Many people use the terms NOC and help desk interchangeably, but it’s important to know that they’re not the same. Although the two often work together, along with in-house IT staff, there are key distinctions between the two.
Managed Help Desks Problem-Solve for Individual Users
Put simply, a help desk is focused on end-users. They are responding directly to the user to resolve technical problems as they arise, making help desks a reactive form of support. Communication is often initiated by clicking a support icon, sending an email, or calling by phone.
A help desk performs an array of managed service tasks including:
- Permission and access management for accounts
- Riding herd over software and hardware issues
- Malware/virus detection and removal
- Email/document recovery
- Printing issues ranging from installation to output
- Password issues - everything from forgetting to expiring
- Account management of new or departing clients
An MSP (managed services provider) could act as a help desk, offering on-call support for troubleshooting. Or a help desk could take the form of an in-house group whose job is answering questions and responding to support tickets.
Outsourced NOC Services Work Behind the Scenes
While help desks are focused on the user, a NOC is focused on your network and systems. They act as a sort of mission control center to monitor and manage a network, including performance and backup processes. A NOC works behind the scenes in a far more proactive way by monitoring your infrastructure and responding with tier-1 remediation when necessary. The goal is to resolve network issues before end-users experience an outage.
Some specific tasks that a NOC can take off your staff’s hands include:
- Administration and operation of the NMS (network management system). Your network changes so your NMS must keep pace. If your NMS doesn’t match your environment issues can slip through the cracks.
- After-hours and 24x7 monitoring and alerting. The alerts can be via email or emergency phone call to designated engineers, depending on the escalation plan. Likewise, the best NOC alerting systems filter out nuisance alarms when the system detects anomalies that are the result of routine network operations.
- Ensuring sufficient bandwidth for applications. Bandwidth monitoring is vital—you can lose customers if they experience latency lag, or worse yet, crashes. This goes double for VoIP providers, whose customer satisfaction depends on providing the bandwidth required for the service.
- Validating business processes. NOCs can monitor for more than just outages and availability in your network. Find a NOC that can put your applications through their paces to validate and revalidate customer systems to make sure they are functioning at peak performance.
- Log monitoring and event handling. NOCs get real-time visibility into your event logs, servers, and network infrastructure to detect issues before they become problems. They work to resolve performance or availability issues before they impact your business.
- Problem-solving with tier-1 remediation, including restarting applications, remounting disks, and opening carrier/vendor tickets. Network monitoring can be routine and humdrum—until disaster strikes and business comes to an alarming and scary halt. This is where NOCs earn their keep.
When you’re weighing the option to outsource or do your own in-house monitoring, consider all of the real costs. And don’t forget to consider the potential calamitous costs associated with outages a NOC ensures against.
If you have done your research and decided that you need expert outsourced NOC services, but don’t know where to start, check out our free guide to choosing a NOC partner. Discover what to look for, which services and features to pay attention to, what questions to ask, and more!