Network Operations Center, Definition and Top 4 Best Practices

Posted by Admin | 20 July, 2022 | Technical

A Network Operations Center (NOC) serves as a central hub where an organization’s IT teams oversee network performance. The NOC provisions servers, databases, ample hard disk storage, and a robust internet connection. Furthermore, it equips IT professionals with advanced tools for diagnosing connectivity issues and addressing security concerns.

For many organizations dependent on IT for their operations, the Network Operations Center (NOC) is foundational. NOCs play a pivotal role in upholding the reliability and accessibility of network-based services and devices integral to daily employee functions. They enable organizations to consolidate the monitoring of their IT infrastructure, providing effective user support during emergencies.

The NOC team bears the responsibility of sustaining network performance by swiftly resolving issues. This encompasses the monitoring and management of the entire IT infrastructure, spanning hardware, software, and communication links.

Before delving into best practices for NOCs, it is paramount to comprehend their indispensable role within an organization.

Importance of NOC in Organizations?

A Network Operations Center (NOC) stands as an indispensable asset within any organization, instrumental in effectively monitoring and managing network infrastructure to ensure the overall system’s health. Here are some key reasons highlighting the significance of a robust NOC:

Monitoring: The NOC plays a pivotal role in continuously monitoring your network infrastructure, enabling the timely detection of potential problems that can be addressed before they escalate into critical issues.
Maintaining Quality of Service: A proficient NOC contributes to maintaining the quality of service provided to your customers. It ensures that network performance meets or exceeds expectations, enhancing customer satisfaction.
Cost Reduction: The presence of a Network Operations Center leads to cost savings for your business. By proactively preventing downtime and reducing losses associated with network disruptions, it also lowers overhead expenses such as electricity bills and maintenance costs, as the NOC team handles these tasks efficiently.
Availability: An effective NOC should provide uninterrupted customer service 24/7, ensuring that your customers receive support without interruptions, even during off-hours.

The NOC staff diligently monitors various components, including networks, servers, database applications, and critical systems essential for sustaining your business’s online presence and operational efficiency. This includes the monitoring of data centers, firewalls, routers, switches, load balancers, VPNs, and other network devices that constitute your network infrastructure.

With the NOC in place, users and customers can focus on their core business activities, confident that their network’s performance and reliability are expertly managed, allowing them to concentrate on revenue generation and growth without concerns about network performance.

Network Operations Activities

Network operations activities constitute a standard component of network management, encompassing the following tasks:

Monitoring and analyzing network operations.
Responding to network problems, outages, and slowdowns.
Documenting network operations activities.
Providing basic troubleshooting skills.
Applying patches, software updates, and maintaining network devices.
Updating firmware.
Running backups.
Configuring routers and switches.
Upgrading network software and hardware.
Configuring new servers.
Following change management policies and procedures.

Best Practices

When you assume the role of overseeing a network operations center, you take on the vital responsibility of managing your organization’s IT infrastructure. The task involves the substantial pressure of ensuring seamless operations, necessitating the implementation of streamlined processes to facilitate your role. Let’s explore some of these processes.

Enable strong communication

Fostering effective communication within the NOC and among various teams can be challenging. It goes beyond merely scheduling routine meetings; it demands a coordinated effort to educate employees on the how and when of data sharing while holding them accountable. The foundation of a robust NOC hinges on regular collaborative opportunities and seamless coordination.

To maintain order, establish explicit guidelines and protocols, covering the following aspects:

Incident Management: Document the procedures that technicians should follow when addressing incidents, including when a technician can make a decision, when team members should be notified, and when escalation is necessary.
Solutions: Develop processes for resolving common issues and offering immediate solutions to emergencies.
Escalation: Define the methods and personnel to whom the team should escalate issues.
Prioritization: Establish criteria for prioritizing incidents, weighing their impact on the business, and determining which technician should address them.

Ensure maximum up-times

In the current fiercely competitive business landscape, both vendors and customers have heightened expectations for uninterrupted service from their Network Operations Centers (NOCs). A system outage can carry a staggering cost, translating into millions of dollars in lost productivity and eroded customer loyalty.

The linchpin of success lies in rigorous planning and proactive preparation long before any incident unfolds. To ensure the utmost uptime, consider implementing several crucial steps:

Effective Maintenance Routines: Implement comprehensive maintenance routines that are practiced regularly, ideally on a monthly, if not weekly or even daily basis for certain systems. This proactive approach ensures seamless operations and mitigates the risk of unplanned downtime.

Timely Software Patch Updates: Keep all software patches up-to-date, promptly applying updates as they are released. This practice minimizes the vulnerability to potential cyberattacks and helps prevent minor issues from escalating into major disasters. Regular monitoring for vulnerabilities and critical bugs in the network further fortifies your defense.

Robust Backup Strategy: Maintain a well-structured backup plan to maximize network uptime. In the event of system malfunctions or failures, a solid backup system steps in to minimize downtime, ensuring continuity of operations.

Enhancing client experience

Information technology (IT) serves as the lifeblood of any organization. When collaborating with technology professionals, you are entrusting them with invaluable resources that empower clients to achieve their objectives. Consequently, it is imperative to deliver top-tier service, demonstrating a clear understanding of their needs and furnishing the high-quality support necessary for their success.

A Network Operations Center (NOC) plays a pivotal role in enhancing service quality and response time to client requests, offering an invaluable service. Through heightened efficiency in NOC processes, which translates to savings in time, finances, and resources, you can elevate the overall client experience and bolster your company’s reputation.

Responding immediately to any incident in the network

The era of exclusively staffing a Network Operations Center (NOC) during standard business hours has passed. While maintaining a 24/7 on-call presence may not be preferred, it is essential to have a responsive team ready to promptly address any network incident. Failing to do so can result in detrimental outcomes, such as sluggish operations, extensive outages, security breaches, and the squandering of valuable time and resources on damage control.

Reducing operational costs

Based on a recent survey, it’s evident that reducing operational costs is a common objective for Network Operations Centers (NOCs). By following these straightforward steps, you can achieve cost savings efficiently:

Establish a Plan: Develop a comprehensive plan for both new projects and emergency response scenarios. Define who will address project issues and how they will do so. Ensure that necessary tools are readily available, and ascertain that employees possess the requisite skills to execute the tasks.
Select the Right Staff: When hiring new employees, prioritize individuals with the skills essential for success in their roles. If your NOC team is working with outdated software, seek candidates who can either update the software or provide training to existing staff on its use.
Continuous Training: Invest in ongoing training for your staff to keep them up-to-date with evolving technologies. Avoid waiting until someone departs or retires to seek new hires. Instead, proactively train employees to multitask in areas where they already possess expertise.
System Updates: Embrace system updates to keep pace with the dynamic IT landscape. Leveraging automation and technologies like AI can free up human resources for other critical NOC functions. This approach ensures that your Network Operations Center remains efficient and adaptable to change.

Collect Performance Data and Generate Reports

The depth of insights you gain regarding your network’s performance directly correlates with your ability to make informed decisions. However, this goes beyond mere data collection; it involves the critical steps of data analysis and even the utilization of Machine Learning mechanisms. By thoroughly studying the data reflecting your network’s behavior, you gain a comprehensive understanding that empowers you to maintain control and elevate performance to new heights.

By effectively defining the structure of your reports, you can automate their generation, saving valuable time otherwise spent on manual creation. This automation allows you to analyze data with the necessary regularity and establish thresholds or key performance indicators that serve as early alerts should any aspect of your network’s functionality deviate from the expected norm.

Develop and Maintain a Business Continuity Plan

A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is paramount for effective risk management within your NOC operations, as underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed significant vulnerabilities in the preparedness of many organizations.

The BCP serves as a well-defined roadmap for NOC personnel and management to follow in the event of a disaster or other adversities. When executed correctly, it ensures swift and efficient recovery, minimizing any adverse impact on business operations.

Without an effective BCP in place, your NOC remains vulnerable to various potential issues if a disaster or significant workforce disruption occurs, including:

Damage to reputation/brand
Loss of customers
Damage or loss to property
Negative impact on insurance

To establish a robust BCP, it is imperative to involve key representatives from across the organization, potentially including third-party vendors. Whether crafting a BCP from scratch or assessing an existing one, ensure it encompasses the following essential elements:

Thorough examination of all organizational threats.
A comprehensive list of actions required to maintain operations during short-term and long-term disruptions.
Easily accessible contact information for key stakeholders.
Clear instructions on personnel relocation in case of operational disruptions.