NOCs are implemented across modern business organizations, public utilities, universities and government agencies that oversee complex networking environments and require high availability. But what exactly are they?
A network operations center (NOC) is a place from which administrators supervise, monitor and maintain a computer, telecommunications or satellite network.
Today, an enterprise may use a NOC to manage internal communications, oversee employee email accounts and backup network data. And because work happens all the time in lots of different places, many NOCs are monitored 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, using Operational Intelligence software that automatically notifies technicians when issues occur.
A typical NOC at a large enterprise is laid out with several rows of desks facing a wall of screens that display the details of significant alarms, ongoing incidents and general network performance. It is also common for a NOC to include a television with live news or weather, as external factors are likely to impact the networks and systems for which the technicians are responsible. In NOCs that process a high volume of serious incidents, there may be a connected room (often separated by a transparent glass partition) that allows the incident team to meet while still being able to view events within the NOC. Individual desks are generally assigned to a specific network, technology or area. An individual technician may have several monitors at his or her workstation to watch over specific systems. Creating silos allows technicians to focus on specific areas of the network and build long-term specialty knowledge.
The location of a NOC may also house other equipment like network servers; although it is not uncommon for a single NOC to monitor and control a large number of geographically dispersed sites with additional network infrastructure. Organizations may also operate more than one NOC in an effort to manage different networks or to provide geographic redundancy.
Without a NOC I cannot see how any company could do business today. Smaller companies need some sort of a NOC to house equipment and larger companies need a NOC because it is essential for many of the things that employees use to get their jobs done.
VP of Information Security/IT, NetMotion Software
A NOC engineer has several important duties, but fundamentally, he or she must avoid degraded service for end users by carefully monitoring the status and performance of the network. Some important issues to watch for when monitoring a network include:
- DDoS Attacks
- Power outages
- Network failures
- Routing black-holes
NOC engineers are also responsible for installing and configuring hardware (KVMs, rack installation, IP-PDU setup, cabling) in a way that ensures optimal performance of the core network. Side note: Most NOC engineers are “on call” and have a 5-6 day rotation, working different shifts, to ensure that coverage is maintained 24/7.
NOC Best Practices
A few best practices can go far in wringing just a bit more efficiency out of a NOC.
Use a Ticketing System
Utilizing a helpdesk ticketing system allows NOC engineers to prioritize issues and provide better service to end users.
Focus on Root Cause Analysis
Understanding the fundamental problem allows IT to address and diagnose the underlying issue and prevent similar issues in the future.
Track and document every issue to build out a healthy knowledge base (we’ve talked about why this is important before).