A network operations center (NOC) is responsible for monitoring computer systems and networks, including both hardware and software components. To avoid disruption in service, NOC personnel use tools, processes and procedures to monitor for conditions that require attention. In essence, the NOC provides a proactive and reactive function to service delivery. The goal is to become more proactive through use of proper automation and monitoring tools.
However, there are some reactive components. When the NOC detects a service disruption, it will carry out the steps to restore service, or escalate to the appropriate team to track the issue through to resolution. A NOC is important because it adds value to your services by minimizing downtime to customer systems. The result is an increase in service margins. This is achieved by using tools to reduce labor expenses.
When planning key NOC and monitoring activities, consider these key best practices:
Be Proactive – Get in front of problems by proactively monitoring and knowing when something will happen before it does. Take action to prevent issues.
Example: Company Y uses its monitoring system to check a number of areas in each customer system that might indicate when an issue has the potential of happening sometime in the future. These alerts defer to when a customer system has an issue. To ensure they don’t get mixed up, a ticket is automatically created with a special status. This allows the account manager and engineer to review and recommend corrective action before an outage or interruption occurs. This preventative type of monitoring reduces potential downtime and opens the door to increase the value of the relationship with your customer.
Everything is a Ticket – All incidents must be a ticket to properly capture all work performed, regardless of length, nature or severity of the request.
Example: Company Y has implemented an RMM integration with a business management tool, such as ConnectWise. As a part of its setup, it mapped and synced every significant action that happens to a service board, ticket, type, sub-type and configuration record. This allowed the company to use workflows to manage the tickets more efficiently. In turn, the effectiveness of this setup allowed the system to scale without any issues when the company grew in size.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel – Use your knowledge base to solve problems. Don’t waste time trying to solve a problem for which there’s already a solutions.
Example: Company Y invested into its knowledge base by having engineers create articles for each type and subtype. Next, it turned some of the items into templates that automatically added themselves to tickets as they were categorized. This made a huge difference in the way new and experienced staff members managed tickets, taking care of most of the manual processes and allowing engineers to focus on higher-level tasks.
Document, Document, Document – You are only as good as your documentation. A successful NOC knows everything about the technology it monitors and manages.
Example: Company Y had no onsite documentation and as a result the staff that had to take calls, work remotely and go onsite. For the first time, the company looked unknowledgeable to the point of hurting the customer’s trust and perception of competency the engineer possessed. Company executives realized that this was having a detrimental effect on their business, so they started a project to standardize their documentation of customer sites. They used configurations, company documents and an auditable password storage system to manage every aspect of the customer’s information. As a result, the customer’s trust increased and engineers felt more confident remotely supporting, managing and going onsite.
Automation is Your Friend – Save time and costs, and improve engineer satisfaction by automating tasks, alerts and events through scripting, configuration and ticketing engines.
Example: Company Y employed an engineer to focus on all recurring tasks. By using scripting and automation, it was able to automate job solutions from a system alert, trigger or the service desk staff. After a six-week period of focus on automated system solutions, there was a huge improvement on the number of tickets that were being automatically resolved. This helped the company focus on higher-level tasks, creating more value in its services.
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Craig Fulton is a senior business consultant for ConnectWise. Made for companies that sell, service and support technology, ConnectWise is the No. 1 business management platform worldwide. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of The VAR Guy's annual platinum sponsorship.