In today’s tech-driven world, it seems pivotal for every company and organization to have a secure and reliable IT center. This need goes hand in hand with having a NOC to troubleshoot technical problems, oversee security issues, and maximize performance time.
IT professionals and software engineers work in a NOC to ensure that corporate infrastructure complies with the business world’s demands. Stick with us if you are eager to learn more about what is NOC and all its related technicalities.
What Is a Network Operations Center (NOC)?
Commonly pronounced as knock, a NOC is a centralized support system usually based on a room with servers and equipment to ensure stable networking operations. It gives IT technicians a consolidated approach to streamline processes while monitoring security, infrastructure, and services.
With 24/7 assistance, a network operations center functions to instantly identify, monitor, notify and resolve any technical disruptions, along with preventative measures to avoid spontaneous breakdowns.
Network operations centers can either be internal or sourced by a third party, but their role is always centered around providing complete visibility in all tasks on network management.
How Are NOCs Designed?
NOCs work in organizations to oversee day-to-day operations like a server, router, firewall, data center, software, wireless system, VPN tunnel, and internal or external device. They also provide customer support through calls and help desk ticket services, along with dashboard and activity reports of the entire company.
In an ideal setup, the network operations center has its own centralized location: a room, a conference hall, or a large control center. The walls in a NOC are typically covered with video projector screens that give a real-time display of comprehensive performance analytics and network health. These video screens allow technicians to view a single high-resolution screen to discuss issues and plan ongoing updates to maximize network operations.
A network operation center also features individual workstations with personal monitors for every worker. The workstations allow individual subsets of network operations so technicians can drill down problems and resolve the issue. Technicians can connect their monitors to video screens to show alert status, broadcast news, or relevant data. It is further aided by a communication system between workers to contact third parties and disseminate information timely.
You can sum up this blueprint into quadrants that separate different NOC teams for various specified tasks. The furniture should be ergonomic, and the overall room layout should ensure no hindrance in viewing the video screen. Owing to its critical nature, a network operations center must be designed with all the key objectives in mind, particularly the performance and efficacy of its systems.
How Do NOCs Function?
Like any other organization, the network operations center (NOC) follows a hierarchical approach to navigating technical and security problems. Incidents are categorized based on urgency and severity in levels one to three.
Level one is the lowest, involving device alerts and notifications, recovering lost passwords, and answering telephone lines for the help desk. Level two transcends to more serious issues like reporting a server. In contrast, level three is highly serious such as security breaches, ransomware attacks, or network failures in the middle of the night.
The four-step guideline protocol is necessary to ensure the smooth running of the network operation center. Apart from routine work, all other disruptions follow the same process to ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Incident Handling- technicians identify the problem and decide how to manage and notify other team members.
- Solution Finding- quickly brainstorm and outline how to address the problem through immediate methods.
- Escalation- decides the magnitude of the problem and who to contact, particularly if standard solutions aren’t working.
- Prioritization- technicians must decide which crisis to solve in case of multiple incidents, depending on how they affect the organization.
Which Companies Can Use NOCs?
Large-scale companies working 24/7 with high availability and security technology will find it almost impossible to run without a network operations center (NOC). Every company’s cornerstone is built on data and record storage, so it is imperative to have a personal IT department as NOC to prevent downtime. All public bodies and government agencies can inculcate NOC in their business domains.
Industries involving telecommunications, business, finance, and corporate utilize NOC for seamless connectivity with resolved issues. Even schools and universities leverage NOCs to safeguard databases and facilitate computational work. Network operations center (NOC) staff are responsible for resolving issues and checking any discrepancies to avoid problems affecting the company in the long run.
Network Monitoring Services of NOC
Network monitoring is the key role of NOC, followed by timely notification and resolution of any issue. A network operation center continuously monitors various communication circuits, including firewalls, VPNs, cloud sources, servers, routers, etc.
Good network performance and availability is the key goal of driving enterprises forward by monitoring internal and external networks. The network operations center monitoring roles can be categorized as follows:
- Computer- NOC specialists in this domain handle and oversee computers with hundreds of servers.
- Telecommunications- deal with sudden power outages, communication line alarms, performance issues, and detecting conditions of potential significance.
- Satellite- The NOC team monitors satellite data centers such as voice and video data and other relevant information databases.
NOC Activities and Best Practices
Apart from simply monitoring roles, a network operation center manages several operations which may or may not simply be limited to:
Monitoring Network Performance
NOC actively monitors the network 24/7 to increase the security infrastructure. This includes tracking overall performance by monitoring transactions, user patterns, wireless systems, databases, IoT devices, cloud, servers, routers, firewalls, traffic analysis, etc.
Update and Troubleshoot Devices
The network operating center also works to update and install the latest versions of software on all systems and devices. For companies that frequently replace their hardware, NOC services can calibrate settings to install software and update it on all devices.
In case of any unexpected problem, the NOC works to minimize the impact of the crisis on the business. A network operation center is responsible for fault detection and instant restoration of communication line issues and power outages. The NOC team must be fully capable of recognizing and categorizing incidents based on their operational impact and further reaching out to the appropriate teams in case of escalation.
No organization is safe from cybercrime activities on the rise. With countless network attacks, the NOC must work to identify any cyber activity or security breaches through threat analysis, antivirus support, and intrusion prevention systems. This forms a defense line in the day-to-day maintenance of security software to protect your data.
Following any corrupt data or network failure, the NOC is responsible for salvaging as much data as possible to avoid large setbacks. Disaster recovery pertains to backups and cloud recovery of emails, records, and voice and video data. The NOC must run backups regularly to ensure data is saved to off-site locations along with its accessibility on the network.
Regular computers, network hardware, and IoT devices require regular patching and updating. While this can be challenging, NOC services help a company’s devices stay updated without the hassle of individual enforcement. The patching and updating eliminate potential vulnerabilities and improve performance by making new features available.
To keep the entire team on the same page, it is important to set some ground rules. An organization’s network operation center complies with the policy, optimizes it for network performance, and reinforces the policy guidelines to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Manage IT Infrastructure
NOCs perform basic operational tasks like email management services and managing IT equipment. The NOC technicians also communicate with other technical teams to update the knowledge base and network management center. For quality control and assurance, a NOC maintains efficient communication with the customer and third-party teams to notify them in case of unresolvable issues and downtime.
Documenting daily actions and issues according to the company’s policy is part of the network operation center’s job. They are also responsible for taking notes and writing reports about network performance with special emphasis on trends and trouble spots to predict future network outages. NOC workers must maintain a complete record if the organization requires documented proof in response to a network-related query.
Benefits of Network Operations Center
Establishing a NOC in your organization has many benefits that can save you time and effort. With an entire team dedicated to handling technical issues and optimizing networks, you’ll be off the hook in no time. Here are some benefits an organization might reap through an efficiently functioning network operations center.
Less Downtime & Rapid Response
With a team that works 24/7, you can expect your problems to be addressed instantly before they have a critical impact on your enterprise. Whether it’s a client’s problem or a complaint on the staff’s end, you can always be guaranteed to have your software and hardware up and running.
Better Security Practices
NOC services maintain the security of your device and software per company policies. It prevents virus attacks by forming a line of defense and handles day-to-day security issues like assigning passwords, dial security, policy changes, etc.
As your business grows, NOC can scale itself accordingly to handle traffic fluctuations or user complaints. Even when the workload increases, efficiency, and productivity must be commendable. By identifying areas of improvement, NOC optimizes the network to build on for a stronger future.
Reduced Costs and Labor
Having a separate IT team for your organization can escalate expenses quite quickly. Rather, a network operation center can reduce the size of the IT team by tackling tasks, focusing on new initiatives, and addressing critical issues. Moreover, by outsourcing, companies can cut expenses by hiring fewer people and purchasing lesser equipment.
High Quality IT Infrastructure
With the latest system innovations, NOC can streamline device updates and customize solutions tailored specifically to the client’s needs. They also work on backup to prevent data loss and keep real-time track of network functioning and performance.
NOC vs. SOC
While the overall goal might be similar, a NOC and SOC operate differently. Both of them work with MSP to tackle IT-related issues, but a few differences outline their different scheme of work. They may work together to detect unusual activity, which is then tackled by the SOC.
NOC, as explained above, are more focused on SLA or service level agreements and monitor general network disruptions to ensure seamless uptime. On the other hand, a Security Operations Center (SOC), also termed a security operations center, is an entirely different unit that delegates its services for antivirus, cybercrime, and security breach issues.
A security operations center takes preventative measures for attacks and monitors vulnerabilities, attack vectors, hackers, and threat analysis. In short, a Security operations center oversees threat analysis to narrowly monitor any external factor that might disrupt the 24/7 network performance. Some highly trained SOC workers go out for threat hunting, trying to identify issues that have not yet been identified.
Who Works in a NOC?
NOC technicians or engineers work to monitor an assigned endpoint for performance and security. When a problem arises, it is expected that NOC engineers will resolve it based on their knowledge and skill set or otherwise may refer it to the higher authorities.
Working on the frontline with speedy analysis, the NOC engineers must be fully vigilant with sound knowledge of incident models, diagnostic assessment tools, management services, and the subject matter. Prior experience working with monitoring tools, NOC services, backup, ITSM tools, and some background knowledge of the basic configuration is necessary. Here are listed a few responsibilities of a network operation center technician:
- Analyze events to perform troubleshooting and incident response
- Ongoing services to monitor network performance and management
- IPS monitoring and basic antivirus scanning
- Communicate with clients or third parties to notify them of remediation time
- Traffic management of voice and video data
- Document performance reports and suggests recommendations
- Respond to alarms and notifications as per company rules
- Providing information on components, metrics, and services
- Deployment management through planning and execution of changes
- Ticketing all incidents to refer them to a higher tier
- Proactively implementing, maintaining, and repairing data routes
- Patch management and policy enforcement
- Backups and storage for data
A successful NOC relies on an efficient team and the tools to operate smoothly. With your organization’s NOC, you can prevent catastrophic downtime and constantly update your systems.
Many internal and external clients rely on your IT services, so it’s important to have a network operation center tackling challenges at the forefront. Whether you operate your NOC directly or outsource it from a third-party organization, it’s always a plus point to have a team working in the background to solve user issues for uninterrupted connectivity.