In the world of managed IT services, a network operations center, or NOC (pronounced “knock”), is a centralized location where IT technicians can directly support the efforts of remote monitoring and management (RMM) software.
These technical teams are in place to keep a watchful eye over all monitored endpoints, and to ensure 24x7x365 uptime for an MSP’s customers. Whether the MSP maintains an in-house NOC, outsources to a third-party provider, or deploys a hybrid solution somewhere in the middle, the NOC’s primary functions and responsibilities remain the same.
NOC engineers and technicians are responsible for monitoring every netflow, hop, server and endpoint attached to an MSP’s client networks. They monitor infrastructure health, security and capacity, and make decisions and adjustments to ensure optimal network performance and organizational productivity.
When any action or intervention from the MSP is required, NOC technicians can create alerts (or “tickets”) that identify and categorize the issue based on severity, alert type, and a number of other criteria. Depending on the relationship between the NOC and the MSP, technical teams can then work together to resolve the problem (and identify its root cause to prevent future issues).
Technicians are categorized based on “levels”, which indicate expertise and problem-solving ability. In the case of a hardware failure, an alert may be assigned to a Level 1 technician at first – but if upon further inspection the problem goes beyond the failed hardware, the ticket may be escalated to a Level 2 or Level 3 technician.
NOC techs are constantly researching anomalous activities, making adjustments, and they can marshal resources – some that would only be used periodically in a standalone managed services setting – to respond to emergency situations. Additional NOC capabilities include:
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When operating at peak efficiency with a managed IT service partner, an end-user isn’t even aware of the NOC’s presence. NOC technicians coordinate only with the MSP or solution provider they’re supporting, and never directly with an end client. This creates an experience in which the MSP is seen as delivering world-class support and problem resolution – even if the technicians behind the software are halfway across the world.
Large enterprises today may be equipped to fully-staff and maintain an in-house network operations center, but for many businesses, the fixed labor and infrastructure costs are simply too much to bear. These organizations should consider partnering with a third-party NOC – the heavy lifting has already been done, and the need to maintain a highly-qualified staff no longer rests on the shoulders of the MSP.
Through outsourcing, a NOC’s technical teams can act as an extension of the MSPs existing workforce – an invaluable advantage over a software-only RMM solution or limited in-house staff. When working with an outside partner, MSPs and IT providers can ensure uptime and satisfaction across a wide customer base – without the need to hire additional technicians, pay any added overtime, etc. In other words, partnering with a NOC provider allows MSPs to offload day-to-day RMM maintenance and management, allowing business owners to focus on growth and future expansion.
Despite the many things that a Network Operations Center is, there’s one thing it absolutely is not – a help desk. This is an important distinction, and one that can easily confuse business owners if not properly explained. The big difference? The help desk is where all end-client interaction takes place.
The NOC provides back end maintenance, problem resolution and support, so that the MSP can respond to issues as they arise and ensure client uptime. The help desk, on the other hand, is a call center –designed to field front-line questions directly from end-clients who are actively experiencing some issue. In other words – if an end-user is having a problem, they can call the help desk. If the MSP is having a problem, they’ll contact the NOC.