Network operations center (NOC) and security operations center (SOC) are major buzzwords in the IT world, and for a good reason. Both solutions are powerful answers to how to deliver best-in-class IT with limited resources. However, for a lot of people, they are one and the same. Although the two operations share similarities and have borders that overlap, they have vastly different purposes and end goals. As an IT professional, understanding the similarities and differences between the two is vital to making informed IT decisions for your business or clients. This blog will provide a clear picture of the closely related, but not-so-similar, NOC and SOC.
What is the difference between a NOC and a SOC?
A NOC maintains and monitors a company’s IT infrastructure, including the network infrastructure, endpoints and cloud setups, to ensure they run smoothly and efficiently at all times. It handles problems arising from technological causes like power and internet outages, and natural causes like hurricanes. The goal is to ensure that an organization’s users or clients can access the IT network and necessary resources 24/7. NOC services also often oversee patching and server maintenance for an organization.
NOCs also help organizations maintain uptime so the business does not take a hit. About 82% of companies have experienced at least one unplanned downtime outage over the past three years, with the average number of outages being two. A single hour of downtime can set organizations back by hundreds of millions and tarnish their reputation. In 2021, Amazon missed out on an estimated $34 million in sales due to an internet outage. Similarly, in October 2021, Facebook and its affiliated brands, like WhatsApp and Instagram, were unavailable for an astounding six to seven hours, sparking angry memes and a nearly $100 million revenue loss.
A SOC, on the other hand, monitors an organization’s endpoints, network and servers to keep it safe from cyberthreats. They look for anything suspicious in the IT infrastructure that portends a cyberattack in motion and take steps to analyze and remediate incidents if one occurs.
Cybersecurity is one of the biggest challenges facing organizations today. In 2022, 71% of companies worldwide were affected by ransomware, with 62.9% of ransomware victims paying the ransom. Threats are not only increasing in number but also complexity. Poor cybersecurity practices mean security breaches can run for multiple years before they are detected. By then, much of the damage has already taken place. Zoetop Business Company, which owns Shein and its sister brand Romwe, was fined $1.9 million towards the end of 2022 for failing to handle a data breach from 2018, which affected 39 million customers.
Essentially, SOC analysts detect cybercrime, build defenses against it, then eliminate it if one occurs. All this is done to maintain a company’s data, infrastructure, and operational integrity. After all, the financial and reputational damage in the wake of a successful cyberattack can be devastating and often irreversible.
Definition of NOC and SOC
NOC technicians need to have a strong understanding of networking concepts and must be able to troubleshoot issues quickly. On the other hand, SOC analysts must be well-versed in security technologies and threat detection methods.
NOC: A NOC monitors, manages and maintains an organization’s networked devices and systems. A company can have a NOC team internally or partner with a third-party NOC service provider. As an external service, NOCs can deliver IT services to the client and the client’s customers or employees.
SOC: A SOC is an in-house or third-party facility that houses an information security team responsible for continuously monitoring, detecting, analyzing and responding to any cybersecurity incidents on a 24/7/365 basis. The operation uses predefined processes and solutions to prevent and remediate cybersecurity incidents and strengthen an organization’s security posture.
A few similarities exist between a NOC and a SOC, namely their monitoring and management capabilities. Both facilities monitor endpoints, devices, network infrastructure, cloud, virtual machines and all other components of IT, but for different end goals.
A NOC monitors endpoints and IT systems to identify and resolve issues that can hurt the performance and availability of the IT infrastructure. After all, slow systems and glitchy software only delay work, negatively impacting service level agreements (SLAs). In addition to identifying and resolving issues, NOC staff may also plan network capacity. This eliminates potential bottlenecks and other performance issues, helping users experience fewer interruptions and enjoy smoother overall operations. A NOC’s role is to keep the IT machinery well-oiled by eliminating and fixing technical problems, preventing service outages and preparing against unforeseen conditions that can cause business downtime. They also manage a help desk to handle requests such as password resets, recovering deleted data and new user onboarding.
A SOC ensures that a company’s security remains strong. It also undertakes device and IT asset monitoring to identify signs of intrusion or malicious activity. SOC analysts regularly monitor log files, network traffic, escalating privileges and unusual or unauthorized activities, among other things, to find clues of a potential cyberattack. Besides actively looking for threats, SOCs also investigate incidents when they occur and take appropriate action to mitigate them. A SOC team comprises security analysts, incident responders and other security professionals who provide 24/7 monitoring and bolster an organization’s security posture. Without the round-the-clock vigilance of a SOC team, most cyberattacks would breach a company’s defenses undetected, causing severe damage.
A NOC’s objective is to minimize downtime, maintain the health and functionality of an organization’s IT infrastructure, and ensure that the network is always available and running smoothly.
- Network monitoring and management: It involves monitoring network devices, servers and databases to ensure they function as intended and that data passes through them securely.
- Software and application management: This involves installing, updating, troubleshooting and patching software and applications to ensure smooth performance at every stage of the lifecycle.
- Communications management: It involves implementing strategies to help organizations securely share information internally and externally through email, audio or video.
- Business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) services: BCDR services address data storage, backup and disaster recovery to help organizations keep their operations running even during major disruptions like natural disasters, power outages, data breaches and other catastrophic events.
- Network analysis and reporting: This task involves measuring data transmission efficiency using latency, jitter, packet loss and throughput metrics. It also involves checking a network’s overall stability and reliability and making suggestions for improvement.
- Third-party services management: In IT, vendors, contractors and freelancers work together to propel the engine forward, but keeping track of them can become challenging. NOCs streamline the processes by keeping track of all contacts, licenses and payments jobs with third-party vendors and take the stress away.
A SOC performs continuous monitoring and analysis of security events and detects and responds to security incidents, such as cyberattacks, malware infections and unauthorized access to sensitive information.
- Threat monitoring and management: A constant assessment of the threats to your systems and data will allow you to identify and mitigate potential threats before they become actual incidents.
- Vulnerability scanning and management: A key component of threat monitoring, vulnerability scanning helps identify weaknesses in the systems that attackers could exploit.
- Incident response, recovery and remediation: A tried and trusted three-pronged approach that helps organizations minimize the impact of an actual security incident.
- Security log management: A log is a storehouse of data, and security log management helps organizations identify threat trends and learn from past incidents.
- Compliance management: Compliance management helps ensure that an organization’s systems and processes meet regulatory requirements.
While both NOC and SOC experts need a strong understanding of IT systems and tools, their areas of expertise and how they conduct their business are strikingly different.
A NOC is staffed by network engineers who monitor the performance of a network, endpoints and all other IT devices, systems and components for efficiency and reliability. NOC analysts need a good understanding of networking concepts to manage IT infrastructure proactively, prevent outages and performance issues, and identify and troubleshoot problems. They use IT solutions like RMM, network, cloud, virtualization management tools, backup and disaster recovery tools, and a host of other software to do their job effectively. The NOC team is also responsible for ensuring that security solutions are installed and patched regularly.
On the other hand, SOC teams rely on notifications and alerts from the installed security solutions to guard the company’s security perimeter. SOC experts use advanced tools and systems to examine a company’s network and data for anomalies that can signal an intrusion or a cyberattack in progress. Their job doesn’t end with keeping an eye out. They are also responsible for investigating, triaging and mitigating cyberattacks when they occur. For the SOC teams, keeping up with the latest cyberthreats is crucial to devise robust strategies that keep organizations safe. Along with the staple RMM, SOCs work with tools like vulnerability scanners, dark web monitoring tools, threat intelligence platforms, etc.
While NOC analysts work to improve an IT infrastructure’s performance, output and efficiency, SOC experts work towards hardening a company’s security perimeter and ensuring the infrastructure’s resilience against vulnerabilities and security risks.
A person’s responsibilities as a NOC or SOC are greatly affected by the challenges or opposition they face.
NOCs must deal with challenges that are not naturally occurring or caused by humans, such as system failures, power outages and natural disasters. They must keep networks and systems running smoothly and make resources available to users at all times. Essentially, the IT infrastructure must run at its best 24/7. Hard-pressed for time, NOC analysts are tasked with dealing with increasing endpoints, users and networks daily. Keeping up with the ever-changing IT environment, with different kinds of devices in use, remote and hybrid work environments, IoT devices, cloud, 5G and fast-speed internet, NOCs must constantly be on their toes. NOC experts bring structure to chaos and ensure that organizations are always operational.
On the other hand, SOC experts must contend with greater forces of chaos. The security of a business is constantly under attack by threat actors actively devising new ways of compromising it. To keep these threats at bay, SOC analysts must be on a war footing at all times. While SOC experts work to strengthen a company’s defense, malicious forces on the other side are trying to destroy it. It’s a never-ending battle, and SOC experts must stay on top of all the latest tactics. A small slip on their part can cost organizations millions.
Which is best: NOC or SOC?
We can tell you that neither is better than the other. Whether you need one or both depends on your organization’s needs NOC monitors and manages your network infrastructure and keeps things running smoothly while SOC is necessary for security monitoring and incident response. They serve different functions but are indispensable for a complete picture of your organization’s IT environment.
Should NOC and SOC be combined?
Combining the two departments may not be such a great idea in the long run. Although they both fall under the IT umbrella, the skillset and processes required to run them vary. Moreover, they serve different end goals too. However, having both teams work together is a good practice to ensure a fully robust infrastructure. If the NOC wishes to deploy a new network, it is always a good idea to work with SOC experts to find the most secure method. Likewise, NOC analysts can work with security teams to identify the most critical IT assets and plan a monitoring strategy focusing on them first.
Scale your business with Kaseya NOC Services and Managed SOC
Kaseya knows that finding the right NOC and SOC partner is crucial to the success of your business. This is why we provide them both under one roof, so you don’t have to spend time searching for the best options in the market.
Our NOC Services are cost-effective, and you can easily add or remove services based on your business cycle and needs. Sit back and let our executives handle all the tasks keeping you from growing your business. We assure you that our experts will blow you away with their performance, plus you’ll receive regular reports on the work they do for you.
We know cybersecurity is on your mind, and security headaches give you sleepless nights. With our SOC experts on duty, you don’t have to worry about a thing. Our SOC team will safeguard your endpoints, networks and cloud 24/7 to keep your organization protected always.