Network Operations Center
What is a Network Operations Center (NOC)?
NOC, pronounced as “knock”, is an acronym for Network Operations Center. It is a central place for IT teams to constantly monitor the health and performance of a company's network.
Through this central location, managers can view what goes on in their network. Hence, they can quickly identify anomalies and resolve them before they escalate into bigger issues.
The operations center also supervises all IT equipment, databases, wireless systems, firewalls, and IoT devices. It offers management services such as responding to tickets and monitoring all customer care calls. This ensures that customers have a positive experience with the company.
You either set up a network operation center within your business premises or outsource the function to a Network Operations Center company. Whichever design you choose, NOC engineers are required to spot issues and quickly decide the best ways to solve them.
What is the Purpose of a Network Operations Center (NOC)?
The purpose of a NOC is to ensure that networks remain stable. It monitors the IT infrastructure for issues that require immediate attention. It also responds to incidents, manages communication lines and power outages, and analyzes threats in order to secure the network.
Your organization's network is built to be reliable. That is why you must update your servers periodically and install recent security patches. When you hire a qualified network engineer, they will design your infrastructure to survive attacks from hackers. As a result, whenever you get a signal that something is off, you already know what to do.
Network engineers work tirelessly to ensure that your organization does not experience downtimes. According to Statista, the cost of server outages in 2009 was between $301,000 – $400,000/hour on average. This goes without saying that network outages are bad for business. However, NOCs do not only prevent downtimes but also ensure that you and your customers do not realize when outages occur.
How Does Network Operations Center Work?
Ideally, a Network Operations Center is designed to have its own room, but its size depends on the size of your organization. One of the walls would be covered with video screens that display real-time reports of the network’s performance. The screens would also display alarms and active incidents. The displays are arranged in a grid form and interconnected such that you can view them as one unit.
When there is a problem, NOC technicians will view the alert on the wall. They can also see the specific line or device that is affected. The screens might broadcast weather forecasts, allowing the IT team to make plans based on issues that might affect the overall network operations.
Furthermore, the wall is connected to the smaller workstations in the room, where team members can monitor situations on individual screens. Each workstation has various screens that make it easier for team members to analyze reports and respond swiftly.
Additionally, the workstations are connected to a communication system that allows everyone to share information quickly. And if there is something a team member wants everyone to view, they can place an alert on the wall.
Typically, when a team member spots a problem, they will quickly create a ticket. This will place the issue in the right category so it can be assigned to the right technician.
The technicians are in three levels – 1, 2, and 3. If the first level technician fails to solve the issue fast enough, it would be transferred to a technician at another level.
How to Setup a Network Operations Center
When setting up a network operations center, you need to consider the environment and humans.
The environmental factors include:
- Rooms with large walls for installing screens and unhindered viewing.
- Quadrants to form workstations for each team member to monitor specific elements.
- Redundancy for connectivity and power to make sure that operations are unhindered round the clock.
- Ability to scale the center to support the growing needs of the organization.
The human factors include:
- IT equipment and comfortable office furniture.
- Spacious room for ventilation, mobility, comfort.
- Nearby break rooms.
Other things to consider when setting up a NOC include:
- Design the space and equipment such that even if one individual screen goes blank, the entire center won't need to shut down.
- Design and fix the network management system such that it can predict trends before they become problematic.
- Ensure the NOC has a central command room for storing servers and other equipment such as:
- Fiber optic transmitters
- Audio routers and monitoring tools
- Video servers and routers
- Camera control units
- Broadcast delays
- Integrated decoders and receivers
- GPS receivers
- Configure the central command room to quickly interchange equipment when there is a need for replacement or repair.
- The central command room may heat up quickly due to the number of equipment it contains. Hence, plan that section considering ventilation, heat, and humidity.
- A tornado, hurricane, or tree may fall over the power line, leading to an outage. Hence the need to have multiple NOCs such that you can easily transfer phone calls, monitoring, or crisis management to a different location until your NOC is up and running.
When setting up a NOC, think ahead because the center is a critical portion of your organization that shouldn’t fail under any circumstance.
How to Implement a Network Operations Center?
After setting up a network operations center, it is important to consolidate performance information and alarms in a single software. You also need to implement certain operational changes and business processes that will make the work easier.
For instance, there should be a shared disc containing all procedures for handling different categories of tickets or problems. This will make it easy to onboard new staff members. The shared disc makes it easy to update procedures when necessary too.
Additionally, the staff members should be proactive to detect problems and be aware of all the resources under monitoring. A central screen should be implemented showing all active alarms within the organization. Another feature to be implemented is the sound notification in case critical alarms are showing on the screen.
Network Operations Center Benefits
Your IT infrastructure is complex, involving different interconnected platforms. While you may be tempted to install an automated monitor, it won’t be the same as setting up an IT team to constantly watch the network.
Skilled network engineers can efficiently monitor networks using NOC tools to pinpoint impairments or outages.
Protection from Cyber Attacks
Cyber attacks are not new. In fact, more companies and individuals fall victim to them every day. Hence, it is important to safeguard your business as well as your customers’ data. Utilizing NOC services helps to secure your network from potential threats.
With a NOC team watching over your network and devices, you do not need to tackle issues. Instead, you would spend that time doing tasks that are relevant to the goals of your organization. This will improve productivity, proactive actions, and improved response times when you need to resolve alarms.
Because different businesses have different requirements, their NOC needs will differ. NOC provides customized services to ensure that clients get exactly what they want.
Reduced Costs of Operation
Managing an in-house IT team is beneficial but the costs add up quickly. However, outsourcing your network functions reduces the number of staff you need to hire.
Timely Alarm Resolution
Imagine several alarms beeping simultaneously. It could be overwhelming. Worse still, some alarms may be ignored and network outages could be missed.
Hiring an expert NOC team helps to finetune alerts based on specific requirements. They verify alarms to ensure that they are valid before sending a notification to your organization. As a result, your employees won't be distracted by false alarms or miss the valid ones.
Access to High-Quality Infrastructure
Your organization needs high-quality infrastructure to perform optimally. NOC services are beneficial because they offer recent innovations in software, hardware, and other infrastructure to generate effective solutions.
Technologies used for Network Operations Center
Some of the technologies used in a Network Operations Center are:
Video Wall Display
It consists of screens that are arranged in a grid and connected to function as one display unit. The modularity of the video wall determines its strength as the screens can be separated to produce images of high resolutions at once.
A common application of this technology in a network operations center is maintaining a map of a company’s network. When there is an alarm, it displays on the map, informing the engineers where the problem is coming from and whether a particular line or device is linked to the problem.
Additionally, the video wall can be utilized in tracking weather conditions using forecasts and radars associated with the location of the network. There is also a portion of the screen that displays news feed, which helps NOC engineers to react to occurrences that might hamper the organization’s operations.
The video wall is connected to individual workstations in the NOC room so that when there’s an alert, engineers can view the details and send them to the big screen on the wall from their individual desks. This eliminates the need to gather around a few monitors when trying to review issues as everyone can look at the bigger display, review the information, and respond quickly.
Workstations with Additional Displays
Obviously, NOC teams deal with visual information. Therefore, engineers need enough space to look through the information to come up with relevant solutions as fast as possible. Apart from setting up individual workstations, a dual display is necessary to give the engineers more space on their desktops for multiple data monitoring. This improves response speed and efficiency.
Integrated Audio Outputs and Inputs
Although this is secondary to the performance of the team, it plays a vital role. Some NOCs are large and it might be difficult for technicians and engineers to communicate among themselves. The essence of the audio input is to ensure that when someone speaks, their voice can be heard from any position in the NOC room.
The audio uses a processor that collects and sends signals to the speaker output. The speaker may be wall-mounted or installed in the ceiling. Most times, wall-mounted speakers are preferred because they disperse sound better and are easy to install. But if you are considering aesthetics, a ceiling speaker is a good option.
In some NOCs, you can find a conference room that is separate from the main NOC floor. This room acts as a command center in addition to several other purposes. People in the conference room may not be able to hear alerts. But audio technology can be integrated to ensure that conversations from the main floor can be heard in the conference room.
The entire technologies used in a network operations center must be controlled from a central point, and the standard method of doing this is to use a control interface. You can install the panel in another room or at workstations, enabling the engineers and technicians to control the system to an extent. The master panel will be installed at the supervisor’s desk.
Process Workflow for Network Operations Center
Below are the critical processes to ensure that things run smoothly in a network operations center.
This ensures members know the proper channels and protocols to follow when escalating issues. It also includes the skills and areas of expertise of the NOC as well as the particular persons who are trained to carry out specific tasks. The escalation process also states the timeframe for attending to faults and resolving them.
Incidents are not handled on the premise of first come, first served. Rather, the NOC manager prioritizes them on a case-by-case basis. Issues that may greatly impact the business are sorted out first such as a rising temperature within the data center or damage to a major network line.
There should be documentation of the procedures for handling incidents. This will help technicians know when issues should be escalated. The incident management process should cover the following:
- Providing a thorough technical solution (if available).
- Escalating the problem to the appropriate skill level.
- Notifying other users whom the issue might affect directly or otherwise.
- Temporary workaround or rapid solution for more complicated issues that might take longer periods to resolve completely.
- Reporting the incident after resolving it. This is particularly helpful in case a similar problem reoccurs, the team will know how to resolve it or even stop it from reoccurring.
Why is the Network Operations Center Important?
A network operations center is important for the following reasons:
Programmers and developers are constantly updating software and keeping up with these periodic updates may be burdensome. NOC operators help companies update all their software with important patches. This eliminates the need to update them individually.
Although there's various antivirus software, most of them are far from effective. NOC supports IT infrastructure, ensuring that the organization’s network cannot be infiltrated by a virus.
Troubleshooting, Installing, and Updating Devices
With the help of a network operations center, all devices connected to your organization's network can be installed and updated. And if there is a fault, it is easy to troubleshoot and resolve the problem. If your company upgrades or replaces hardware frequently, NOC ensures you skip the manual process of updating each piece of equipment.
Monitoring and Managing Network Security
Security is vital in every business, and a network operations center is designed to increase the security of a network.
Identify and Analyze Threats from External Sources
Hackers are always on the lookout for companies with weak security systems. They keep developing new ways of attacking networks in order to jeopardize the security of the entire system. However, NOCs help to detect these threats and provide an unbreakable defense against any intended damages.
Reporting Real-Time Network Performance
NOC monitors the performance of a company’s network and provides reports in real-time. This is important as it shows managers the overall state of their network and the areas that require optimization.
When you store data online, anything can happen to it. the server may malfunction and your data becomes corrupted or missing. NOC backs up company data to facilitate quick and easy recovery if the data becomes compromised or corrupt.
Network Operations Center KPI
Network KPIs (key performance indicators) are benchmarks for measuring the optimum network performance. They help managers to know whether they are achieving their set objectives or not. As a result, IT teams can make informed decisions on infrastructure demand, performance, and investment.
When choosing which NOC KPI to measure, it is important to pick metrics that stand out and help in determining the effectiveness of a particular team. Hence the need to identify the goals and objectives of a team before monitoring their activities. For instance, if you want to monitor an operations unit, one of the metrics to be measured would be security.
The major NOC KPIs to consider are as follows:
Service technicians are aware that frequent backups assist networks in running optimally. These backups are also essential for the continuity of businesses in case of any disaster. Therefore, NOCs consider backups as daily routine tasks and it is necessary to track them.
If there is a missed backup, NOC technicians should notify clients. The reports must show transparency and accountability, which lead to trustworthy partnerships.
It takes time to effectively handle tickets and escalate issues, but it's worth doing. Monitoring critical issues helps NOC technicians and engineers become proactive when resolving problems before they get out of hand. It also shows that the team is dedicated to meeting their set goals and providing excellent services to customers.
Additionally, tracking tickets allows you to notice trends. You can see whether the same clients are continuously opening tickets, and then come up with lasting solutions to recurring issues. Observing patterns using NOC dashboards makes your agency more productive over time.
Documentation is critical in every network operations center. Large NOCs have several technicians and engineers working on different sites. If one client’s site has an emergency but their assigned team is faced with a disaster, how will the issue be resolved? Ideally, a document containing the work history of that client will guide another team in resolving their issues.
There are other important documents every operation center should have. Keeping them organized and easily accessible ensures a smooth running of the center.
Additionally, tracking what your team is documenting on a daily or weekly basis is important. It makes them accountable and inspires them to stay productive and transparent. It also shows how much you are adhering to the needs of your clients, so you can make corrections where necessary.
Other KPIs for Measuring Network Performance
When troubleshooting outages, KPIs help you trace the root cause of the problem such as device outage, bandwidth hogs, saturation, and packet loss. Understanding the right network metric to measure determines the future performance of the network. Although there are no universal standards, the following categories of network KPIs are commonly used:
1. Device Availability
You should be able to see in real-time, the devices that are available on the network. If you only get to know that a switch or router is not functioning when someone complains about it, then it is too late.
2. Device Health
Fan status, temperature, and memory utilization are common indicators used to measure the health of a device. This information should be obtained and reported from any virtual or physical device on the network.
3. Network Interface
Depending on the interface you use, you can view the traffic on a network, discards and errors, as well as outbound and inbound. Measuring the network’s availability and interface utilization gives you a deeper understanding of whether the network is delivering the required level of satisfaction to customers.
Downtimes on interfaces during peak service hours can result in loss of revenue and decreased productivity. Therefore, it is important to assess a network’s capacity to find out whether it requires upgrades.
4. Packet Loss and Latency
Packet loss and latency affect online services as well as user experiences. But when you measure these two factors together, you will be able to identify red flags in the system.
5. Specific Device Metrics
Some devices provide specific metrics which are critical for monitoring the experiences of users. For instance, checking whether the UPS is correctly charged; whether there’s high latency and jitter on IP telephony networks; or whether there are unusual spikes during VPN sessions that are leading to poor user experiences.
The ability of your team to access critical data on a single pane ensures that issues are resolved before they blow out of proportion.
Network Operations Center Components
Because NOCs are mission control centers for service providers, you will definitely find screens there, but due to the central location of a NOC, you will likely find:
- Video walls where key indicators such as node and traffic status are shared
- Small monitors on the operator's desk for identifying specific items
Oftentimes, the main video walls display outputs from the central monitoring system that collects, analyzes, and correlates data obtained from different sources.
The operators' desks usually display real-time events such as
- Status of an alarm
- Source of the alarm
- Any other relevant information
Other things that you can find in a NOC include the following:
- Television screens showing feeds from social media, news, weather forecast, and other information related to events that may impact the network lines in different locations.
- Knowledge bank for referencing troubleshooting and system information guides.
- Software for accessing and troubleshooting affected devices remotely.
- Computers with tools for emailing, reporting, and collaboration.
- Telephones for calling and receiving calls from third parties and specialist/field support staff.
Best Practices for Network Operations Center
The following best practices should be observed for a Network Operations Center:
Utilizing the Right Set of Tools
The necessary tools required for optimum performance in a NOC are:
1. Ticketing System
You cannot just resolve a network issue without creating a ticket. It documents customers’ complaints and the steps operators take to resolve incidents. As a result, shift managers can prioritize issues rather than handle them in the order they appear.
2. Reporting System
It is important to report the real-time health status of the network as well as the performance of the operating center. This gives actionable insight, leading to enhanced outcomes and increased efficiency.
3. Knowledge Center
This is a central location for storing approved procedures and information for best results. You can have an online knowledge center for easy updating and sharing with team members when technology improves or new situations occur.
4. Process Automation
Tasks that do not require calculated moves such as freeing disk space can be automated to allow operators to work on complex issues.
5. Monitoring Infrastructure
Tracking the network performance and the entire IT environment allows operators to take quick action after a disaster such as a hurricane or a tornado.
6. Monitoring User Experience
Although NOC does not interact directly with customers, it monitors their behaviors. This helps to replicate issues as well as discover better solutions.
Defining Responsibilities and Roles
As soon as you equip the NOC with the required tools, employ the right personnel. They are in 2 categories:
- Operators: They perform incident management and escalate tickets.
- Sift managers: They prioritize tickets and assign operators to handle them. They also communicate outside the operations center, when necessary, especially when they need to prepare reports, escalate incidents, make decisions during emergencies, and distribute notifications to the organization.
Staff members must have analytical skills and be able to stay calm even if they are under pressure. A 24/7 staffing capacity means the people you employ must be willing to work during the weekends, holidays, and at night.
Document Processes and Workflows
Depending on the complexity of the network, coded NOC procedures ensure consistency in the actions of employees, leading to the right set of results. The main workflows to document are:
- Prioritization: defining critical issues based on how they impact the business.
- Incident Handling: there should be a document stating step-by-step procedures for solving different cases encountered all through the history of the NOC because customers may submit tickets for similar issues.
- Escalation: this should outline the proper channel for ticket escalation and which personnel is expected to resolve certain issues.
These processes can be reviewed periodically, particularly after upgrading the network, software, or hardware.
A network operations center must be able to communicate effectively in order to have a good relationship with the other IT team members and the other departments in the organization. NOC team members should participate in decision-making, meetings, and ongoing discussions about IT policies, including implementation and evaluation of these policies
Mandating the team to communicate with the company allows everyone to understand the role of NOC in network operations. It also allows NOC employees to view the bigger picture of the business and how their efforts are contributing to an increase in revenue and customer satisfaction.
However, it is not just about involving the team in the organization’s meetings but making conscious efforts to train staff on the right time and channel for information sharing. Creating regular coordination and collaboration opportunities is essential for the success of a NOC.
It is important to analyze network performance using key metrics. It tracks the effectiveness of individual operators and the overall results of the NOC. Common KPIs to analyze are:
- Frequency of incidents
- The average initial time to respond to tickets
- Average time spent on resolving incidents
- Rate of resolving initial tickets
- Frequency of repeated tickets
- Frequency of remotely resolved incidents
- Frequency of escalations
More importantly, do not just identify which operators are performing excellently or poorly but also trends that may require extra software or hardware to address.
What is Network Operations Center as a Service?
Network operations center as a service (NOCaaS) has different meanings. Some people refer to it as an outsourced NOC service. In plain terms, it means hiring the services of another NOC company to augment yours. Even if your company did not have a NOC team initially, you can hire a NOC company to become your own NOC. This saves you the stress and cost of building or managing one by yourself.
Furthermore, others refer to NOCaaS as a managed service, but this is something different. Let’s see how it differs from an outsourced NOC service.
A managed service refers to very simple, standard sets of service for managing devices, computing, applications, and other components of an IT infrastructure.
An outsourced NOC service, on the other hand, refers to an outsourced operations service that is tailored to suit the needs of a company. It takes away the cost and complexities related to setting up, implementing, and maintaining an in-house NOC. It may also augment a company’s NOC by providing off-work hours services or technically and operationally managing a part of the company's infrastructure.
When you want to hire a third-party NOC service, the service provider will first assess your organization to know the type of service you need and how the service will be established and managed. Afterward, they take you through an onboarding process to turn up the service. The service provider provides support as a part of the service plan. This option is less stressful and more cost-effective than setting up an in-house NOC.
However, turning up service for some devices is more like a managed service, which is a good option for circuit providers or IT integrators who require support for their products. It is nothing compared to the needs of most enterprises that require more involved and custom solutions. If you want a NOC service that will function just like an in-house team, then you should look at standing up a NOC, which is exactly what we described as NOC as a Service.
Reasons for Outsourcing NOC Support Via the Service Model
Irrespective of the size of a company, its applications, networks, and infrastructure need appropriate management. Also, the platforms, people, and processes required to meet the demands on the current IT systems are costly. This problem is further complicated by the fact that an average in-house IT team is underutilized, which does not justify the expensive costs of obtaining human resources and a complete suite of NOC tools.
Another reason companies outsource NOC support is that they do not have the updated knowledge required to set up an in-house team. This is especially in the areas of hiring and managing personnel, developing tasks and models of operations, and correct implementation of platforms.
Due to the costs, expertise, access to NOC tools, and complexities required for the proper monitoring, managing, reviewing, and optimizing an operations system, many companies prefer to outsource these tasks to a third-party company that can efficiently and effectively do them at half the cost.
Moreso, outsourcing NOC services to a provider with highly equipped facilities frees up your in-house team to concentrate on other projects that will generate more revenue for your company. It also ensures that the right platforms, people, and processes are organized to meet and even exceed the demands of customers or end users.
In the end, you should expect the following:
- A decrease in the overall costs of operation
- The metrics for tracking operational costs should greatly improve
- Significant improvement in performance
Key Points to Consider when Outsourcing NOC Support
Some persons assume that an internal NOC offers higher control compared to an outsourced service. But the right third-party company can offer the expertise that a company may not be able to afford on its own.
The assurance and control that internal NOC teams previously offered have been overtaken by the current offerings of outsourced services. If you are still considering whether outsourcing NOC support is the right option for your company, check out these key points:
The Overhead Costs
In many companies, staffing a network operations center attracts unnecessary high expenditure compared to outsourcing. Considering the costs of establishing an in-house operations center and payroll, opting for outsourced services can reduce your overhead costs by half.
For instance, if your company can only afford to hire 6 full-time staff, an outsourced service can give you access to more than that at a cheaper cost. Also, you do not need to worry about the costs of purchasing, implementing, and integrating NOC tools into your company’s system, which further moves the scale to favor outsourced services.
An obvious difference between an internal NOC and an outsourced one is their capabilities. An outsourced NOC is already operational and has access to specialized skills, which an internal NOC cannot obtain immediately after setting up.
It may take about 16 to 24 weeks before you can plan a NOC, hire staff, train the team, and align with the operational model. It may even take years before you and your team can confidently control the system and groom it to a point of maturity. So, you can see that outsourcing NOC support condenses the effort and time into a few weeks instead of months and years, which is more cost-effective.
After weighing the pros and cons of outsourcing NOC support services, you need to know how to choose a network operations center company. The following criteria will assist in choosing the right service provider:
- The company should have both traditional infrastructure as well as a modern distributed, virtual, cloud-based environment. Current operations and legacy equipment should be supported because networks still need them to function.
- The service provider should be willing to work during your business hours, nights, holidays, and at just any time. They should also support delays in notifications built around thresholds that are time-bound and suspend alerts during scheduled maintenance periods. Overall, the company should be flexible in the way they send notifications to you.
- The company should offer different options for alerts, depending on the nature of the issue, who should be notified, and how serious it is.
- They should be able to carry out synthetic transactions to test the operability and readiness of systems.
- Monitoring a network and identifying issues are just the preliminaries in an operations center. The main purpose of a NOC is to ensure that outages do not occur and when they do, you and your end users should not even notice it. Therefore, ensure the NOC partner you choose has a reputation for troubleshooting and resolving impairments and outages quickly.
- Getting a company that offers 24/7 support and swift response is very important. Ensure the service provider is properly staffed to offer that kind of support to your business.
- The company should continuously upgrade the way they monitor networks as they learn more about your network, your business, and your customers.
Where is the Network Operations Center Located?
The network operations center is centrally located in an organization. It is usually sited where the organization’s servers and other networking equipment are kept. It is important to note that the operations center may either be within the company's premises or an external location.
Small organizations and businesses usually have an internal operations center, where local technicians monitor and manage the servers. Larger businesses, on the other hand, can set up a NOC at a specific location outside of the company to house their server equipment.
NOCs are also referred to as data centers and must have a very fast internet connection. Large network operations centers connect directly to the backbone of the internet in order to get as much bandwidth as possible for their servers.
Although ISPs and web hosting agencies use NOC more than other businesses, they are still useful to businesses that do not have any relationship with the internet. Some companies use network operations centers to manage their internal communications, backup data, and administer staff email accounts. Because today’s businesses require a steady internet connection, NOCs ensure round-the-clock monitoring with automated alerts to notify engineers and technicians when network connections or servers are down.
World Famous Network Operations Center Companies
AT & T Global NOC
The AT&T Global NOC has over 141 wall screens on display with numerous network managers working on a 24/7 basis. They monitor communication traffic all over the world. The screens display data and voice traffic, Twitter feeds, news feeds, weather reports, and undersea cabling. The managers closely monitor Twitter for customer complaints on iPhone, 4G, and AT&T in order to improve the company’s customer service. This is so because people hardly call customer care to report issues. They would rather post it on social media, so AT&T is flowing with the trend to satisfy their large customer base.
The global NOC emphasizes consistency and prevention because, without a network, there would be no business. During hurricane Katrina that affected Louisiana in 2005, AT&T kept its network running using dynamic allocation techniques. Their network managers monitored traffic flow and succeeded in sustaining the networks around New Orleans by using load balancing methods or re-routing traffic in the areas surrounding the gulf coast.
Furthermore, AT&T's NOC records average data of 20.8 petabytes daily on their network, which is equivalent to 42 km of highly stacked CDs. The network performs transactional data, which helps network managers to carry out data mining.
The scale and size of the NOC allow the company to manage its network preemptively such that it can adjust and re-route a slight change in traffic. Customers do not notice much of the work the NOC does; not because there are no outages but because the company is highly reliable. As a result, solution providers and businesses value their services.
AT&T global NOC services over 9 million devices. It also processes 2 billion SMS daily, which is two times more than voice messages. Because the network manages monitor trends closely, they prepare for downtimes and come up with ways to work around them.
Security is another important feature of the company's operations. The global NOC receives over sixty-four billion security alerts every month.
Reliance Data Center
This is another world-class provider of network operations center services to organizations in India. It has about 9 data centers located in Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, and Mumbai. Each data center is built on established IT platforms and recognized expertise.
Customers outsource critical systems to the company because they trust the network managers to cater to their IT infrastructure needs. As a result, customers can focus more on their core businesses. Reliance Data Center delivers secure, scalable, and reliable hosting, consulting services, application, and network to customers.
The company's 9 data centers are rated as lever 3+ and provide highly secure infrastructure, including video surveillance, biometric authentication, and security officers that work 24/7. They are built to eliminate failure points by infusing various redundancy levels in their power systems, fire suppression and detection, and HVAC.
The company understands that in today's information age, zero downtimes and secure storage are essential. Their managed services and hosting provide the reliability, security, and speed that customers need to get online faster. They also ensure that the servers of their customers are operational and safe under any condition.
Beyond reducing the stress and costs of operating an internal NOC, Reliance ensures it meets the apex standard for data center infrastructure. It emphasizes assurance and service delivery with a team that helps to sustain customer satisfaction.
Because of the quality of services and infrastructure the company offers, they have over seven hundred small, medium, and large enterprise customers that use a wide range of services such as network connectivity, managed services, application hosting, storage and backup, managed hosting, virtualization, business continuity, cloud computing, and co-location, among others.
These solutions are tailored to suit the requirements of customers. Their customer list comprises educational institutions, media companies, banking and finance institutions, government establishments, and fortune 1000 companies.
Reliance offers a high level of network security by deploying VPN, IPS, and firewall technologies to identify and arrest unauthorized advances. The company has a team of certified and experienced professionals that offer reporting and monitoring services and technical support. Its key services have guarantees for the period of installation, problem identification, and resolution.
With over a decade of experience in the industry and an impeccable reputation of giving the best to customers, Reliance believes in passing on the benefits of its expertise to customers.
Boeing Operations Center
Boeing is a commercial aviation company. It has its own network operations center that can be seen as the physical form of its continuous commitment to supporting its customers. It also aligns its operation to suit the way customers do business.
Boeing's operations center was borne out of customers' demands for a centralized support system in the aviation industry. The company formerly operated a Rapid Response unit which was established in 1999. It offered support to commercial aircraft operators during holidays, nights, and weekends. Its off-hours capacity augmented the daytime support from Boeing’s technical experts.
Today, Rapid Response has evolved into an Operations Center, a centralized location for handling all emergency requests whether night or day, with the aim of providing customers with high-quality, shorter response times.
Within the first year of operating the Operations Center, Boeing got support from its service engineers and other commercial aviation service providers. The center was able to handle fifty-five service requests daily and fielded one hundred and fifty calls on average. The team keeps improving its offerings to attain a 100% performance level.
Here's how Boing's operations center works:
When a customer contacts the center, a controller attends to them. The controller handles all calls coming to the center. Both of you will discuss and identify the main issue, then the controller will work with other team members to come up with viable means of resolving the issue.
The customer and the controller will decide which solution is the best, then Boeing will work towards fulfilling the customer’s request within an agreed timeframe. The operations center's performance is measured by evaluating the time it took the team to resolve the problem.
Akamai Operations Command Centers
Akamai Technologies Incorporated is a worldwide content delivery cybersecurity, network, and cloud service provider. The company serves about 15 to 30 percent of the global web traffic as it hosts one of the major distributors of computing platforms in the world.
Customers pay a fee to host their web content on Akamai's servers. When users navigate any URL that Akamai manages, the site redirects them to the closest hosted version of that customer’s website to reduce the load time and bandwidth.
Akamai relies heavily on its NOCC (Network Operations Command Center) to monitor the health of its servers and networks across all domains because of its large stake in cybersecurity and content delivery. When an incident occurs, the command center operators quickly assess the issue in order to resolve it.
Akamai is headquartered in Cambridge and has a huge control room that contains two types of operators: a NOCC and a BOCC (broadcast operations command center). The BOCC is specially designed for broadcast professionals in the organization while the NOCC showcases the company's web-specific solutions, technologies, and tools in real-time.
What is a Network Operations Center Administrator?
A network operations center administrator is a person in charge of managing, overseeing, and supervising telecommunications networks. The networks of different companies are monitored from a central location known as the NOC. It is reserved for troubleshooting networks, managing routers, and monitoring the performance of networks.
An administrator fixes problems after correctly identifying them. He/she can also escalate issues to the right personnel, maintain accurate documentation, and carry out both administrative and maintenance tasks. When tickets are created, the administrator must prioritize them in the order they should be resolved. He/she also performs routine tasks like executing scripts, patching applications and operating systems, and troubleshooting systems.
A NOC administrator should have strong verbal and written communication skills and be able to maintain a good relationship with all team members. They should also be multitasking and know how to handle different tools for managing tickets. Problem-solving and analytical skills are a must for this role.
An administrator must be a good team player and work with little or no supervision. Also, they should excel at customer service because they will be communicating with clients.
An administrator should monitor and promptly respond to all downtimes and incidents. Before escalating issues, he/she must categorize them based on the clients' business requirements and how the issues will affect their operations.
He/she is responsible for collecting and assessing the performance of various systems. Afterward, he/she will report observed trends in hardware and application performance. This report will enable superior officers to forecast downtimes or potential issues. The administrator must document all activities they undertake and comply with the organization's work procedures and policies.
The administrator will work with technical staff members and other units to create and update the articles in the NOC’s knowledge bank. He/she will carry out routine system tests, operational tasks, script execution, and so on.
He/she is expected to utilize internal and external resources to identify and resolve problems based on the service level agreement (SLA) and client’s expectations. An administrator manages servers and resolves all system issues. They also perform day-to-day remedial inspection and maintenance services. They delete, move, modify, and add on applications, infrastructure services, and systems.
They also carry out application services and patch management. They execute and administer change management, interact with the field engineers, and record any performance issue that occurs on a regular basis. as a result, they communicate directly with organizations and users who are affected during maintenance actions and breakdowns.
Administrators are responsible for filing the technical details of clients according to the specified standards for documentation. They maintain and handle monitoring and alerting systems. They also manage and maintain the workstations of clients as well as their firewalls, servers, switches, routers, and other components. They must ensure that deployed technologies are easy to use and perform optimally.
Administrators are in charge of the accounts of end users, ensuring 24/7 technical support. They can suggest methods of rectifying common network problems, especially those that occur frequently.
A network operations center administrator must have a degree in information technology or any related discipline. Work experience in the field of information technology can also suffice. Certifications like LPI, CCNA, or Linux + would be an additional advantage. Candidates should also be conversant with infrastructure in a standard data center such as HVAC and power systems and controls.
Who Uses the Network Operations Center?
A network operations center is established for the purpose of assisting companies to monitor and manage their network without doing everything manually. Accessing the correct information of what is happening around a company's network is important for the smooth running of services.
Something can go wrong with a network whether during work hours or off-work hours. In fact, most disruptions and attacks happen when everyone shuts down and goes home, and this is the point where a NOC steps in. It monitors networks on a twenty-four-hour basis. The technicians also have tips and tricks that they use in analyzing problems in order to get the network back and running if there is a breakdown.
A NOC monitors power failures within the network of a company, and then sends an alarm to the company to guard against severe damage. It also helps with issues that may cause glitches in the network.
In previous sections, we extensively discussed the purpose and benefits of a network operations center. However, here are some criteria that can help you decide whether your business needs a NOC:
You want Extra Network Assistance
If your business needs a full-service or more comprehensive network assistance, then what you need is a NOC. The activities of a network operations center go beyond looking out for cyber threats to monitoring the general health of the network. It also carries out maintenance and upgrades on existing infrastructure, deploys initiatives to reduce network downtime, and much more.
You Do Not Have a Sufficient Internal IT Team
If your company has a small IT team or does not have one at all, then you need a NOC. Small businesses are fond of making their staff members wear many hats. As a result, people who are not knowledgeable or experienced in the field of IT are left to manage the company's network.
Leaving the security of your network in the hands of a staff member who is not an IT expert puts your business at risk. But when you outsource the management and monitoring of your infrastructure to a network operations center, it takes the burden off your employees, protects your network, and allows your staff to focus on building the business.
You Can't Afford to Have Network Downtimes
If you do not want to experience downtimes, then you need support from a network operations center. It assists companies in managing network functionality. Online retailers usually operate beyond the traditional 9 to 5 Monday to Friday work hours. As a result, they do not need downtimes which may hamper sales especially on days such as Black Friday.
Companies that experience downtimes during critical periods will lose a lot of money. even if the business does not experience occasional downtimes, bear in mind that cybercriminals already know that not every company has round-the-clock IT support. Therefore, they can take advantage of such periods to hack into your network. It is, therefore, important to keep your network your network secure and functional at all times.
Your IT Team Needs Assistance
If your IT team members are overwhelmed by the workload they handle on a daily basis, a NOC would be a suitable solution. Although monitoring your network is important to maintain the security and health of the network. However, you do not have to exhaust your internal IT resources to do the job effectively, particularly when other critical projects are lined up for execution.
You can outsource some projects to a third-party NOC company, so your staff members can concentrate on other tasks. A NOC can assist in implementing projects like infrastructural upgrades or repositioning the network.
Who is a Network Operations Center Technician?
A network operations center technician is an employee in a NOC that oversees the complex components of a network. He/she is in charge of managing the entire network and troubleshoots problems every day. Their work involves maintaining telecom equipment, network, and servers.
Specifically, NOC technicians monitor, administer, maintain, and fix the networks of clients. NOCs utilize different tools to effectively manage networks. Organizations set up NOCs or outsource NOC support services in order to evaluate issues, fix them, interact with technicians in the field, and closely observe those problems until they are completely resolved.
The basic components of IT infrastructure are servers and networks. Organizations employ network operations center technicians to create a central place for both servers and networks in order to simplify maintenance and security processes.
NOC technicians monitor the performance of CPUs and that of the networks. As a result, their work hours are usually flexible. They also resolve, maintain, and deploy IP switching, firewalls, routing, and remote access protocol. They are specialists in maintaining reports of bandwidth usage, server utilization, uptimes, and other critical elements.
NOC technicians must have excellent problem-solving and analytical skills. They also need to possess good written and verbal communication skills.
A network operations center technician is responsible for monitoring operations, and servicing telecommunication, servers, and network equipment within the NOC and in other companies. He/she will check for issues in the data center’s infrastructure, computer networks, and servers from a central location.
If there is a snag in the system, the technician is expected to troubleshoot it by sorting out the problem and ensuring that the system functions properly. NOC technicians are in different levels and organizations hire them according to their skill level to perform tasks. Hence, they should be able to offer great customer service by tackling issues promptly.
A NOC technician must undergo continuous training to update the organization’s knowledge bank with new procedures for handling issues. They should also comply with the conventional processes, guidelines, and policies of the organization. They must look out for breaches in the service level agreement they signed with clients, and then update the clients, third-party providers, or vendors on the progress of events.
The technician should routinely inspect UPS systems, air conditioning, and other support systems. They utilize protocols such as IP/TCP and CLI (command line interface) to confirm, unravel, and evaluate problems.
In addition to the responsibilities mentioned above, a NOC technician carries out these duties:
Anytime a system malfunctions, the technician must identify what went wrong and troubleshoot it. He/she can also work with clients and other IT teams to resolve the problem.
When an incident happens, the technician must decide the best way to resolve it. If they can resolve the problem, then there is no need to escalate it to the management or higher-level officials. Unless the problem is complex, they do not have to notify their superiors.
NOC technicians need to document all the issues they handle in an organized format. This is will be useful when they face similar situations in the future.
They must monitor systems continuously using different NOC tools. To do this effectively, the technician must be observant enough to quickly recognize alarms.
A network operations center technician should have a degree in information technology, computer science, or other related fields. Certifications in CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) or CompTIA's Network + is an additional advantage.
Candidates must have good knowledge of information technology security and be able to stay calm while working under pressure. They should know about networking protocols, have previous work experience in cloud-based infrastructure, and have scripting experience using Perl, Python, and Bash.
They should have avast knowledge of how networking equipment, like firewalls, switches, and routers, functions. They must also undergo a background check and obtain security clearance when necessary.
Challenges of Network Operations Center
The general objective of a network operations center is to maintain availability and prevent downtimes. As businesses grow and expand, their networks become larger and more complex. As a result, they continuously adopt new network models to meet the unending needs of customers.
This further complicates the network environment, leading to situations that are beyond the control of the internal IT team. Hence, network operations centers face a lot of pressure to meet the demands of these businesses and deliver top-notch services according to the service level agreement.
Operating and overseeing a network operations center today comes with diverse challenges as organizations aim at staying ahead to deliver quality user experiences to their customers. Some of the major challenges NOCs face are as follows:
Coordinating Human Resources
When you decide to build a network operations center, you need to hire people with certain skills to operate effectively. For instance, you need a network engineer, not just anyone who has technical knowledge of how routing protocols should run or how to handle network equipment.
There are other components to look out for such as candidates who understand the concept of network estate and can communicate with clients without prior notice. A combination of these requirements makes the hiring process tough.
Furthermore, a network operations center must run 24/7. Due to this, general availability, staffing, and coverage might become major hurdles. Round-the-clock operations require staff training, high costs, and resource utilization. Let us not forget to mention that scaling the NOC might become difficult, particularly if the organization does not have offices in other regions.
Being a NOC engineer is not an easy role. In fact, retaining someone who understands how to use network equipment, has good communication skills, but needs to work long hours for junior or entry-level pay is not feasible.
Most network operations center engineers prefer other roles that allow them to work daytime, earn more money, or do not require talking to customers almost all the time. Also, there is a natural phenomenon that happens in a NOC: when engineers work for a certain n number of years, no matter how long, they look forward to moving to other more impactful roles.
When it comes to operations, monitoring is continuous; it never comes to an end. It involves constant threshold refining, device lists, etc. It is also not a new thing for NOCs to emphasize more on thresholds, then a few months later, critical alerts end up in an unmonitored email. As a result, an organization that started with good motives becomes useless in all sense of the word.
Everyone working in an operations center must constantly manage and upgrade monitoring systems and tools. We need to mention at this point that NOC tools are a combination of the human resources and the tools they use. None of those tools can function all by themselves. So, having them is not enough; you still need the right set of staff to monitor situations intelligently using the tools.
The major challenge with using monitoring tools is monitoring the things that matter. Most times, employees are misguided. They leave out the crucial matters and monitor superficial things, thereby, defeating the aim of the network operations center.
Process Maturity and Management
Process maturity is not as simple as it seems because it is not easy to decide what should be done when there is a major network challenge. The scenario involves noticing the alert, reaching out to the affected clients, resolving the problem within a specific timeframe, and ensuring that such alerts are efficiently and accurately handled when they reoccur in the future.
Simply put, you may not always resolve an issue over the phone but you still need to put on your best customer service hat and talk to customers in a manner that takes them from being frustrated to hopeful.
A NOC requires enough funds to guard against uncontrollable breakdowns and outages. Everything depends on the way an operations center integrates with other units in the organization. NOC managers should be able to prove to the entire organization that the operations center is an integral part of the business in order to justify the cost of running the NOC.
Typically, network operations centers are faced with the challenge of whether to merge with security operations centers (SOCs) or simply integrate with them. SOCs struggle on several occasions to meet the demands of networks, including keeping up with the rate of cyber attacks and the volatile nature of threat landscapes. When SOCs and NOCs do not collaborate, security inefficiencies and risks become high, especially when there are no systems and tools for sharing necessary information.
Value and Cost
Being able to justify costs and demonstrate value as discussed under process maturity is a major challenge of a network operations center. Running operations 24/7 is an expensive venture to start with. Staffing, from training to availability, adds up to what skyrockets the cost. Other costs include:
- Initial financial outlay
- Keeping up with current trends in technology
- Improving and expanding infrastructure
- Training, adoption, and maintaining toolsets
Remote Data Center
Some networks are monitored and managed remotely and this poses a big problem when the network is interrupted. Also, some companies have network operations centers in different regions of the same country or outside the country.
When there is an emergency such as a natural disaster that might affect the network, it becomes difficult to convey a response team with the necessary equipment. When they eventually do, they would have spent a lot of time and money moving from one country or region to another.
Additionally, the network outage will still persist until the recovery team arrives. So, if anything delays the trip, they will have a lot of angry customers to contend with. Even when they finally arrive, transferring NOC equipment is a big deal. For instance, cables need to be moved, and it takes a lot of time to do it properly. Also, if the team does not stay calm and calculated, they may neglect certain critical issues while hurrying to resolve outages.
Irrespective of the challenges discussed above, there are ways to go about them to ensure that a network operations center achieves its aim. Below are some tips for overcoming the challenges of NOC.
A network operation center faces a lot of challenges, but the continuous development in technology is gradually helping to resolve them. We have already established the fact that an operations center is expensive to set up and manage. However, the investment is worth the cost if the team manages it efficiently and cost-effectively.
This involves training the team to know the standard workflow, processes, and procedures of the operations center. Also, documenting these processes in form of an e-book, CD, or any other means helps to train new staff without spending more funds because all they need during the orientation or training has been made available.
Implementing Recovery Strategies
The location of a NOC is important for the sake of security and implementing recovery strategies whenever operations are impeded. IT professionals should undergo training to enable them to cope with overwhelming work situations in the NOC. They should also have extensive knowledge of anomalous activities and threats that networks are susceptible to.
Operations centers can invest in modern technologies as well as upgrades, like analytical tools, muti-ports, and monitoring switches, that the team can use to identify, diagnose, and fix problems as soon as they arise without traveling to any location. This can be done from a mobile device or desktop that is connected to the internet.
What Network Operations Center Can't Do
Some people interchange the terms help desk and NOC, but they are not the same. Although they work together in some instances, they have distinct roles. These roles inform us of what a NOC can't do.
Help desks solve problems for individuals. That is, they focus on the end users and respond directly to them in order to resolve their issues when they arise. This makes them a part of a reactive support system. End users initiate communication with them by clicking the help/support icon, phone calls, or emails.
Help desks also perform other tasks, which include the following:
- Managing the accounts of new clients
- Password recovery
- Resolving printing issues
- Document or email recovery
- Detecting and removing malware
A network operations center cannot focus on an individual. Rather, it focuses on systems and networks. It acts behind the scene, monitoring infrastructure and resolving network issues when necessary.
Furthermore, a NOC is not the same as a SOC (security operations center). Both terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Although they both work with MSPs (managed service providers) to resolve IT issues, a security operations center is more specialized than a network operations center with respect to the services they offer.
A NOC focuses more on network availability, continuity, and performance while a SOC comprises personnel and tools for monitoring, detecting, and analyzing the security status of an organization on a 24-hour basis.
Technicians in a network operations center search for issues that might impede the availability and speed of networks while technicians in a security operations center root out cyber threats and respond to cyber-attacks.
Obviously, SOCs focus more on protecting the intellectual property and data of customers. NOCs are not charged with such responsibilities. Instead, they deal with common network events and those that occur naturally while SOCs are always prepared to respond to threats that target an enterprise network.