MANAGED IT SERVICES | 6 MIN READ
Companies looking for cyber security assistance may not know what a NOC is, especially when compared to a help desk, when they come across it in a Managed Service Provider's offering. As an MSP with an in-house NOC, we aim to clear up any ambiguities about this aspect of the MSP industry by answering common questions. Keep reading to learn what a NOC is, how it works, how it's different from a help desk and a SOC, and more.
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What is a Network Operations Center?
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.
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How Does it Work?
Network Operations Centers typically operate in a tiered fashion. This tiered structure allows for tasks to be quickly and appropriately routed to the employee best suited for the job.
Tasks are identified through the NOC's Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) solution. By monitoring various cyber security software, NOC employees can identify tasks such as administrator privileges that need to be granted, or malware threats that need to be addressed.
Once tasks are identified, a ticket is created and elevated to the appropriate employee that is best suited for the task.
Since NOC's typically operate in a tiered fashion, this may mean that, for instance, the first tier may be equipped to handle low-level tasks such as password resets while a third tier may be reserved for only the most critical issues such as ransomware attacks and network outages.
With tiered systems, the level of work experience required in a NOC employee advances as you move through tiers. This ensures that seasoned employee resources are reserved for calls that need them most.
Most Network Operations Centers can typically solve most issues by either using certain security software or by remotely accessing an end user's computer.
For bigger issues, some NOC's offer onsite assistance for clients within a certain distance. This can be a major differentiator to help desks, which are sometimes hundreds of miles away or even overseas.
What's the Difference Between a Help Desk and a Network Operations Center?
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.
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What's the Difference Between a SOC and a NOC?
A Security Operations Center (SOC) and a Network Operations Center (NOC) are two terms that are also typically confused for one another.
While both SOC's and NOC's work with MSP's 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.
Benefits of a Network Operations Center
NOC's have objectives that extend beyond network security, another main objective is ensuring minimal network downtime.
One of the ways that a Network Operations Center ensures uptime is by consistently backing up data. In the event of a network outage, consistent backups mean that network data can be recovered quickly with minimal data loss.
Additionally, by remotely monitoring for network issues, NOC's can identify processes that need to be altered or streamlined to improve network functionality. For instance, an overloaded network server that's causing traffic bottlenecking can be adjusted to speed up end user processes.
Network uptime ensures business productivity and can prevent the costs associated with network downtime.
Issues Identified and Resolved Faster
With help desks, issues may not be identified until an end user contacts the help desk about it. This can become problematic with certain network concerns such as cyber threats, because typically an end user won't notice a cyber threat until it's already too late.
On the flip side, a NOC's monitoring software can identify cyber threats before they have an opportunity to attack. Solving network issues faster can minimize downtime and better secure your data.
Since end users don't have to create support tickets themselves, they won't be burdened with sitting on calls or online chats with support agents so their computer works again.
The right NOC will proactively notice computer or network issues and take steps to address problems before the end user notices a dip in network functionality.
Some businesses with in-house IT partner with an MSP, some of which employ a NOC, for additional cyber security. NOC's take the burden of network monitoring off any in-house IT, which frees them up for more business-critical tasks.
Compared to help desks and SOC's, Network Operations Centers have the ability to deliver more of a comprehensive package.
NOC's can offer a combination of cyber security services and general network assistance. For businesses with little to no internal IT, Network Operations Centers can serve as a useful instrument for holistic network health.
Who is a Good Fit for a Network Operations Center?
Your business may be a good fit for a NOC if:
You cannot afford to experience network downtime
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.
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Your in-house IT department needs assistance
In-house IT departments have so many tasks to complete that businesses may benefit from contracting out some of those low-level tasks 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.
By letting a NOC handle network monitoring, an in-house IT department is freed up to complete other projects, such as upgrading your network or better positioning it for the future.
You have little to no internal IT
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, this burden is taken off of internal employees and your network is better protected.
RELATED: NOC vs. Help Desk: Which is Better?
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 addressed 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.
Network Operations Centers serve as a help desk and SOC alternative that fosters network health and security.
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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.