What Is a Network Operations Center (NOC)? Definition, Role, Benefits and Best Practices

If you run an MSP or a small business, you know how difficult it can be to manage your IT team’s workload. However, with the help of a Network Operations Center (NOC), you can streamline and simplify your IT operations dramatically. But what exactly is a NOC, how does it work and how can it help IT departments and MSPs reduce their workload? This article will answer all these questions plus explain why a NOC partnership is essential to your business success.

What is a Network Operations Center (NOC)?

A NOC, pronounced like the word knock, is an internal or a third-party facility for monitoring and managing an organization’s networked devices and systems. NOC services, in the context of modern-day IT-managed services, typically involve the delivery of IT services that focus on endpoint monitoring and management. Endpoints, in this context, refer to servers and workstations (desktops and laptops) as well as Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) devices.

A NOC services company is a third-party resource that delivers IT services on behalf of its clients to the client’s customers or employees. A typical NOC uses various tools and techniques to monitor and manage networks, systems and applications. For example, it may use network management software to monitor traffic levels and identify potential problems, system monitoring tools to monitor endpoint and server performance and resource utilization, and application monitoring tools to track response times and identify errors.

Apart from identifying and resolving issues that arise, the staff at a NOC facility may also be involved in network capacity planning. Better overall network performance is another advantage of a NOC. Proactively monitoring and managing the network can help avoid potential bottlenecks and other performance issues. As a result, users experience fewer interruptions and enjoy smoother overall operation.

What is meant by network operations?

Network operations refer to all the activities needed to keep a network running smoothly, such as monitoring network devices and performance, configuring equipment, troubleshooting problems, and managing upgrades and changes. Network infrastructure includes everything from routers and switches to firewalls and load balancers, as well as the physical cables that connect all of these devices. Real-time monitoring keeps these assets functioning properly, safe from cyberattacks and prevents network outages.

In large organizations, a dedicated NOC staff may work round the clock to keep the network running smoothly. In smaller companies, the network operations team may be part of the IT department overseeing network monitoring and other IT tasks. Many companies outsource their network monitoring activities to one NOC due to its cost-effectiveness and ability to free up their IT staff.

What is the role of a NOC?

The role of a NOC is to provide 24/7 monitoring and support for an organization’s network infrastructure. A dedicated team of experts constantly monitors the network, identifying and resolving issues before they cause major disruptions.

When issues arise, NOCs resolve them on their own or by working with other teams within the organization, such as the help desk or IT operations, to identify the root cause of the problem. They also support users in accessing network resources safely. This may involve providing step-by-step instructions or troubleshooting tips. In some cases, NOCs may even remote into users’ computers to resolve an issue directly.

NOCs serve as a valuable resource for organizations of all sizes. Small businesses may not have the internal resources to support a full-time network operations team, so outsourcing to a NOC can be a cost-effective solution. A NOC can supplement an existing in-house network operations team for larger organizations, providing additional expertise and capacity.

What does a NOC do?

A NOC provides a variety of services to its customers. While not all NOCs are the same, they typically provide some or all of the following services:

Network monitoring and management

Network monitoring and management involves tracking all network devices, servers and databases to ensure they function properly and the data passing through them is secure. Network monitoring consists of three primary components:

  • Network devices: Includes routers, switches, firewalls and other hardware that make up the network infrastructure.
  • Network servers: Computers that host applications and provide services to users on the network.
  • Network databases: Stored data used by applications on the network.

Security monitoring and management

These following components form the foundation of robust security monitoring and management system. While each item is important in its own right combined, they create a comprehensive security strategy that can help protect your system, users and organization from the most sophisticated attacks.

  • Firewalls: Firewalls act as a first line of defense against cyberattacks by blocking unauthorized traffic from entering your network.
  • Antivirus: Antivirus software protects your system from malicious programs and viruses that can wreak havoc on your system.
  • Intrusion prevention systems (IPS): Intrusion prevention systems monitor network traffic for suspicious activity and can block malicious traffic before it reaches your system.
  • Threat analysis: Threat analysis is the process of identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities in your system and developing plans to mitigate them.
  • Incident response: Incident response is a set of procedures to be followed in the event of a security breach or attack.
  • Policy enforcement: Policy enforcement ensures users comply with security policies and procedures.

Software and application management

Software and application management is the process of managing software and applications throughout their lifecycle. This includes:

  • Installation: There are many factors to consider when installing a program, such as its compatibility with other programs, system requirements and licensing. Robust software and application management plan evaluates all aspects, making the process efficient and minimizing disruptions.
  • Updates: It is essential to update software and applications on time to maintain security, compatibility and functionality. A good software and application management plan includes procedures for regularly checking for updates and installing them on time.
  • Troubleshooting: Despite a sound installations and updates plan, problems can still arise. A well-documented and troubleshooting plan will help you locate and resolve issues quickly, which can involve working with the vendor or developer of the software.
  • Patch management: Patch management is crucial to keeping software and applications up to date. The process involves identifying when a patch is available, testing it to ensure it works and deploying it properly. A patch is a piece of code used to fix a bug or vulnerability in an application or operating system.

Communications management

Communications management looks at how effectively and securely an organization’s employees share information between themselves and with clients. It includes developing and implementing communication strategies and assessing their effectiveness in a bid to optimize them.

  • Email: Sending an email is easy and quick. All you need is an internet connection. However, emails can be easily ignored or deleted, and often it is difficult to convey emotion or tone through written words alone.
  • Voice: Voice communication, whether over the phone or in person, is more immediate than email and can effectively convey emotion, but it can be more disruptive if not used properly.
  • Audio: Audio-only communication, such as podcasts or recorded messages, can be a good middle ground between email and voice. It is less disruptive than a voice call but can still convey emotion and tone more effectively than written words alone.
  • Video: During the pandemic, video communications connected a closed world and allowed for face-to-face interaction, even from a distance. As companies continue to explore remote working options, video communication allows participants across geographies and time zones to convey complex information and build great business relationships.

Business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) services

BCDR services help organizations keep their operations running even during major disruptions, like natural disasters, power outages, data breaches and other catastrophic events. The three key components of BCDR are:

  • Data storage: Data storage is the foundation of any BCDR plan. You must securely store your company’s critical data for easy and quick access during an outage or disaster.
  • Backup: A backup is a copy of your data that can be restored in the event of an IT system failure, cyberattack or natural disaster that can compromise the integrity of your data and systems. It is important to test your backup system regularly to ensure it works when needed.
  • Disaster recovery: Disaster recovery is the process of restoring your systems and data in the event of a major outage or disaster. It is crucial to test your disaster recovery plan periodically as a way to ensure its reliability.

Network analysis and reporting

Network analysis and reporting are key to improving the performance of a network.

  • Network performance: It refers to testing the speed and efficiency with which data can be transmitted across a network using metrics like latency, jitter, packet loss, throughput, etc.
  • Network health: This analysis refers to a network’s overall stability and reliability and provides information about uptime and any potential problems that may be causing disruptions.
  • Optimization proposals: These are suggestions for improving a network’s performance, including changes to the hardware, software and configuration of the network. They may also include how a network is used, such as implementing new policies or procedures.

Third-party services management

Keeping track of all the vendors, contractors and freelancers your company employs can be frustrating. In addition to their other duties, a NOC will help keep track of all contacts, licenses and payments jobs on your behalf.

  • Vendor: A vendor can be a company or an individual that sells goods or services to another company. They are contracted to provide specific products or services and are paid on a per-project basis.
  • Contractors: A contractor is an individual or company that provides services to another company on a contractual basis. Contractors get paid by the hour or project and are not considered employees of the company they work for.
  • Freelancers: They are individuals who work for themselves, providing their skills and services to companies or individuals on a contractual basis. Freelancers are typically paid by the project and set their own hours.

What is the difference between a NOC and a SOC?

A NOC is a facility responsible for maintaining optimal network performance and ensuring the organization’s IT infrastructure meets all service level agreement (SLA) requirements. On the other hand, a Security Operations Center (SOC) is tasked with protecting an organization against cyberattacks that could otherwise cause business disruption.

A SOC is a centralized facility within an organization or a third-party service provider that houses an information security team responsible for continuously monitoring, detecting, analyzing and responding to any cybersecurity incidents on a 24/7/365 basis.

What is the difference between a NOC and a help desk?

The main difference between a help desk and a NOC is their respective focus. A help desk is a support service that helps users with technical issues related to a company’s products or services. A NOC is a facility that monitors and manages the infrastructure of a network.

A help desk is operated by customer service representatives or technical support staff trained to assist users with questions or problems. They may provide support via phone, email or live chat and are focused on providing quick resolutions to specific issues.

On the other hand, NOCs are staffed by network engineers or other IT professionals who monitor the performance of a network and its components. They proactively manage networks to prevent outages or performance issues and use specialized tools to identify and troubleshoot problems.

While both serve different purposes, they play a vital role in keeping things running smoothly.

What are the best practices for a NOC?

By partnering with a NOC, you get round-the-clock monitoring and support, quick identification and resolution of issues, and peace of mind knowing that your network is in good hands. Here are some best practices for establishing and maintaining a quality NOC.

Document all policies and protocols

In order to maintain a high-functioning NOC, it is important to document all policies and protocols related to roles, responsibilities, prioritization and procedures. A clear understanding of these concepts will help the NOC team to manage day-to-day operations and address any issues that may arise more effectively.

  • Roles: Each member of the NOC team should have a clearly defined role to avoid confusion and overlap in responsibilities.
  • Responsibilities: All members of the NOC team should be aware of their duties as well as the collective responsibility of the team as a whole. This makes individuals more likely to take responsibility and accountability for their roles.
  • Prioritization: The NOC team must understand how to prioritize tasks and events to address the most critical items at the earliest opportunity.
  • Procedures: The NOC team should have well-defined processes for managing day-to-day operations and addressing any incidents or issues that may arise. Staff and technicians should know the steps to follow for maximum efficiency.

Provide thorough and frequent training

Frequent training is essential for NOC staff. They need to be up to date on the latest changes in the network and how to troubleshoot common problems. This way, they can quickly resolve any issues that come up.

Emphasize timely, round-the-clock response

As networks are constantly in use, a NOC must have a 24-hour response time. Issues can arise anytime, and a NOC must have staff on duty round the clock to ensure a timely response.

Communicate regularly and often

Communication is vital for a NOC to function effectively. Timely and clear communication between the NOC staff and other departments within the organization, stakeholders, employees, customers and everyone else involved is essential. Having everyone on the same page helps resolve issues that may arise faster.

Regularly maintain and test systems

A NOC needs to maintain and test its systems regularly. This way, they can be sure everything is working properly and no potential problems are lurking around the corner.

Analyze and review performance

There are a few key things to keep in mind when analyzing and reviewing performance in a NOC. First, identify your goals and objectives and what you are trying to improve or accomplish. Next, gather data and information related to your goals. It could come from various sources, including system logs, application monitoring tools, user feedback, etc. Once your data is collected, it’s time to start analyzing it. Look for patterns, trends and anything that stands out as unusual. Finally, review your findings with your team and stakeholders. Discuss what could be causing issues and develop improvement plans.

What are the benefits of a NOC?

The benefits of partnering with a NOC include improved network uptime, faster problem resolution and better overall network performance. Here are just a few of the ways a NOC can help improve your business:

Increased efficiency

By monitoring your network 24/7, a NOC team can identify and resolve potential problems before they cause downtime. In many cases, issues can be resolved before they have a chance to cause any significant damage. It means more productivity for your business. By contrast, you may fail to detect problems without a NOC until an outage or disruption occurs.

Expert service

With a team of IT experts, you’ll always have someone to turn to when you need help with your network. Whether you need assistance with troubleshooting or want advice on system management, a NOC will be there to help. A NOC will proactively monitor and manage your network round the clock, so you can focus on running your business.

Real-time, 24/7 monitoring and reporting

NOC uses the latest tools and technologies to monitor your network round the clock. They can provide you with real-time reports so you can stay up to date on the status of your network.

Customizable and scalable

As your business grows, a NOC can scale its services to meet your changing needs or alter your service package based on periodic changes in demand. You can also customize the services to suit your needs.

Kaseya NOC services

If you’re looking for a way to accelerate your business growth and increase profitability, Kaseya NOC services can help. With our experienced team of IT professionals, we can help you scale quickly without incurring costly overhead. This will free up your staff to focus on high-value services. In addition, our flexible services are designed to meet your changing needs as your business grows. Whatever your requirements, whether it be a change in demand for your services or exponential growth, we are here to help you succeed. For more information about our NOC service and to receive a quote, click here.

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