What are best practices for a NOC?
Best practices for a network operations center prioritize training, rely on clearly defined roles and establish clear protocols and means of communication.
Make training and knowledge development a top priority: Your NOC team must have high-level expertise, specifically in monitoring, managing and resolving issues specific to network performance and your IT infrastructure. Provide robust and frequent training on procedures and protocols for any event, and keep up with changing tech landscape and changes to your own IT environment. Prioritize network performance issues, but don’t overlook procedures for collaborating with your SOC on security issues. A key procedural issue is escalation; make sure your staff knows how and when to make the quick decision to escalate a growing problem to a more experienced teammate.
Define clear roles: Flatter organizational hierarchies are more popular these days. In the fast-paced, must-act-now world of network monitoring, it makes sense to empower each team member rather than rigidly insisting on rank- or role-based handoffs. Yet while technicians should be equipped with the knowledge and authority to act quickly to prevent network failures, you still need escalation tiers and shift supervisors to oversee the NOC.
While NOC technicians should be left largely to do their jobs and offer insight — and certainly they should not be micromanaged — you need a leader who assigns work to technicians based on their skills, prioritizes tasks, prepares reports, ensures incidents are being resolved properly and notifies the broader organization of events as needed. Additionally, each technician should know specifically what tasks will be expected them, their level and the line of reporting should they need to escalate an incident or respond to one.
Enable strong communication: Keeping the lines of communication open — within the NOC, SOC and other external teams — can prove to be challenging. It’s definitely more than just setting up a few periodic meetings. Instead, it takes a concerted effort to train staff as to how and when to share information, and to hold them accountable for doing so. Creating regular opportunities for collaboration and coordination is key to a solid NOC.
Establish clear guidelines and protocols: Keep things running smoothly by creating clear-cut policies for the following:
- Incident management: Document steps the technicians should follow to handle incidents (e.g., when the technician can make the decision, when to escalate the decision, when to notify team members, and so on).
- Solutions: Outline procedures for dealing with common issues and provide immediate methods for dealing with emergencies.
- Escalation: Determine how the team should escalate issues and to whom.
- Prioritization: Establish which incidents take highest priority and which technician level should handle the most important ones. Incidents should be ranked based on the extent they will affect the business.
Having well-established protocols ensures everyone is on the same page, provides consistency across the organization and increases accountability among NOC staff. Of course, having the right people and processes in place lays the foundation, but the actual work can’t be done with the right tools.