It can be difficult to manage technical support and front-line user support inhouse, so many MSPs look to third-party options and offerings to help absorb some of these tasks. When doing so, it's important to know the difference between an outsourced Network Operations Center (NOC) and Help Desk in a fully-managed - meaning support is integrated with your IT management platform - business model. So what is the main difference? A fully-managed help desk is where all the end-client interaction takes place, whereas a fully-managed NOC provides back-end maintenance, problem resolution and support for the MSP.

Let’s examine both solutions more closely.

Understanding How a Fully-Managed Help Desk Works

A help desk solution isn't just another version of a NOC, and if you’re running an inhouse help desk operation because you think it is, you’re missing the opportunity to grow your margins. A third party help desk solution is designed to outsource those time-consuming tasks your technicians are stuck performing on a daily basis.

Do any of these sound familiar?

Top 5 Problems That a Third Party Help Desk Can Take Off Your Hands:

  • Email recovery and reordering of folders
  • Printer installation
  • Account management of new users or leaving users
  • Permission requirement of accounts
  • Password issues - from forgetting to expiring

Think about each time one of your techs has had to drop what they were doing to perform one of these jobs. Have they had to recover a client’s email or do a password reset? What else could they have been doing with that time? With an outsourced help desk, when a client calls upon you for a low-level request, your techs don’t have to field those problems and questions. Instead, you can direct your clients to this third party call center, staffed with skilled technicians equipped to absorb time-consuming tasks. What are the benefits of this?

Better for Business Growth

First, let’s consider your bottom line. As a growth-driven MSP, you want to increase profit margins. One of the advantages of an outsourced help desk is that you can redeploy your techs to focus on more strategic, revenue-driving projects, such as deepening client relationships and helping to support the onboarding of new ones.

Reduce Tech Turnover

Techs are redeployed in a way that helps them develop their careers, grow their skillset, accomplish more meaningful work and increase job satisfaction overall. Your techs are able to get their life back when they don’t have to work absurd overnight or weekend hours. One thing to note is that fully-managed outsourced help desk solutions offer that round-the-clock client support you need.

Impress Clients with Proactive Service

Normally, techs are short-staffed and struggle to resolve the volume of tickets that come through, which leads to negative customer experiences – you don’t want clients having to wait for issues to be resolved. Tying back to what we said about higher margins, if all your techs are able to do is keep afloat with lower-level tickets, they’ll be unable to support new clients and you’ll struggle to grow your business.

Bringing It All Together

Fully-managed help desk solutions act as the single point of contact helping to connect end users with IT administrators. Furthermore, they help impress your clients with proactive service, as well as offer your existing team after-hours support. The repurposing of your techs will give them a better quality of life, while simultaneously exceeding client expectations.

What Does a NOC Do?

Integrated with your remote monitoring and management (RMM) solution, a fully-managed NOC is designed to provide back-end maintenance, problem resolution and support, so that the MSP can respond to issues as they arise and ensure client uptime. You can look at a NOC as a separate entity that works as an extension to your IT team, but works behind the scenes and is never in direct contact with your end users.

In a lot of ways, the advantages of a NOC mirror those of a help desk.

Provide After-Hours Support So Your Staff Doesn’t Have to

With 24x7x365 coverage, the RMM agents you’ve deployed to client sites are tracked by a fully-managed NOC. This team actively monitors the health of customer networks on your behalf, so clients don’t have to worry that their service will be down when they come back in on Monday.

Allow your Technicians to Focus on Revenue-Producing Projects

Again, coupled with the proactive monitoring of your RMM tool, techs don’t have to rush to put out fires. The team of highly certified NOC technicians takes care of this on the back-end, so your staff can think about long-term projects and growth.

Grow Your Accounts without Growing Your Payroll

A NOC mitigates the loss of employee churn. If you lose a tech, you neither have to scramble to cover their workload nor hire a new person to backfill that position. That also means you don’t have to invest company time and resources in training and onboarding that new hire, which can be a significant expense in both time and money.

So what’s different about a fully-managed NOC, other than the fact that there are more hands on deck?

Access High-Level Tech Support without Breaking Your Budget

A NOC lets you take on more projects because you’re not constrained to the skillset of your current IT staff – you don’t have to refuse a project because your tech doesn’t have a certain certification. At the same time, those techs now have more time to go receive more certifications! 

Examples of more advanced project work you can offload to a NOC that's integrated with your RMM solution:

  • Remediating backup failures
  • Ensuring sufficient bandwidth for applications
  • Fixing disk safe problems on servers
  • Migrating Exchange servers to another platform

Do a Help Desk and NOC Ever Work Together?

In a fully managed solution, yes! For instance, our IT management platform is fully integrated. That means not only do you get the backup of 650+ NOC technicians for your RMM solution, you also have the option of adding our white label Help Desk support to your package. Our highly-certified, domestic Help Desk technicians deal with all level one and level two issues, such as identifying the customer who’s calling in, understanding the problem they’re experiencing and offering basic issue resolve.

You may be wondering why you’d need both Help Desk and the NOC. Contrary to popular belief, they are not substitutes. To show you how the two compliment one another, we’ll review an example of how our own Help Desk acted as intermediary:

Recently, we had an end client contact our Help Desk about emails not being received on his mobile device. The Help Desk technician who received the call asked the client to confirm whether or not other people in the office were able to access emails on their mobile device, to which that tech learned everyone in the office was having the same issue. The server not responding can only cause a problem as large as this. Verifying this, the Help Desk contacted the NOC team and discovered that the server was off. This sort of problem was an easy fix for the NOC, but a good example of how a fully-managed Help Desk and NOC team work together. Note that in this scenario, as in all others, the end users were only ever in direct communication with the Help Desk, not the NOC.

To summarize the relationship between these two services as we offer them here at Continuum, we need to break them into levels. A level three or higher issue that cannot be resolved by Help Desk technicians is brought to the NOC. While the Help Desk often flags issues for the NOC, it is important to note that, through integration with our RMM tool, the NOC already actively monitors your clients' networks, watching for service disruptions or issues. This team doesn't depend on the Help Desk for information, though they are in regular communication. NOC technicians oversee all servers, to ensure 24x7x365 uptime for our partners' end-clients.


"Our most successful MSP partners understand the concept of staff leverage and focus to drive profitability and growth. They maximize the use of outsourced Help Desk and NOC resources to offload as much day-to-day work as possible so their core team can focus on business development, client strategy, onboarding, and complex onsite projects.”
Tasos Tsolakis, Senior VP of Global Service Delivery, Continuum


Understand these distinctions, and use a NOC and help desk in tandem to lower your the total cost of delivery (TCO). Never think that they are substitutes for one another. Their roles in benefiting small-to-medium-sized businesses are mutually important.

Wouldn't you like to receive the extra client support, issue detection and remediation that a fully-managed RMM, help desk and NOC solution provides?  


RMM 101: Must-Haves for Your IT Management Solution