit of learning to do but once we had this vocabulary list under our belt we could move on to the stickier subjects of organizing ourselves both structurally and financially.</p><div class='blog__nav'><a href='/blog/posts/pntp-introduction.html' class='blog__nav-btn'><img src='../../images/left-arrow.svg' />Intro</a><div class='blog__nav-spacer'></div><a href='/blog/posts/organizational-structure.html' class='blog__nav-btn'>Organizational Structure <img src='../../images/right-arrow.svg' /></a></div>","tags":["Time Server Deployments","Mission Statement","Stratum 1","Stratum 2","OCONUS (Non-US) Deployments"],"time":"<b>Aug</b> 21, 2017"},{"permalink":"pntp-introduction","timestamp":"2017-08-21T07:32:00-04:00","title":"PublicNTP’s Journey to Tax-Exempt Status","excerpt":"The first steps to becoming tax-exempt","image_urls":[{"url":"images/blog-checklist.jpg","alt":"Checklist"}],"content":"<h4>Terry D. Ott</h4><p>It has always been about time for me. From my nascent teenager years to booting up my first cloud server under PublicNTP. I am proud to admit to being a time dork and I’ve always been fascinated how humanity has refined our time-measuring tools. As shown on the <a href=''>timeline portion of the site</a>, you can see how we’ve gotten to the point where we can keep track of time down to nine billionths of a second.</p><p>Distribution is PublicNTP’s focus in the precision time space -- providing global access to any and all who need it, free of charge.</p><p>My long-time friend Scott Waddell and I decided in the summer of 2017 that it was time to get serious about this. Previously, PublicNTP had been a personal hobby, funded entirely by me. In other words, there wasn’t much “public” in PublicNTP. In the summer of 2017, Scott and I agreed that it was crucial for the long-term sustainability of PublicNTP to become a non-profit public charity, funded by donations from people around the globe.</p><p>Both Scott and I had created companies before, but neither had ever created a nonprofit corporation or filed for tax exemption. We both enjoy good challenges that involve intense learning, so we decided to dive in and see what was involved!</p><p>As is often the case, it turned out some things were simpler than expected...and others decidedly weren’t.</p><p>This post started out in my head as a one-stop “How To Become Tax-exempt” article for other small organizations who might be considering public charity status. As I dove in and tried to capture the salient bits, I realized there was way more content than should be in a single blog post. We decided to break the content up over a series of posts, with this initial one serving as something of a “table of contents”.</p><p>We spent a lot of time and effort in the early days learning the proper use of the “language” of the knowledge domain. Ranging from basic business terms like EINs to the granular legal details of what makes a company non-profit.</p><p>The next major set of learning involved figuring out how to transition a sideline hobby into a proper corporation which would be taken seriously and recognized as a public charity with Directors and Officers. Making sure PublicNTP had the right people structured in the proper/correct way, and accurately capturing all of that in the paperwork proved to be a significant hurdle.</p><p>We then had to decide on -- then properly document -- all the processes and best practices for publicly-supported charities. Applications for tax deductible status are heavily scrutinized by the IRS (as they absolutely should be!). It’s important to make sure from the very beginning that every financial transaction is properly recorded. This isn’t strictly required for the IRS application, but we decided that it was best to start out of the gates with spotless books, knowing that the IRS has the legal right to audit at any point for any reason. We decided to put the effort in early to ensure absolutely everything about our financial records was above-board.</p><p>After we had deciphered key vocabulary terms, agreed on the company’s leadership structure, and organized our financial systems to properly record/report all financial transactions and expenditures we were (finally!) ready to pull the trigger.</p><p>Our non-profit application required us to meet a number of very strict legal/financial requirements. This culminated in a paperwork puzzle that might seem insurmountable to many small, volunteer-supported organizations.</p><p>PublicNTP hopes this series of articles can help illuminate how we approached the tax-exempt application process in order to show others that there is a repeatable set of steps, none of which being terribly complicated, that will likely result in the IRS approving your application as well.</p><p>- <strong>Part 1</strong>: <a href='/blog/posts/dizzying-terminology.html'>PublicNTP's Dizzying Terminology</a></p><p>- <strong>Part 2</strong>: <a href='/blog/posts/organizational-structure.html'>PublicNTP's Organizational Structure</a></p><p>- <strong>Part 3</strong>: <a href='/blog/posts/financial-structure.html'>PublicNTP's Financial Structure</a></p><p>- <strong>Part 4</strong>: <a href='/blog/posts/paperwork-puzzle.html'>PublicNTP's Paperwork Puzzle</a></p>","tags":["Time Server Deployments","Mission Statement","Stratum 1","Stratum 2","OCONUS (Non-US) Deployments"],"time":"<b>Aug</b> 21, 2017"},{"permalink":"global-expansion-and-a-facelift","timestamp":"2017-07-08T17:36:00-04:00","title":"Global expansion and a facelift","excerpt":"When I first launched PublicNTP with a single NTP server in Chicago, Illinois, I had grand plans for rapid expansion, first across the US, to be quickly followed by exotic locations around the globe I’d always wanted to visit.","image_urls":[{"url":"images/blog-servers.jpg","alt":"servers"}],"content":"<h4>Terry D. Ott</h4><p>When I first launched PublicNTP with a single NTP server in Chicago, Illinois, I had grand plans for rapid expansion, first across the US, to be quickly followed by exotic locations around the globe I’d always wanted to visit.</p><p>As is often the case, reality ended up diverging quite a bit from the original dreams. :slightly_smiling_face: From the launch in 2008 through the summer of 2016, PublicNTP was largely in stasis. The server in Chicago was quite reliable/stable over those eight years, but the Chicago deployment was all there was to PublicNTP.</p><p>While my original deployment vision centered around purchasing and installing physical servers in leased data center space, in 2012 the Chicago server was transitioned from a physical server to a cloud-based virtual machine. I was pleasantly surprised to see a virtualized environment was entirely capable of providing high-quality stratum 2 time data to clients.</p><p>Many NTP information sources strongly discourage running NTPd on anything but bare metal hardware. I tend to agree that stratum 1 servers should be running directly on a physical server if possible, but I personally found virtualized NTP server deployments to be entirely well-suited for servicing stratum 2 time needs. As a nice bonus, virtualized deployments were vastly easier to maintain—not to mention significantly cheaper!</p><p>In the summer of 2015, I was sitting at my desk at work looking at the AWS Global Infrastructure map, doing some investigation for my day job. While looking at the map, it hit me that the global nature of AWS data centers could provide the foundation for the first major expansion for PublicNTP.</p><p>A brief investigation demonstrated that, much like I had found with the virtualized server in Chicago, (properly-sized!) EC2 instances proved to be an ideal hosting environment for PublicNTP servers.</p><p>Starting in late July 2016, thanks to Amazon’s EC2 offering, PublicNTP experienced tremendous deployment expansion for the first time in its eight-year history! In just six months, PublicNTP grew from the single deployment in Chicago to 11 deployments across 5 continents:</p><ul><li>North America (4)<li><ul><li>The Dalles, Oregon, USA</li><li>San Jose, California, USA</li><li>Chicago, Illinois, USA</li><li>Ashburn, Virginia, USA</li></ul><li>South America (1)</li><ul><li>São Paulo, Brazil</li></ul><li>Europe (2)</li><ul><li>Dublin, Ireland</li><li>Frankfurt, Germany</li></ul><li>Asia (3)</li><ul><li>Mumbai, India</li><li>Singapore</li><li>Tokyo, Japan</li></ul><li>Australia/Oceania (1)</li><ul><li>Sydney, Australia</li></ul></ul><p></p><p>Starting in the second half of 2016, my long-time friend Scott Waddell and I found ourselves in the same city on a regular basis for the first time in almost twenty years. As we caught up on each others’ lives and interests, I mentioned my work with PublicNTP. Scott immediately grasped the PublicNTP mission and offered to get involved.</p><p>With Scott’s support, we deployed the first-ever PublicNTP stratum 1 time server, a CDMA-based Endrun Technologies Tempus LX server, in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Scott also provided access to an excellent technical team, including a graphic designer and a web developer who jointly produced the massive overhaul to the PublicNTP website that you’re currently looking at!</p><p>Stay tuned for more blog posts across the remainder of 2017, which will largely focus on the shared vision Scott and I have for the short- and medium-term evolution/expansion of PublicNTP!</p>","tags":["Time Server Deployments","Mission Statement","Stratum 1","Stratum 2","OCONUS (Non-US) Deployments"],"time":"<b>Jul</b> 8, 2017"}]

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