MANAGED IT SERVICES | 4.5 MIN READ
Businesses looking to better secure their network may turn to either a Network Operations Center (NOC) or a Security Operations Center (SOC). However, when both sound so similar, it can be difficult to use their differences to determine which one is a better fit. Keep reading to learn the difference between a NOC and SOC.
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What are They?
What is a Network Operations Center [NOC]?
Network Operations Centers, also known as NOC's, are a tiered third-party IT team that offers comprehensive network protection services.
NOC's are typically employed by Managed Service Providers (MSP's) or integrated in-house within an MSP to efficiently manage clients' network security.
Network Operations Centers take proactive steps to manage clients' network security by implementing various layers of security hardware and software and monitoring them using a Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) solution.
While Network Operations Centers can be equipped to handle low-level network issues such as password resets, more complex issues such as disaster recovery and cyber breaches can be addressed as well.
NOC's typically solve network issues without the end user's involvement. If a NOC is working properly, the end user shouldn't notice issues such as prolonged downtime, malware, or poor network functionality.
What is a Security Operations Center [SOC]?
Security Operations Centers are a centralized hub for monitoring a business' network, associated devices, and anywhere else that company data may be stored online.
Company data can be anything from financial information and intellectual property to employee information and more. The main purpose of a SOC to prevent and respond to cyber security incidents. Cyber security incidents can range from malware intrusions to ransomware attacks.
SOC's identify network threats through proactive monitoring. Typically, SOC's are led by a SOC Manager or Chief Information Security Officer, who coordinates security efforts and initiatives. Security Operations Centers can be built in-house or leveraged through a contract with a third-party cyber security company.
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What's the Difference a SOC and a NOC?
A Security Operations Center (SOC) and a Network Operations Center (NOC) are two terms that are typically confused for one another.
While both SOC's and NOC's work with Managed Service Providers to remedy IT-related issues, SOC's are more specialized than NOC's in terms of their offering.
A Security Operations Center's main objective is to secure a client's network. Their specialized team dedicates all its resources to threat monitoring and management.
A Network Operations Center has multiple objectives that extend beyond network security. For instance, a NOC may also handle tasks ranging from ensuring uptime and consistent data backups to managing hardware upgrades.
The Service Level Agreements (SLA's) that NOC's sign with clients are where these objectives are typically spelled out to ensure that they're consistently met.
Which One Should I Choose?
Keep reading to learn if, based on the following criteria, your business would be a better fit for a NOC or a SOC.
You need more full-service network assistance
Businesses that need more comprehensive and full-service network assistance would be a better fit for a NOC.
A Network Operations Centers' functionality can extend past monitoring for cyber threats to more general network health and maintenance projects. They can help upgrade existing network infrastructure, deploy initiatives that minimize network downtime, and more.
You have little to no internal IT
If this characteristic fits your business, you could be a fit for either a NOC or a SOC.
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 IT 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 monitoring and management of your cyber security infrastructure to a NOC or SOC, this burden is taken off of internal employees and your network is better protected.
You cannot afford to experience network downtime
Businesses that see network uptime as a chief priority would be a better fit for a NOC.
As opposed to SOC's which mainly focus on preventing and neutralizing cyber threats, NOC's can help with more holistic network management projects such as network functionality.
Businesses such as online retailers and law firms are known to operate outside of normal 9-5 Monday-Friday hours.
NOC's take proactive steps to minimize network downtime, which can be especially useful on crucial days like Black Friday. Businesses who experience downtime during crucial times may face steep downtime costs and productivity losses.
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.
RELATED: How to Calculate Downtime Cost
Your in-house IT department needs assistance
Businesses with overwhelmed in-house IT departments could be a fit for either a NOC or a SOC.
In-house IT departments have so many tasks to complete that businesses may benefit from contracting out some of those projects out to a third-party company.
While network monitoring is a task that is important for ensuring network health and security, there is no need to exhaust in-house IT departmental resources on this task, especially when there are other critical projects to be completed.
In this scenario, while both a NOC and a SOC could work with any internal IT staff you have, the function they serve would be slightly different. Since a SOC is specifically security-focused, their main function would be to assist internal security staff with monitoring and mitigating network threats.
A NOC could assist internal IT in a broader sense. While they can help field employee support requests, they can also help implement network projects such as infrastructural upgrades.
By letting a NOC or SOC handle some network-related projects, an in-house IT department is freed up to complete other projects, such as upgrading your network or better positioning it for the future.
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You simply need security assistance
If your business is risk-adverse or needs some help monitoring for and mitigating cyber threats such as ransomware, a SOC could be a better fit.
Since SOC's are security-focused, they can deliver a powerful tiered response to any threats that emerge.
For instance, they collect, maintain, and regularly review logs of all company-wide network activity and communications. Additionally, they can regularly audit their own systems to ensure compliance with data privacy regulations such as HIPAA.
While a NOC can also perform some of these tasks as well, SOC's can be better equipped to handle certain security-specific tasks.
The SOS Difference
At Standard Office Systems, we are a Managed Service Provider with a Network Operations Center that has certain SOC and help desk functionality. Our expansive capabilities mean that our offering is more diverse than just a true NOC, SOC, or help desk would be.
We are notified of network issues through help desk-style customer support tickets and customized SOC-style alerts set through our Remote Monitoring and Maintenance solution. This means that we receive alerts on all fronts, ensuring that issues are identified and ad dressed faster.
Additionally, we offer 24/7/365 customer support, which means that your business is protected at all hours, not just from 9-5 Monday-Friday.
An online retail business is technically open 24/7. Especially during crucial times such as Black Friday, a network outage could be a detrimental blow to that business' bottom line, as it could prevent customers from completing orders.
Employees at businesses who work nights and weekend, such as law firms, can't afford downtime outside of normal 9-5 Monday-Friday hours either. We have on-call staff ready to take your call at all hours of the day, ensuring that network issues are quickly resolved.
Companies looking to better secure their data may turn to a NOC or SOC. We hope this article helped articulate the differences between the two and their unique benefits so you can determine which is a better fit for your business.
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Posted by Dave McClelland
Dave McClelland is a nineteen-year veteran in the IT industry. He has worked as both internal and managed IT staff within companies ranging from SMB's to major corporations. At SOS, Dave improves customer experience by modernizing internal infrastructure and implementing new network solutions. Dave's favorite part of his job is seeing a well-oiled machine work as it is designed, whether it's through a ticket escalation workflow or a secured email system.