Much of the fuel for today’s business organizations is comprised of cloud computing and digital and SaaS applications. So, if something goes wrong with them, there will be a grave impact on productivity, customer satisfaction and even loyalty, as well as on the costs required for resolving the incident, remediating damage, and getting back to business.
One way to preempt incidents and accelerate their resolution when they do occur is by having in place a network operating center (NOC), that is – a control center that oversees these systems, apps, and infrastructures.
A NOC is especially important when considering that one of its key tasks is to mitigate loss due to incidents. For, even just one hour of downtime can cost an organization as much as $5 million in lost revenue.
Accordingly, making sure that the NOC is a top performing operation is of the utmost importance. In this article we will cover the seven processes every NOC needs to implement if it is to assure such performance.
But first, what exactly is a NOC?
What is a NOC?
The NOC, pronounced “knock,” provides a central location where IT professionals monitor and manage an organization’s databases, internal and external services, network security, and others.
The goal of the NOC is to ensure as much uptime as possible by closely monitoring the health and performance of applications, systems, infrastructure, and network operations.
The NOC engineers who execute the task can either be in-house personnel or those coming from a third-party service provider.
Why your business needs a NOC?
Assuring a high performing network is paramount to the ongoing health of daily business operations. This is exactly what the NOC does, and this is why every business needs one.
But the benefits don’t end there, in fact there are many, including:
Faster identification and resolution of issues by identifying potential events such as cyberthreats before they get the opportunity to unfold, and by solving network issues faster.
Extended IT support for freeing up IT personnel to focus on prioritized tasks such as infrastructure upgrades, for greater productivity and efficiency.
Immediate handling of incidents at all times through continuous network monitoring and real-time notification.
Improved network environment and infrastructure performance due to the ongoing monitoring and optimization.
Key tasks of the NOC
Among the key activities performed by NOC personnel are:
Backup and recovery management to protect business data in the event of an incident, such as a crash or failure.
Patch management to assure that every device and application is up to date with the latest patches.
Providing antivirus support as part of maintaining a robust security posture.
Reporting on how the health of the organization’s network and how it is performing and providing suggestions on how to optimize performance.
Monitoring to review, analyze, diagnose, and resolve performance and availability-related issues across the organization’s technology stack.
Network discovery for determining which computers and devices on the network can communicate with each other.
Cloud resource monitoring for tracking the resource allocation, performance, network availability, and other performance indicators of cloud-based services and applications.
This last role mentioned is especially critical as the proliferation of cloud is continually accelerating. And this acceleration is presenting organizations with greater challenges for the NOC’s task of monitoring the overall network environment. This is because with the advent of cloud, the environment is hybrid (cloud/on-prem) and often multi-cloud, which makes for a much more complex environment than its on-prem predecessor.
As such, the ability to see the entire networking environment has made the NOC engineer’s job more difficult than ever, and locating issues is more complex as well (for example, is a problem due to a failure in the cloud server or VPN?).
Nevertheless, there are processes that can help the NOC team overcome these and other challenges. Let’s take a look.
The 7 processes that are key for every NOC
Achieving efficacy with each of the above tasks mandates implementing seven key processes:
1. Continuous and real-time monitoring of both cloud and on-prem systems, the network, apps, and infrastructure. This requires a proactive approach to tracking network activity, so problems can be identified before they escalate.
Moreover, real-time monitoring is also critical for uptime management, including real-time network monitoring, SLA monitoring, application monitoring, and user experience monitoring.
2. Event management which is different from the event management the help desk does. Where the help desk is responsible for handling internal tickets, the NOC is responsible for the health of the network and the devices and data that are connected to it.
Accordingly, in the NOC environment event management entails focusing on the monitored changes of state that have been defined by the organization as an event. The NOC engineer will determine the significance of the event and will identify and initiate the best response for remediation.
3. Traffic and activity analysis to help the organization understand the impact of enterprise application usage and activities on network performance. This enables the delivery of better service response times and faster issue resolution, driving user satisfaction.
4. Configuration control to assure the integrity of the changes made to routers, switches, and other networking devices across both on-prem and cloud environments.
5. Fault detection and response which is more proactive than event management, as it focuses on detecting unexpected errors, isolating them, and correcting them before they become full blown events or incidents.
6. Diagnosis of faults and errors to determine the nature of the fault, interpret its current status, determine potential impact on network performance, and identify the root cause for fine-tuning preventative measures.
7. Maintenance for ongoing, as well as preventive and corrective maintenance of network equipment and systems, to make sure that the network is up and running. This includes tasks such as installation, configuration, troubleshooting, and documentation.
NOC, SOC, or maybe . . . SNOC?
The strategic role of the NOC to the health of business continuity cannot be understated. And as organizations move ahead into greater digitalization and cloudification it has never been more important to implement the seven process that are critical to a high performing NOC.
It is also no less important to consider the role of the NOC vs. the SOC and the benefits to merging the two.
Namely, assuring cybersecurity is so important that this domain also warrants its own operations center, i.e., the SOC (security operations center). And while both the NOC and SOC have their own distinct objectives and tasks, there are benefits to merging the two.
Doing so enables the two teams to better collaborate on resolving incidents. Even if they operate separately on a day-to-day basis, when the two integrate great efficiencies arise.
For example, operating procedures are enhanced, certain actions can be automated, new tools can be adapted to collect and share network monitoring data across both the NOC and SOC, and much more.
And this is how we get to the SNOC, the secure network operations center, which optimizes resource sharing, improves data protection and cross-team communications, increases efficiencies, and ensures a stronger and more unified cybersecurity defense strategy as well as a better performing network.
To learn how Exigence can help your NOC, SOC, or SNOC tame major incidents and accelerate their resolution, we invite you to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.