You've decided you need proactive monitoring for your network using a team that can work 24x7, but you can't do that with your current staff. Outsourcing to a U.S.-based network operations center (NOC) seems like the best choice, especially if you can find one that can tailor their offerings to your specific, unique needs.
So, what do you look for in choosing a NOC to watch over your operation? What do you need to think about before signing a contract in order to ensure long-term success? These guidelines will help you choose a NOC that will deliver the services you need.
1. Understand Why You’re Outsourcing in the First Place
Management consultant Peter Drucker once said "Do what you do best and outsource the rest." He understood that focusing on what a company does best (its core business) increases profits, fuels innovation, and delivers expertise in skill sets that may be missing within the company. All of those outcomes allow businesses to grow and prosper. Network monitoring isn't your core business, but it's absolutely needed if you are to deliver the services your employees, customers, and vendors expect and need.
However, the first step, even before you start your search for a NOC, is to clearly define your goals for outsourcing. What do you want to achieve? What problems do you want to avoid? Thinking these issues through brings clarity to your expectations and allows you to communicate your needs to the NOCs you interview and to the one you eventually choose. Having a clear understanding of your needs and goals heading into an outsourced arrangement sets the stage for how you and your NOC partner work together to ensure long-term success.
2. Evaluate NOCs as if They Were a New Employee
The costs of hiring an employee who doesn't work out are high. Salary, benefits, employment taxes, and training all become sunken costs if the employee leaves or is terminated early on. The same goes for contracting with a NOC provider that doesn't perform. The time you invest in choosing a NOC, getting approval to outsource from upper management, then signing a contract, training and re-orienting your in-house IT staff, and paying for services—all of these are expenses that fail to bring you the outcome you want.
To avoid that pain, you should evaluate every prospective NOC as if it were a new employee hire. In fact, a successful NOC becomes a partner in your business. You'll need to clearly explain what you expect, then probe for answers on how the NOC candidate will deliver the services you need. Make sure that your in-depth meetings with the NOC sales people also include network engineers or other technical representatives who can drill down into the specific steps the NOC team will take to fully support your network.
3. Understand the Level of Support You'll Receive
Because you've clearly identified the outcomes you expect from a NOC partnership, take the extra steps needed to study the contract's fine print. For instance, are there limits on how many tickets you can submit per month? Are there extra charges for certain services like onboarding and runbook development? Does the NOC's service level agreement contain limitations that you'd find unacceptable?
Companies sometimes believe a NOC will give them complete coverage, only to discover later that extra charges and limitations apply. Do your due diligence in reviewing the contract so you understand what's included to make sure their services meet your needs.
4. Don't Choose a NOC Based on Price Alone
You wouldn't choose a new hire candidate simply because he or she was willing to work for the lowest salary you offer. You would make sure their qualifications meet the needs of the role they’re fulfilling and that they have an interest in learning and growing with your company. You should take a similar approach to vetting potential NOC partners—don’t make your NOC selection based on contract price alone, no matter how tempting that might be.
The most successful partnerships are those where the NOC offers a healthy combination of value and quality results. Look for a partner who can perform the difficult tasks that made you want to outsource in the first place. Effective monitoring may require custom scripts, multiple protocols, alert thresholds, and the ability to monitor devices and applications at a very granular level. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and clarify their services and specific capabilities. If you want to make sure they’ll be able to meet certain expectations, voice your concerns instead of making assumptions and hoping for the best.
5. Don't Ignore Security
As you're evaluating NOCs, be sure to consider how they will keep your data secure. Since they’ll have access to your infrastructure, be sure to ask about data access control (including how they keep your data separate from other clients), network security measures, and physical security. You'll want to understand what the NOC contributes toward securing your network and information.
That being said, there's a difference between a NOC and a SOC (security operations center). Take time to understand how your NOC will coordinate with your security team. You're not only looking to develop a true partnership with a NOC, you should rightly expect them to build an effective partnership with the SOC you select. Make sure the responsibilities for both network monitoring and network security are clearly defined so there's no question about which organization is responsible for various issues.
Creating a “partnership” implies that two or more parties come together because they have mutual interests that can be better achieved by the parties working together. Outsourced network monitoring should be based on the goal of achieving a partnership where your desire for a reliable network coincides with the NOC's desire and ability to deliver exactly that.
iGLASS offers professional, reliable NOC services that avoid network downtime. Request a quote online or by phone at (888) 968-7662 to get started on creating a solution to monitor your network and entire infrastructure.