What is a Network Operations Center?
A network operations center (NOC, pronounced like the word knock), also known as a network management center, is one or more locations from which network monitoring and control, or network management, is exercised over a computer, telecommunication or satellite network.
A NOC provides central operational support for a network. The network can be a computer network, telecommunications network or a sub-network.
In the case of a computer network, the NOC is used to ensure IT security; it centrally monitors the activities of the firewall, IDS and anti-virus programs and identifies critical vulnerabilities. As managing network security is an activity that requires a lot of time and personnel, companies often prefer to outsource the service to other companies that specialize in information security.
Does your business need a network operations center?
If your business is experiencing any of the following signs, it’s a strong indicator that you should consider investing in a NOC service:
Poor network performance
Network performance is measured by three key indicators: latency, packet loss, and throughput. Even if your business relies on minimal Information and Communication Technology (ICT), these systems transmit thousands of data bundles—called packets—each day, and a myriad of factors can impact this transmission.
Any delay in data communication, or latency, can be a further detriment to your network. If your network also begins to experience packet loss—where bundles of data fail to reach their destination—the volume of data your network is able to transfer in a given unit of time, or throughput, is reduced, resulting in a drastic reduction in network performance.
For example, if a network with no latency or packet loss that transmits data at 93.5 Megabits per second (Mbps) experiences just a 2% rate of packet loss, the throughput will drop to 3.72 Mbps. With the same 2% rate of packet loss, even a small delay of 30 milliseconds will drop the throughput to 1.63 Mbps—a far cry from the original 93.5.
Consequently, your business’ network may be up, but its inefficiency will still adversely affect your core functions and customer satisfaction. Continual performance degradation is a strong sign that your business would benefit from a NOC service. NOC engineers work with your IT team to resolve immediate incidents as they appear while developing strategies to implement over time that increase your network’s capabilities.
Limited IT resources
Having the proper resources dedicated to network management is critical. If your business relies on a small IT team with one or two engineers, you run the risk of facing a large-scale outage without the proper support—especially if these employees are absent or leave the company.
Consequently, businesses are frequently stuck in a paradigm between staff augmentation and external sourcing. Although staff augmentation addresses short-term staff shortages or skill gaps, the increased overhead, loss of knowledge due to contractor turnover, and lack of service level commitment poses serious long-term consequences for businesses.
A NOC is a repository of knowledge and skills which functionally insulates your business from losing key IT resources through staff turnover. With a NOC service’s 24/7/365 monitoring, robust diagnostics and networking expertise, your business is never left grasping for sufficient IT support. More so, NOCs have clear pricing structures that are directly tied to Service Level Agreements (SLAs). This allows a business to locate the service best fit for their needs and budget.
Limited network insights
Understanding your business’ IT needs is part and parcel to maintaining a healthy network and ensuring customer satisfaction. However, managing a network takes a particular skill set and a rigorous adherence to best practices to meet network compliance requirements. NOC engineers are networking experts, and will supplement your existing engineers’ skills in order to address your network’s needs more effectively.
With the increased visibility provided by NOC services, your business can move from managing incidents in the network to actually streamlining its performance and improving its reliability. The increase in reliability minimizes downtime and revenue loss from poor network performance or network failure. Additionally, NOCs that include a Security Operations Center (SOC) provision your business with access management and data security solutions by monitoring suspicious network activity, which keeps your business up to date with security and compliance requirements.
This ensures that your existing IT engineers are aware of evolving network security standards and that your business’ data is thoroughly protected.
Another pain point for many businesses is high alert volume. Excessive alerts, or noise, in your network can easily consume most of your IT team’s time; and if your engineers are continuously responding to incidents, they will have a difficult time addressing the root cause of these issues.
A NOC service will help your business continue to troubleshoot incidents as they appear, but NOC engineers will also work to streamline your network by eliminating excessive alert noise. Through careful data analytics, NOC engineers are able to sift through alerts as they are resolved and trace them to a root cause.
This root-cause analysis (RCA) significantly reduces the volume of alerts, and helps to establish the operational baseline of your business’ network. In this regard, a NOC service reactively manages incidents while proactively improving your IT infrastructure. This process effectively streamlines your network while also saving your business time and money. For more on the benefits of RCA, see Eliminating the Noise: The Importance of a Data-driven Network Operations Center.
Technology is constantly evolving, and this rapid pace can quickly render existing IT infrastructure obsolete. As more and more businesses come to rely on IT to perform their core functions, company growth can also readily outpace a business’ existing IT resources.
As more demand is placed on a network, the time and resources necessary to keep it functioning exponentially increase. A NOC service is a vital asset to a business’ scalability. A NOC service prepares your network for the increased information traffic while also ensuring that it continues to meet operational standards efficiently.
As your network encounters new problems while it adjusts to the increased demands, NOC engineers address incidents and continually work to re-establish its operational baseline. Therefore, a NOC service helps your network scale with your business without serious interruption.
A NOC is used to ensure IT security; it centrally monitors the activities of the firewall, IDS and anti-virus programs and identifies critical vulnerabilities. As managing network security is an activity that requires a lot of time and personnel, companies often prefer to outsource the service to other companies that specialize in information security.
If you have any questions about how to outsource your NOC, or how to optimize your cloud performance and reduce costs, contact us today to help you out with your performance and security needs.