Does Your MSP Practice Really Need a NOC?
The short answer is yes. Although it is well into 2018, there are still companies building managed services teams. These new MSPs frequently need assistance with how best to create their new network operation center (NOC).
What does a NOC do?
A NOC is the heart of any managed services operation. A NOC is part man and part machine. The human element is the people who staff the NOC and oversee the operations. The machine part is the applications tracking network health, alerts, and tickets to track events.
These two elements are not up for debate. They are necessary components you must have to operate a NOC successfully. Where reasonable people start to disagree is location. They say location is everything in real estate; the same is true with a NOC.
Since the early days of managed services, NOCs had hardened physical rooms. These rooms often were attached to hosting facilities with redundant Internet and telecommunications capabilities. When technology advanced and remote work became a reality, MSPs soon realized the need for a traditional NOC might need a facelift.
While the functional purpose of the NOC did not change, the outward appearance of the NOC has undergone significant changes recently. Remote worker technologies quickly made their way into MSP organizations, including the NOC. Instead of having a physical, hardened facility, a NOC team could work from anywhere and still enjoy access to the remote monitoring, remote access/management, and ticketing systems they previously used from within the physical NOC. Technically, all this is possible today. But, just because you can do something does not mean you should.
Elements Every MSP NOC Should Have
Whether you build a physical or virtual NOC, here are some "essential" features you should have.
You can't run any NOC operation without "seeing" what you are managing. Because nearly all the RMM platforms today come with cloud and on-premise versions, accessing your RMM from anywhere there is Internet should not be a problem.
Similar to the RMM system, many modern ticketing platforms are also available in the cloud as well as on-premise.
Internet, voice, and video, have become widespread and available everywhere. A reliable communications platform makes emailing, talking, and seeing your NOC team very easy...technically. If technology made collaboration this easy, everyone would work remotely. This is not the case. Especially with network operation centers.
While MSPs can deliver services remotely, they still need to rely on heavy collaboration and communication to perform their work. Sometimes, there is no substitute for meeting in person.
Underlying all the previous characteristics is the requirement that the MSP delivers its services and securely conducts its operations.
To conduct itself securely, an MSP must evaluate any and all remote worker scenarios as possible weak links in the service delivery chain. One can argue that having a hardened physical NOC makes security a little easier.
Yes, every MSP needs a NOC. There is just no way of getting around this requirement. The NOC is an essential communication, collaboration, and problem-solving tool for the MSP.
What is up for debate is the type of NOC you use. Whether it is a virtual NOC or a traditional NOC, the characteristics described above are important. Arguments can be made for both NOC styles, but in the end, you must choose what is best for your MSP practice.