MANAGED IT SERVICES | 6 MIN READ
When shopping for managed IT services, you may come across the terms NOC and help desk. While they sound similar, nuanced differences between the two exist. Based on your business' needs, you may find that one is probably a better fit over the other. What are the differences between the two terms and how can you know which one is a better fit for your business? Read more to find out.
Not enough time? Jump to:
What's the Difference?
Help desks and Network Operations Centers can sound so similar that it can become difficult to tell them apart. While both have network security offerings, the difference lies in how extensive the service offering is and how it is carried out.
A help desk is exactly what it sounds like − a customer support center that clients can call, email, or chat for basic assistance when their computers aren't working properly.
Help desks provide basic support by fixing simple problems. However, once an issue is resolved, the continual monitoring and maintenance of your network is typically left up to you.
Additionally, some help desks are only equipped for low-level requests, which means that more complex issues may be left on you to contract out to a third-party company.
Network Operations Centers are similar to help desks in the sense that network security issues can be solved, but NOC's typically don't communicate with the end user. Unlike a help desk, where clients can call in to report issues and create tickets, NOC's identify issues and create tickets themselves.
This is beneficial because issues can be identified and resolved faster than they would with end users identifying them. Additionally, unlike a help desk, NOC's monitor clients' networks and proactively take steps to address issues, which means that end users don't have to be burdened with monitoring their own network and devices for issues.
Additionally, unlike help desks which may only be equipped for simple network issues, NOC's are equipped to handle any and all computer and network issues, including cyber attacks and network outages.
Which Is Better?
The answer to the question "Which is better, a NOC or a help desk?" isn't clear-cut. Based on your business' needs, you may gravitate to one over the other. Keep reading to see what type of businesses might be drawn to a NOC or a help desk.
The Case for Help Desks
Internal IT staff can become so bogged down with fielding help requests from employees that they cannot focus on business-critical tasks such as monitoring and upgrading your cybersecurity infrastructure.
If your company already has some form of internal IT, a help desk can be a great solution to ease some of the burden on them.
Time that an internal IT team dedicates to helping other employees takes time away from updating and monitoring your network, which can potentially put you at risk of network breaches.
If your internal IT staff's productivity is hindered due to fielding help requests from other employees, a help desk might be a good option.
Additionally, if your budget is smaller, you may benefit from a help desk over a NOC. Even if you have no internal IT staff, you can pay for an outsourced help desk to fix smaller issues, in turn leaving bigger issues up to break-fix companies.
Keep in mind, however, that costs for break-fix-style companies can quickly add up since you're paying for one-off fixes.
The Case for NOC's
On the other hand, Network Operations Centers (NOC's) are an extensive solution that can help companies with little to no internal IT manage their cyber security infrastructure.
Since NOC's both mediate issues and monitor for new ones, they can act as a form of your internal IT by constantly monitoring your network for issues.
If you have little or no fully dedicated IT staff then you are probably leaving the management of your network up to another employee with limited knowledge, such as an HR manager or a secretary.
Leaving your network security up to an employee who isn't an IT professional puts your company's security at risk. By outsourcing the management of your cyber security infrastructure, this burden is taken off of internal employees, freeing them up for more important tasks.
NOC's take a structured approach to solving more advanced network issues.
Unlike help desks, which may be equipped to solve mostly lower-level issues, NOC's can solve any network issue, which can range anywhere from a password reset to a ransomware attack.
Additionally, businesses that cannot afford to experience network downtime outside of normal business hours, such as a retail company, could benefit from a NOC.
This is because, unlike help desks, which typically only solve simple network issues, NOC's objectives also include maintaining high network functionality.
Even if your business wouldn't dramatically suffer from occasional network downtime, keep in mind that hackers know that not everybody has 24/7 IT support, which means they might think to take advantage of your network when it's least protected.
Keeping your network security on high alert 24/7 maximizes network functionality and keeps hackers at bay.
What Else Should I Consider?
Those who decide to go the NOC route are most likely in the market for a Managed Service Provider (MSP). However, what should you keep in mind when picking an MSP? Keep reading to find out!
Industry-Specific IT Support
Different industries have varying needs in a managed services provider. While the healthcare industry might need an MSP that's HIPAA-compliant, a business that frequently deals with credit cards may need an MSP that can comply with PCI DSS.
Figure out specific needs that your company may require in an MSP and ensure that they can work with you to meet them. For instance, if you wish to restrict who has access to sensitive financial information, specify those details with your MSP.
The right MSP will not only help you configure your cyber security infrastructure to fit your industry's unique needs, but will continue to keep you current with the latest changes in cyber security law.
Disaster Recovery Planning
4,000 businesses are victims of a cyber attack every day, and this number could keep growing in the future. In the event that your company is the victim of a cyber attack, waiting to make an action plan until an attack happens is too late.
Make sure your managed services provider will help you set up a contingency plan from the start of your contract that includes points such as the chain of command in the event of a cyber attack or network crash.
Additionally, on and off-site data backup is another major point that needs to be addressed in a contingency plan.
While a ransomware attack or network crash can cause minimal loss if data is backed up, ensuring that data is backed up constantly both on and off-site ensures that network downtime is kept to a minimal. This reduces the costs associated with network downtime.
Business Growth Planning
Is your business planning on expanding or moving locations? Even if you aren't, you might be in the future. While cost would likely be a factor that crosses your mind when dealing with these situations, you might not consider how to plan for your network to grow or move with you.
When shopping for an MSP, see if they have the ability to strategize and implement a major business development like a move or growth.
For instance, if your business is planning an expansion to another office, see if your MSP can help you map out what equipment and setup time is necessary to configure your network for a new office.
While NOC's and help desks aren't exactly the same, one is probably a better fit for your business. Use this article as a reference point when taking the steps to improve your business' cyber security.
For more tips on what to consider when choosing an MSP, read our article here.
Posted by Erica Kastner
Erica Kastner is a lead Marketing Specialist at Standard Office Systems as well as a University of Georgia graduate. She aims to use her passion for problem-solving to help businesses understand how to better leverage their network infrastructure.