Assigning a Specific SNTP Server to ShoreTel Phones

It doesn’t come up often but occasionally you’ll find your phones aren’t getting the right information from your network’s time server. Some partners will set up the ShoreTel server as the SNTP server for your phones. I’ve been told this isn’t great practice anymore.

Your network may not be set up in a way that makes using DHCP to pass your phones settings to them possible. This means  you have to manually place all your settings in each phone right? Actually no. Some settings that are the same across all phones can be assigned with those text files on your ShoreTel FTP server.

One of those settings is which SNTP Server to use. You have to do this for each specific model of phone you use. I’ll show how to do this for a 230 phone and then share how to figure out which file goes to which kind of phone. I believe this can be done for a specific phone as well, but newer versions of ShoreTel may have changed this.

Fair warning. You can mess some settings up if you get this wrong. It’s not a bad idea to back up your C:\inetpub\ftp\root directory.

Step 1 – Log Into your ShoreTel server.

Step 2 – Open the folder C:\inetpub\ftproot – Back this folder up.

Step 3 – Look for a text file called “sevcustom.txt”

Step 4 – Add the line:” SntpServer [IP Address of NTP Server]” without the quotes. The IP address of the NTP server can be the IP address of your primary domain controller, or theoretically an online NTP server, but this is not ideal.

Step 5 – Save the file.

Step 6 – Reset a 230 phone and see if it doesn’t pick up the correct time server now.

Step 7 – If it does, it’s a simple matter of resetting all the 230 phones on the network.

The first two or three numbers or letters of the custom.txt file is the model number of a phone. Flip a ShoreTel phone over and look at the barcode on the back. Above the barcode should read “IP TELEPHONE MODEL xxx”. The xxx part is the model of the phone. The 230’s say SEV, 560’s will say S6 and so forth and so on.

You could always just add the line to each custom file.

Another thing to look out for is in the shore_xxx.txt text files. There should be a line that says ‘Include “xxxcustom.txt”‘. If it isn’t there, add it. You can also change this to another global custom text file with your edits.

Update 12/17/2014 – You can also name the files with the MAC address of a phone to put specific settings on individual phones. The text file needs to be named shore_xxxxxxxxxxxx.txt where the xx’s are the MAC address of the phone. The MAC address is the long “serial number” on the back of the phone under the bar code.

11 Replies to “Assigning a Specific SNTP Server to ShoreTel Phones”

  1. Thanks for this! I was having a hard time with trying to setup the Windows NTP service and found this to be much easier and worked right away.

  2. Incredibly useful for non-dhcp voip networks. We assign all our phones a static IP address – and we changed a system resulting in having to change every phones sntp setting. We thought it would have been a nightmare to touch each phone to change the sntp.

    If your phones have DHCP on, then you can set up your DHCP server options for ntp.

    1. Yeah, it’s also useful if you have a bunch of different networks with different DHCP capabilities. We had a site where there was basically just a plain little Linksys router running the whole thing. Just three computers and a couple of phones. It needed a different time server and a few other settings. Got really annoying walking people through programming the phones after power outages, and other issues. This information is incredibly useful, not just with NTP settings. Glad we could help! Let me know if I can do anything else for you.

  3. What might you suggest for handling some remote/VPN phones? My company has several of the VPN phones around the world and we are having problems getting the time to update from the default “Feb 6”. We have been told to create a local NTP server for each location that has a VPN phone. Have you dealt with this issue. We did not have the problem prior to our latest upgrade of the system. Thanks!

    1. Yeah, I have dealt with this problem. It’s annoying, and it comes down to your individual situation. I’m guessing you had the SNTP server set either to the ShoreTel server, your Windows domain controller, or something like that, then they updated and now the VPN phones aren’t getting their time? Here’s a few things you can do that won’t add any real load to your network to solve this, hopefully. This is all stuff I’ve done to resolve this issue (sometimes all of these on one ShoreTel system).

      Sadly, they’re correct unless the VPN phones let you specify a time zone now, you’re stuck with a local NTP server option. You do have some really easy solutions though. If they can use a time zone I’d talk the end user through configuring it manually on the phone. If you can’t you can always use the shore_macaddress.txt trick to configure an SNTP server.

      1. 1. Sometimes using an internet time server will work. I’ve done this in the past and gotten the phones to get the correct time, because of their site assignment I’m assuming. Usually it won’t, and if you get anything it’s just going to be UTC time. Occasionally you can find a time server on the internet that gives out local time, but not often. We just set one up here locally for our customers who had this issue.
      2. 2. If that’s not available, most routers can and do work as NTP servers so sometimes, without doing any changes to your local gateway you can just set the NTP server for that specific phone as the gateway for the local network it is on. Other times you have to go turn that feature on. Even home grade routers have this option available, and Cisco business class routers can act as NTP servers either through the command line, or through one of the GUI interfaces. It’s not on by default with those.
      3. 3. Assuming you have some strange equipment, you can ALWAYS get some open source software that will work as an NTP server.
      1. Thanks for the other ideas Aaron! You nailed my case down exactly. Was working using ShoreTel server for NTP –> upgrade –> not working. Using the local router as NTP sounds promising as that IP is static. The problem with setting up a local PC as the NTP gets tricky with DHCP being the default at most/all locations. I’d have to have them assign a static IP within their working IP range to the PC so the NTP server address does not change should the PC get another IP from the router.

        1. The file names are just a string of numbers and letters when you make them. I looked on my server to see if I had any examples (I have a couple of 265’s that used to have custom backgrounds that I did this with) but they seem to have disappeared. Probably because I had wiped the server a couple years ago.

          The file for my phone would look something like this: shore_0011480B8143.txt (MAC Address changed to protect the innocent phones)

        2. I’ve honestly only used a local PC as an NTP server once, and I honestly don’t recommend that. It was a strange case of VLANs, DMZs and an ancient router that just couldn’t do the job. Just so much better to configure the local router to do it.

  4. Forgot to ask about the using the shore_macaddress.txt file to send the NTP server ip out. I’m assuming the portion of the file name is not formatted with hyphens “-” or colons “:” , correct?

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