What is a Network Operations Center (NOC)?

Learn the basics of building, running, and optimizing a modern Network Operations Center in this comprehensive guide.

noc staff looking at data

1 Introduction

NOC engineer smiling


What is a NOC?

A Network Operations Center or “NOC” is the central location from which an organization supports its network and/or telecommunications infrastructure—servers, applications, cloud, routers, switches, circuits, UPS, environmental sensors, security cameras, and other devices. It’s a critical component of any IT support function, providing real-time monitoring and rapid response to issues that arise within the network.

The NOC monitors, detects, and resolves infrastructure events as they happen by interacting with monitoring and management systems, technical specialists, and external equipment/carrier vendors. A NOC is not a Help Desk, which, in most cases, is primarily set up to handle end-user issues and provide PC/laptop, application, and basic network connectivity support.

Organizations can choose to build their own NOC on-premise, or, as is increasingly popular today, can opt to outsource part or all of the function to a specialist NOC service provider. This type of provider may provide a more cost-effective alternative as it eliminates the need to hire, train, and retain in-house staff.

Additionally, some NOC service providers can leverage economies of scale to provide higher-quality services at a lower cost thanks to investments they’re able to make that simply wouldn’t be feasible for most in-house ITOps, Network Operations, or similar types of teams. Regardless of the setup, NOCs play a crucial role in detecting issues and making fast restoration and resolution decisions.

The main point

No matter what kind of business you run, your IT infrastructure and applications are bound to be affected by outages. Every second of downtime can cost you time and money.

A properly built, well-managed NOC not only mitigates these losses but also improves network, infrastructure, and application performance. By contrast, a poorly designed and managed NOC leaves your technology investments—and the business activities that rely on them—exposed and vulnerable.

Having provided a comprehensive catalog of NOC Lifecycle Solutions®, including NOC support, optimization, design, and build services for enterprises, communications service providers, and OEMs for 20+ years, we’ve written this guide to introduce basic and advanced NOC concepts in a single, authoritative resource.

If you find this guide helpful, be sure to check out some of our other popular guides on various NOC topics:

NOC Runbooks | NOC Dashboards | NOC Operations | Staffing a NOC | NOC Automation | NOC Best Practices | NOC Management | NOC as a Service | NOC Metrics | NOC Tools and Software | Building a NOC | NOC SLAs | NOC Services


Have questions about outsourced NOC support or want to discuss a possible engagement? Learn more about our services and contact us to help you find your optimal NOC solution.

2The Basics: An Overview of the NOC

NOC engineer working


What is the purpose of a NOC?

The primary purpose of a NOC is to maximize performance and uptime. The NOC also plays a crucial role in minimizing the productivity loss to the business when IT assets go down for any reason.

But a high-functioning NOC does more than just keep your network, infrastructure, and applications up and running. It can quickly inform impacted users of a problem, enabling them to shift their attention to other tasks without skipping a beat.

The faster users realize a billing application is down, for example, the faster they can shift to email or other tasks. Across the organization, these downstream actions add up to immense savings in time and attention that would otherwise be lost to miscommunication and confusion.

Based on a collection of survey data, Gartner reported the average cost downtime at $5,600/minute or well over $300K/hour.

This productivity advantage is the number one reason companies approach their NOC service as a business investment rather than a cost center. Simply put, the value your NOC can return to the business is far greater than the investment necessary to make it effective.

In addition to detecting issues, the NOC oversees corrective actions to restore service functionality after an outage. Here, the NOC offers a golden opportunity to keep the business moving during downtime by improving communication between key stakeholders—both those whose work is impacted and those fixing the problem.

Unlocking this capability within your NOC requires a centralized operational framework to deliver information and take action at lightning speed—shortening response and restoration times while giving staff the information they need to adjust to the outage quickly. We’ll explain what such a framework looks like later in this guide.

To see more clearly how a NOC can save your business the high costs of low productivity, let’s briefly revisit its basic functions.

What does a NOC do?

At its core, a successful NOC performs three functions:

  1. Event Monitoring and Management — The NOC team responds to inputs from Event Monitoring and Management systems as well as calls, emails, and other sources.
  2. Ticketing — From the event monitoring sources, people and tools in the NOC create incident, change, and service request records.
  3. Troubleshooting and Resolution — Processes and procedures guide the NOC to address each task.

In short, the basic function of a NOC is to log every action taken and enable each impacted service to be restored as quickly as possible. While these functions may seem simple and straightforward, they require planning, implementation, and execution.

If you’re looking for a basic outsourced NOC solution, consider our Dedicated MVP NOC—the simplest, most cost-effective way to turn up 24x7 NOC support on the INOC Platform and reap the benefits of INOC’s operational framework (i.e., unburdening the internal support team from frontline monitoring and management activities and improving uptime and availability across the supported environment).

In many cases, the modern NOC performs many more functions than those three listed above, including:

  • Incident Management — Detecting and resolving incidents to restore services and minimize downtime (often across the Tiers or Levels of service 1, 2, and 3).
  • Problem Management — Diagnosing root causes of incidents and submitting change requests to resolve problems. The most operationally sophisticated NOCs can perform predictive Problem Management to avoid incidents proactively.
  • Capacity Management — Recording and managing the performance, utilization, and capacity of client infrastructure components to meet service-level targets.
  • Business Disruption/Disaster Recovery — Providing backup and disaster recovery NOC support.
  • Product Support — Depending on its customers or users, a NOC may provide technical support to clients of system integrators, OEMs, and independent software vendors.
  • Service Transition Planning and Support — NOCs that function in a service provider role may define and support the specific steps for initial support setup onto the NOC, including onboarding.
  • New Service Onboarding — NOCs that function in a service provider role may onboard client infrastructure with client-supplied information and assistance, including CMDB setup, connectivity, ticket system, alarm monitoring setup, and more.
  • Change Management — Recording and managing changes to infrastructure, services, and monitoring.
  • Service Asset and Configuration Management — Defining and maintaining service and infrastructure components, configuration records, and relationship information for better Change, Incident, and Problem Management.
  • Service Reporting and Service Analysis — Providing service reports and aligning services with changing client business needs by identifying and implementing improvements.
  • Complementary Support Services — Some NOC service providers may offer platform integration services, runbook development, infrastructure management setup, custom functionality, and provisioning. 

In 2023, organizations face mounting challenges in managing and monitoring complex networks with global offices, remote employees, and numerous devices. Network performance can be impacted by a variety of factors, from user volume to malware, leading to costly downtime, and many of these threats have accelerated.

To prevent downtime and its negative effects on productivity and reputation, NOCs have evolved to minimize disruptions and ensure seamless operations with the ever-changing tech stack.

Download our free white paperA Practical Guide to Running an Effective NOC—for more information on the basic components of modern NOC operations.


A NOC and a SOC (Security Operations Center) are similar in that they both provide monitoring and support for an organization's network and technology systems. However, the main difference between the two is their focus.

  • A NOC is primarily responsible for monitoring and managing the performance, availability, and health of an organization's network infrastructure, including routers, switches, firewalls, and other network devices. The NOC’s main job is to ensure the network is up and running smoothly and fix any issues that arise.
  • A SOC, on the other hand, is primarily responsible for preventing, detecting, and responding to security incidents. This includes cyber attacks, malware infections, and data breaches. As the threat landscape has become more complex, the role of SOCs has expanded to include not only technical security controls but also information security, risk management, and compliance.

While NOCs and SOCs have distinct roles, they also have overlapping functions. For example, some NOCs can monitor and resolve security incidents, but this setup is typically not ideal.

Technicians must be trained in both network performance and security and have the right tools to respond effectively to security threats; there’s simply too much to manage unless the operation is elegantly integrated at an extreme level.

To have a security-oriented NOC, the team must have a mix of the right skill sets and the right tools, such as a security information and event management (SIEM) system, which automates much of the workload of a typical SOC team by collecting, analyzing, and categorizing network data and surfacing incidents while reducing false positives, making it easier for the NOC to manage security.

NOC vs. Help Desk

The terms “NOC” and “Help Desk” are sometimes used interchangeably, but these teams serve different functions within an organization (despite, again, some areas of overlap).

  • A NOC is focused on proactively monitoring and managing the technical infrastructure of an organization. This includes networks, servers, databases, applications, and other critical systems. The primary goal of a NOC is to identify and resolve issues before they become major problems, ensuring the smooth operation of the organization's technology infrastructure.
  • A Help Desk, by contrast, is focused on providing technical support to end-users. It’s focused on resolving issues related to the use of technology by employees, such as software issues, hardware problems, and network connectivity issues. The goal of a Help Desk is to provide a quick resolution to technical issues, allowing employees to get back to work as soon as possible.

While the NOC and Help Desk have different primary functions and typically interface with different stakeholders, there are some areas of overlap.

  • For example, if an issue is detected in the NOC, it may require escalation to the Help Desk for resolution. Additionally, a Help Desk technician may need to coordinate with the NOC to resolve certain issues, such as network connectivity problems.

What are the roles within a NOC?

The NOC team’s key responsibilities encompass a series of tasks presented in the ITIL* framework. While the ITIL framework includes other processes, in our experience, these five are the most important to address:

  • Event Monitoring and Management
  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Capacity Management
  • Change Management

More generally, a NOC team may consist of technicians, engineers, analysts, and operators, responsible for monitoring, maintaining, and resolving any performance issues within a network.

The NOC team works together to ensure that the network is functioning at optimal levels, with minimal downtime and interruptions. To achieve this, the modern NOC professional has to have a high level of expertise in network monitoring and tools; many hold advanced certifications in the field.

Depending on the size and nature of the operation, NOC team leaders or shift supervisors may also be present to oversee the day-to-day operations and to provide guidance and support to the technicians.

This management level is responsible for ensuring that NOC processes are aligned with the organization's objectives and standards.
It’s important to note that, especially today, not all organizations can afford to have an in-house NOC team—especially as 24x7 support becomes needed for more and more organizations.

Third-party service providers offer NOC services as a cost-effective alternative, giving organizations a way to “plug into” the expertise, certifications, and skill sets needed to monitor, maintain, and resolve performance issues within the network and ensure that the organization remains competitive and has the necessary support to meet its business objectives.

Learn how INOC partnered with SDI Presence to reduce ticket volume by 50% and increase monitoring accuracy by 25% for critical infrastructure customers

3Designing, Building, and Operationalizing a NOC

Working in the NOC

Operational design

Aside from the physical design and construction of a NOC, operational design is the key to unlocking a NOC’s full capability and value.
It provides a central framework with informed, documented guidance for each operational decision and action.

A look under the hood of any top-performing NOC will reveal such a framework. Most often, it’s the factor that separates truly outstanding NOCs—those that have a measurable business impact—from those that only deliver basic support and operate in a totally reactive state.

The first consideration for developing a NOC operational framework is determining how the design will be created. Rather than putting a team together to hash out a framework from scratch, the resulting design will typically be far more robust and effective when an experienced NOC design team starts the development process with a proven framework that can be shaped to fit the requirements of your business and its IT infrastructure.

Simply put, the blueprint for an excellent NOC has already been created and refined—why reinvent it and incur all their trial and error when you can simply plug into what already exists?

Whether you’re taking on NOC operational design yourself or putting it in the hands of capable NOC experts, each component should take into account the three Ps:

  • People (a team with the right operational and technical skills appropriate for your environment)
  • Process (consistency through a standardized framework such as ITIL)
  • Platform (integrated tools and a single consolidated view for the NOC team and other stakeholders) 

Since these three Ps encompass everything that could be impacted by the NOC, this approach ensures nothing is left out of each operation you develop. 

When developing specific elements of a NOC operation, your framework should offer well-defined process flows and incorporate tools to support each type of input into the NOC, such as phone calls, emails, and events. Phone and email tools should focus on helping the NOC achieve desired service levels for response time.

Today, with an operational framework that clearly identifies issues and offers processes to work through them quickly and easily, most issues that arrive at the NOC should be handled and initially routed or resolved by Tier 1 NOC engineers—freeing high-tier engineers to focus their attention elsewhere. More on that later.

Download our free white paper—A Practical Guide to Running an Effective NOC—for a few specific points to keep in mind when designing processes and tools for handling the various NOC input sources.

Designing and implementing a NOC requires careful planning and a thorough understanding of the business and customer requirements it is meant to support.

Incorporating industry standards

Different types of organizations require different outcomes from their NOC. Until recently, this meant incorporating different standards into the NOC framework depending on whether it was designed for an enterprise or service provider type of organization. 

But IT service management based on ITIL has become popular and effective for any type of NOC operation, making separate standards largely obsolete. Incorporating proven frameworks and long-standing best practices is now essential for designing a NOC operation that can adapt to change and innovation.

Designing NOC processes and tools

The NOC should employ a framework with clear process flows and tools for handling different types of NOC inputs. Phone and email tools should help achieve desired service levels for response time, handled primarily by Tier 1 NOC engineers. Keep in mind the need to identify caller details for quick action, consolidate event alarms into a single view, and use event correlation to analyze multiple events.

Higher-tier engineers can perform advanced correlations, while lower-tier engineers handle tickets with clear information in front of them. Swift action is needed once an event is ticketed, so a quick and accurate diagnosis and action plan are crucial.

Read our other guide—NOC Tools and Software: An Operational Perspective—for a detailed look at some of the NOC tools hard at work inside some of the most complex and multi-faceted IT organizations.

Taking the first step

The initial step in designing and building a NOC is typically a business analysis, which helps gather critical information to strike the perfect balance of capability and efficiency.

The findings from this analysis can inform the NOC’s organization, operationalization, and platform across three essential elements: people, process, and platform. 

We routinely deliver these business analyses as part of our NOC Operations Consulting service—which helps existing NOCs significantly improve the support they deliver through a comprehensive assessment and recommendation project.

The business analysis should contain four main components:

  • Gathering support requirements.
  • Determining the necessary service levels.
  • Evaluating current processes and technologies.
  • Assessing the impact of potential challenges.

Read our other guide—Building and Setting Up a NOC: The Critical First Steps—for a few specific points to learn more about all four of these steps, and other important considerations when building a NOC.

4Running a NOC Operation

Man working an ITSM issue

What makes a NOC effective?

Here are some basic components of effectiveness across the five core ITIL processes relevant to the NOC:

Event Monitoring and Management

Utilized by the NOC to keep track, identify, and manage events and issues that are related to the organization's infrastructure and systems.

  • The events may come in the form of alarms from systems, calls from internal staff or customers, as well as emails or chats.
  • The NOC team uses one or more tools, including NMSs, EMSs, and APM tools, to receive and filter messages from various infrastructure such as devices, servers, cloud instances, and applications, using different protocols like SNMP, TL1, WMI, gRPC, and gNMI.
  • Once an event is detected, it is assessed, correlated, and acknowledged, and if needed, it is recorded into an incident or ticket for further management.

Incident Management

Incident Management is a fundamental process within any NOC, where the IT service management platform or ticketing system is used to address network, system, or application events.

  • The NOC engineers create tickets containing event information in various fields, which are then handled and communicated to relevant personnel via email, call, or message for issue resolution.
  • Regular updates are provided until the incident is resolved, and these tickets serve as a collective record of all NOC work activities, enabling resource and workflow management reporting.

Problem Management

Involves all the necessary actions to identify the underlying causes of incidents and request modifications to address those issues.

  • It is distinct from Incident Management, as it focuses on investigating and discovering the root cause of an incident rather than addressing its immediate impact.
  • Usually, Problem Management necessitates more advanced engineering skills to examine the patterns leading up to an incident, scrutinize logs for clues that suggest potential causes of the failure, and develop strategies to prevent future incidents.
  • Additionally, the Problem Management service keeps records of problems and temporary solutions to be used by Incident Management personnel.

Capacity Management

Capacity Management oversees the performance, utilization, and capacity of infrastructure components in order to meet the client's service level targets.

  • It's important for Capacity Management to address the needs of business capacity, service capacity, and component capacity in order to ensure continued success.
  • Senior engineers must regularly review reports and alarm thresholds, considering the desired business outcomes and the impact of utilization on business operations, to make sure that evolving capacity needs are addressed in a timely manner.

Change Management

The objective of Change Management is to minimize the risk associated with alterations made to the supported infrastructure environment.

  • This involves identifying anticipated changes and determining how each change should be handled to minimize the impact on the organization.
  • The Change Advisory Board is responsible for reviewing and establishing policies for all of these changes. This board helps to mitigate risk by ensuring that all possible effects of the change have been taken into account, and a proper plan with a recovery process is in place.

Generally, processes and controls are focused on three types of changes:

  • Standard changes are routine and low-impact, such as resetting passwords.
  • Emergency changes are urgent and require immediate attention, such as rerouting network traffic when the primary WAN uplink at a regional office is unstable.
  • Normal changes are planned in advance and may include upgrading the operating system on a server cluster, for example. These changes will be managed through a review process to ensure proper planning.

What are the challenges of running a NOC?

NOCs often face a number of common challenges that keep them from performing optimally, which we’ve identified and summarized below. The next section addresses each of these with a best practice.

Challenge #1: Overutilized technology staff and high support costs due to the lack of a tiered organizational structure

Many NOCs need a tiered operational support structure to manage their workload efficiently. Such a structure consists of different levels of technicians with varying skills, who are tasked with different responsibilities and work within a defined process framework. Without it, all tasks fall on the same set of staff, leading to overutilization and higher costs. A tiered structure allows the lower-cost Tier 1 team to handle routine activities, freeing up higher-level teams for more advanced support issues.

Challenge #2: Insufficient operational metrics leading to blindness to issues and opportunities

Often, important metrics are not measured or not evaluated regularly. This leads to the early indicators of potential issues going unnoticed, resulting in more resource-intensive problems. A lack of metrics in areas like first-call resolution, percentage of abandoned calls, mean time to restore, and number of tickets and calls handled can be detrimental to the NOC’s efficiency and effectiveness.

Challenge #3: High turnover, low morale, and difficulties in hiring, training, and retaining staff due to a lack of staffing strategy

The absence of a staffing strategy can lead to high turnover rates, low morale among staff, and difficulties in attracting, training, and retaining top talent. This can negatively impact the overall functioning of the NOC. A staffing strategy should be based on the overall activity of the NOC, including the volume of calls, emails, and alarms handled, the duration of incidents, and utilization metrics. It should also include benefits, training, and employee growth plans.

Challenge #4: Inconsistent responsiveness to issues or difficulty troubleshooting due to poor/unstandardized process frameworks

When NOCs do not have a standardized and well-defined process framework in place, it becomes difficult for NOC personnel to respond quickly and effectively to issues. This leads to inconsistent responsiveness and difficulties in troubleshooting, which can result in longer resolution times and decreased customer satisfaction (as well as confusion and frustration among NOC staff, leading to low morale, high turnover, and difficulties in hiring and training new staff).  A framework provides specific procedures for handling various support situations using management frameworks such as MOF, FCAPS, and ITIL. The best place to start is with Incident Management, Problem Management, and service desk.

Challenge #5: A constant state of vulnerability due to a lack of a business continuity plan

Without a business continuity plan, the NOC will be unable to quickly and effectively respond to unexpected disruptions or emergencies, leading to prolonged downtime and decreased productivity. This can result in lost revenue, increased costs, and damage to the company's reputation.

Challenge #6: Recurring problems and an inability to emerge out of a reactive state due to a lack of quality management

NOCs often fail to implement effective processes for tracking and analyzing incidents, and for taking corrective action to prevent future incidents. Without a focus on quality management, the NOC is likely to be in a constant state of firefighting, with staff spending all their time reacting to problems and not enough time proactively addressing underlying issues. 

Challenge #7: Lots of data, but little actionable insight due to disparate tools and platforms

NOCs often struggle to consolidate event information from multiple sources into a single view for staff action. Without integration between tools, NOC staff must track multiple screens and manually collect information, leading to missed SLAs, operational inefficiencies, and staff stress.

Challenge #8: Persistent operational problems due to out-of-date documentation and runbooks

The NOC faces persistent operational problems due to out-of-date documentation and runbooks. The lack of proper documentation hampers the NOC's ability to resolve issues and optimizes performance. The root cause of poor documentation is often a lack of resources and expertise to create work instructions and processes, leading to an informal system of knowledge transfer through mentorship.

Challenge #9: Business growth stymied due to a rigid, unscalable NOC

Many NOCs aren’t designed to be scalable; that is, able to handle a growing amount of work as the company grows without compromising the level of service. Typically, business plans include initial funding, sales and marketing, system build-out, operations support, and the business guidance needed to meet the projected growth. What business plans sometimes don’t take into consideration are predictable growth and process planning. The ability to grow or absorb expansion requires careful consideration of staffing, systems and network, tools, process standardization, and training.

Challenge #10: Unreasonably high operational costs

Running a NOC comes with high operational costs, including staffing, training, resources for technology, and ongoing support. Neglecting any of these components can result in difficulty scaling and meeting organizational objectives, leading to unreasonable operational expenses.

What are some NOC best practices?

The following is a list of best practices that address each of the challenges listed in the previous section. All of these best practices are described in greater detail in our other guide.

Best practice #1: Implement a tiered organization/workflow

A tiered organizational structure can help ensure that tasks are handled efficiently and effectively, with the right people doing the right work at the right time. This can help to minimize response times, reduce errors, and ensure that critical issues are addressed quickly. Download our free white paper to learn more about implementing such a structure here.

Best practice #2: Track meaningful operational metrics

Tracking meaningful operational metrics can provide valuable insights into network performance and help identify areas for improvement. Metrics such as mean time to resolution (MTTR), service level agreement (SLA) compliance, and ticket volume can all help inform decision-making and drive continuous improvement. Read our metrics guide here.

Best practice #3: Develop a strategy for hiring, training, and retaining top talent

Hiring the right people is critical to the success of a NOC operation. A well-designed hiring strategy should focus on attracting, training, and retaining top talent, with an emphasis on technical and customer service skills. Read our staffing guide here.

Best practice #4: Implement a standardized framework for process management

A standardized framework for process management can help ensure consistency and efficiency in the NOC operation. This framework should include standard operating procedures (SOPs), workflows, and best practices for managing incidents, changes, and other common tasks. Download our free white paper to learn more about implementing a process management framework here.

Best practice #5: Develop and maintain a business continuity plan

A business continuity plan (BCP) is critical for ensuring that the NOC can continue to operate in the event of a disaster or other disruptive event. The BCP should include procedures for backing up and restoring data, protecting critical infrastructure and ensuring the safety of staff. Download our free white paper for a 5-step strategy you can use to implement a NOC BCP here.

Best practice #6: Develop an effective customer experience management program

A focus on customer experience can help ensure that customers are satisfied with the services provided by the NOC. This can involve regular customer feedback, continuous improvement initiatives, and an emphasis on responsive and proactive customer service. Learn more about our approach to customer experience management here.

Best practice #7: Develop platform integrations and consolidate data for action

By integrating data from various platforms and tools, the NOC can improve decision-making, speed up problem resolution, and increase efficiency. Consolidating data into a single source of truth can help ensure that the right information is available to the right people at the right time. Download our free white paper to learn more about developing platform integrations here.

Best practice #8: Develop platform integrations and consolidate data for action

Documentation is critical to the success of a NOC operation. This includes process documentation, technical documentation, runbooks with alarm-to-action guides, and training materials. Proper documentation can help ensure that the NOC runs smoothly and that staff are properly trained and equipped to perform their tasks. Take a look at the “anatomy” of an effective runbook here.

Best practice #9: Design your NOC operation for scalability

As an organization grows, its NOC operation may need to scale to meet new demands. A well-designed NOC operation should be scalable, flexible, and able to adapt to changing requirements. Download our free white paper to learn more about building a scalable support operation here.

Best practice #10: Budget your NOC operation appropriately

A well-funded NOC operation is critical to ensuring that the NOC has the resources it needs to be successful. This includes funding for staff, infrastructure, tools, and ongoing training and development initiatives. A well-designed budget can help ensure that the NOC is well-equipped to deliver high-quality services to customers. Download our free white paper to learn more about budgeting the costs of a NOC here.

What skills are required to run a NOC?

NOC engineers need a variety of skills to keep networks, infrastructures, and applications up and running. Diverse technical knowledge, including knowledge of various network technologies, cloud environments, server operating systems, virtualization, storage systems, and applications, is required to run the modern NOC. 

This demand for skilled human resources in a 24x7 environment can pose a considerable and often insurmountable challenge for many organizations, driving many to outsource this function.

In addition to these well-established skills needed in the modern NOC, innovations demand new types of skills. Machine learning and artificial intelligence in particular pose new challenges that don’t always lend themselves to time-tested best practices.

Even many seasoned NOC engineers, for example, haven’t dealt with networks becoming more “aware” of the traffic that runs through them. Developing skills that complement machine intelligence is just one example of the evolving challenges that those who work in the NOC will need to overcome.

Prioritizing NOC design (along with the right training programs and tools) to maximize your team’s capabilities from the start saves an incredible amount of expensive, labor-intensive work as the NOC comes to life. 

Understanding the required skill set early on can help you identify the correct staff to hire. It can also drive the selection of tools to manage the infrastructure over time. In addition, a rigorous, ongoing knowledge management and training program is important to ensure the entire NOC team is up to date on all changes made to the supported infrastructure.

5Taking the NOC to the Next Level

NOC engineer in red shirt

How does structure impact performance?

A strong NOC support infrastructure is essential for engineers and system administrators to perform well. Despite this, many organizations focus on hiring people rather than building a supportive infrastructure.

A well-organized NOC that has the right tools for each function can significantly increase efficiency and reduce costs. The structure of the NOC is perhaps the most crucial factor in determining its success.

The benefits of a structured NOC are most apparent when implemented in an environment where little to no structure previously existed.

Within weeks or months, response times decrease, and support activities migrate to appropriate tiers, which should look something like this:


This lightens the load on advanced engineers and enables the NOC to resolve issues more quickly and efficiently. A structured NOC typically results in 60% to 80% of all issues being addressed by Tier 1 staff, rather than involving advanced engineers in almost every issue.

What is the importance of effective Tier 1 NOC support?

Most organizations have higher-level specialist engineering staff but lack a 24x7 Tier 1 NOC. Based on our own internal data across our client base, we’ve discovered that approximately 65% (or more) of the time spent in supporting IT infrastructure can be accomplished at the Tier 1 level. These results are further validated by a recent benchmarking report of service desk practices reporting that 60% of incidents are resolved at first contact by front-line support personnel.

Industry studies show that the average hourly compensation for first-level support staff is $25, while second- and third-level support engineers earn an average of $50 an hour. That brings us to the central point: It’s neither productive nor cost-effective for expensive Tier 2/3 engineers to perform activities that can be handled by front-line or Tier 1 NOC support personnel.

An organization can cost-effectively improve its support function by utilizing a 24x7 Tier 1 NOC service to perform basic support activities that can be escalated to the Tier 2/3 support personnel only when necessary.

Here are the four central benefits of utilizing a 24x7 Tier 1 NOC service:

  • Reduced overall cost of delivering IT support. If 65% of IT support activity can be performed on a 24x7 basis by Tier 1 NOC personnel resources that cost considerably less than specialist Tier 2/3 resources, the overall cost of IT support delivery is lower.
  • Reduced Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR). By having a 24x7 NOC that follows a repeatable, standardized process for managing incidents, not only is the response time to an alarm lower, but the resolution process is repeatable and acted upon and escalated in a consistent, formal way.
  • Improved efficiency and utilization of higher-level (Tier 2/3) personnel. Interruptions in the form of support activity are a distraction to strategic projects performed by specialist engineers. Diverting resources off a project and re-engaging after interruptions results in productivity losses. Resource utilization is improved significantly by engaging the Tier 2/3 engineers appropriately when their specialist knowledge is needed.
  • Improved end-user (or customer) experience. By providing a 24x7 service desk, the NOC service ensures that incidents are detected, prioritized, and resolved around the clock. The end users are notified with a time to resolution. Thus, proactive management of the IT infrastructure results in a higher quality of support to the end user.

What are the considerations for building a 24x7 Tier 1 NOC?

The decision to utilize or build an internal NOC depends on a number of economic and strategic factors. The following elements represent the basic cost drivers required to run or build an internal NOC.

  • Volume of events, support requests, and incidents
  • Initial software and ongoing support
  • Initial server hardware and ongoing support
  • Implementation, customization, and integration of software
  • Systems and application engineers
  • NOC staffing requirements
    • Hours of coverage (for example, 24x7, 8-to-5)
    • Number of personnel needed per shift
  • Training costs
  • Miscellaneous costs
    • Disaster recovery site for redundancy
    • Office space, monitoring stations, telephone, network connectivity, and power

For organizations that cannot justify the high expense of setting up or operating an internal 24x7 NOC, it is economically feasible to outsource the Tier 1 NOC service to a qualified company. Outsourcing is a cost-effective option because of the inherent economies of scale that NOC service companies provide.

How are machine learning and automation being applied in the NOC?

As supported environments get larger and more complex, workloads are continuing to grow without a corresponding increase in the resources needed to manage them.

AIOps—Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations—plucks critical data points from the massive volumes of data generated across a typical IT environment and then marries that data with automation to act on it. Top-tier NOCs routinely apply automation to take on the repetitive, low-risk tasks that pull technical specialists away from more important (and frankly more exciting) work.

NOCs—including INOC—have also started arming themselves with vastly better data processing and machine learning power to augment and replace more—and more complex—manual tasks traditionally handled by humans.

Perhaps the most impactful recent advancement is AIOps-driven event correlation. NOCs can now let machines correlate event data much faster than humans ever could and identify the subtle indicators of approaching issues within a torrent of otherwise noisy data. The outcome can be measured in significantly faster and more proactive response rates—and thus, happier customers and end-users.

This combination of automation and machine learning brings the power and promise to genuinely transform how IT operations teams organize and operate. And as time goes on, automation will steadily continue to replace even more manual activities better suited for machines.

Below is a brief overview of the ways AIOps is being applied in the NOC. For an expanded discussion on this, read our other guide, which lays out our current capabilities and future plans for AIOps in the NOC.

  • Event Monitoring and Management — AIOps can collect data from various sources and analyze it to identify potential issues at machine speed. This reduces alert noise and helps prioritize alerts that require action, ultimately reducing the mean time to repair. Additionally, AIOps can correlate events with past configuration changes to enable faster and more reliable root cause determination.
  • Incident Management — AIOps can quickly surface the probable cause of an issue and allow a NOC engineer to confirm the analysis and data before implementing a plan for resolution. It can also automate responses, reducing resolution times for low-risk routine alerts. Additionally, AIOps can issue predictive alerts by correlating real-time event and performance data with past event data to identify developing problems before they require a reactive response.
  • Problem Management — Problem Management involves finding the root cause of an issue and a permanent solution to avoid similar incidents in the future. AIOps can help by providing intelligent analysis and ranking events by their relationship to the original alert, noting anomalies, and suggesting possible causes. This can streamline the Problem Management process and help NOC engineers to confirm the analysis, verify the data behind it, and develop a solution more easily and confidently. With access to multiple sources and massive amounts of data, AIOps can improve post-event root cause analysis and reduce the time and resources required for this task.
  • Change Management — AIOps can help automate Change Management by suppressing alarms during infrastructure maintenance events, and then automatically creating tickets if necessary after the maintenance window. AIOps can also provide deeper impact analysis by using relationship and topology data to understand how changes on one node may impact other nodes. By applying AIOps to historical change data, IT teams can get insights into the likely consequences before implementing a change and changes can be assigned risk scores to inform the decision to deploy them.

Here at INOC, we apply AIOps at strategic points in the NOC operations workflow to consolidate and process alarm and event data from all possible sources, helping the NOC better contextualize the impact on your infrastructure.

Download our free white paper—The Role of AIOps in Enhancing NOC Support—to learn how your NOC support stands to gain from AIOps by overcoming operational challenges and delivering outstanding service. Use the free included worksheet to contextualize the value of AIOps for your organization.

What additional support does the NOC need?

The NOC team provides support but also requires support in order to perform at its best—particularly at the enterprise or service provider level. To ensure successful NOC operations, both the NOC team and critical support teams must work together, especially in larger organizations with complex infrastructure. 

The INOC team, for instance, utilizes several roles and functions that encompass the initial service transition and customer experience management, among other things, which we explain in depth in this free white paper.


One of these roles is the service transition team, which sets outsourced NOC providers apart from in-house teams. This team ensures that the NOC team is set up for success by drawing on years of onboarding experience to ensure nothing is overlooked when the NOC begins to operate. The platform integration and development team supports NOC integrations with a range of client, third-party, SaaS, cloud, and OEM-specific systems, while the reporting team sets and evaluates daily, weekly, and monthly performance objectives.

Additionally, the quality control and assurance team enables the NOC to identify and resolve problems before they significantly impact the organization or customers. A well-managed quality control or service assurance program reduces the likelihood of recurring problems. Monthly and quarterly stakeholder service reviews ensure that customer expectations continue to be met.

6Outsourcing vs. In-House NOC

Hands typing on keyboard


Should I build a NOC or outsource it to an expert third-party service provider?

One of the biggest decisions companies make in building, expanding, or optimizing a NOC is whether it’s best to manage support in-house or outsource it to a third-party service provider.

Although some assume an in-house NOC affords greater control and is therefore preferred, the right outsourced NOC operation can offer a suite of capabilities and efficiency unlocks that dramatically tip the scale in terms of cost and value.

The control and assurance once afforded by keeping the NOC in-house have largely been upstaged by third-party service providers that have bridged those gaps and developed platform capabilities that simply wouldn’t be viable in-house investments due to low utilization.

With the same or better level of control and the significant cost-efficiencies gained by eliminating the need to build and maintain a platform and staff in-house, it’s vital for any company seriously considering an in-house NOC to carefully determine whether the added costs, effort, and responsibilities are worth it.

Here are three significant factors to consider when making such a decision:

  • Operational maturity and access to expertise — Building a NOC in-house requires finding specialists and developing an operational framework, which can take months or years and may be costly. In contrast, outsourcing a NOC can provide immediate service and access to expertise in a few weeks and be more cost-effective. As we mentioned earlier in this guide, to ensure an effective NOC, a sophisticated operational framework is necessary to navigate operational challenges, integrate back-office support teams, and unlock efficiencies. Without specialized expertise, operational blind spots can pose immediate and long-term challenges to network operations, and assumptions built on an incomplete picture can handicap the NOC from the outset.
  • Cost — Cost is a key factor in decision-making. Staffing a NOC can be costly compared to outsourcing, which can provide better service at a lower cost. Acquiring and integrating NOC tools is also expensive, and outsourcing is often more cost-effective. Outsourcing can cut the total cost of ownership in half, and there are additional cost savings beyond obvious expenditures. Unanswered cost questions can become expensive problems later.
  • Speed to market — In-house NOCs take a minimum of 16 to 24 weeks to plan, hire, train, and align operational plans. It can then take years to gain operational maturity, during which the NOC collects the data, technical capability, and supplementary support to improve itself. Finding and hiring qualified professionals to build a NOC can delay a project considerably.


Read our other guide—Outsourced NOC vs. In-House NOC: 3 Factors to Consider—for more insight into outsourcing or building a NOC.

A few key questions to consider

Here are a few questions for self-assessment to understand how much you stand to gain from outsourcing NOC support:

  • How would you rate your NOC’s overall service design and operation?
  • If you’re a service provider, have you implemented a service catalog detailing the services your NOC performs?
  • How would you characterize the utilization of your valuable technical resources?
  • Do you use service level management to set your service level agreements and service level objectives?
  • Do you report performance on a regular basis?
  • Do you track changes to your infrastructure and have a change review process?
  • When onboarding new components into your NOC, do you follow a process to review those changes and ensure they are consistent and accurate?
  • What percentage of issues does your Tier 1 response team currently handle, and how does that number make you feel?
  • Do you continually review incidents for opportunities to improve operations and tools?
  • Does your NOC have the appropriate support personnel to assist with process flow, technology, and improvements in responsiveness?

Talk with us

How does pricing work?

There are two primary pricing models for outsourced NOC service: fixed per-device pricing and adaptive operational pricing based on activity level over time.

  • Fixed per-device pricing is exactly what it sounds like. Devices are either categorized and priced by type, or, more generally, as a total number of “devices” or “nodes.”
  • Adaptive operational activity pricing is a more sophisticated pricing model that determines pricing based on the actual NOC activity levels measured across your supported infrastructure over time.

While the number of devices requiring monitoring and support is always a critical factor when pricing NOC service, in our view, it’s often an overly simplistic long-term pricing factor to be used on its own, except in specific circumstances.

Especially for companies outsourcing to avoid what would be an expensive, underutilized in-house NOC, adapting flat, all-inclusive service pricing that tracks with activity levels can significantly lower the overall cost of service while retaining the ability to project costs as you would with totally fixed per-device pricing.

Here at INOC, our NOC services are custom-priced based on a few key factors—the first being the volume of incidents handled or projected to be handled on a monthly basis. The second pricing factor is the size and composition of the infrastructure or number of devices within the supported environment. Pricing is also impacted by the nature of the integration work necessary to enable support from us. Get in touch with us to learn more.

Read our other guide—Outsourced NOC Pricing: A Buyer’s Guide—for a much deeper dive into the way NOC services are typically priced, and which model best suits your needs.

What are the various NOC support models available?

Support models may look different from one service provider to another. Here at INOC, our NOC support clients receive service through one of four models:

  • The Shared NOC Support model utilizes our team of over 100 staff to provide NOC support for hundreds of clients. This model offers clients a cost-effective alternative to hiring dedicated resources when low utilization and other factors can’t justify the cost of an in-house or dedicated team. Because the same team supports multiple clients, clients using this model must connect to our support platform.
  • In the Hybrid NOC Support model, our shared NOC team handles Tier 1 support activities, but we escalate to specific Tier 2 and 3 specialists that are partially or fully assigned to a specific partner or client for a given period of time—whenever those resources are needed. These advanced staff can use client-specific tools if needed or desired.
  • In the Dedicated NOC Support model, a team of NOC engineers “lives in” one partner’s or client’s tools all the time—solely supporting their environment within their environment. This model is most similar to a traditional IT staff augmentation model where staff are managed by our team but work exclusively with another organization’s tools and processes.
  • In the Designated NOC Support model, perhaps two or three partners or clients are supported by a single, dedicated team. This model is ideal for organizations that require or prefer dedicated resources but don’t have the activity volume to justify having a fully dedicated team all to themselves. This team can operate with the client’s tools, INOC’s tools, or a combination.

What should I look for in a NOC service provider if I choose to outsource?

A capable NOC service provider or partner needs to understand both the complex operational challenges that are keeping teams up at night and come prepared with a service catalog that takes on all or some of that work to meet service-level requirements. Most organizations need more than just basic support capabilities from a NOC. They need process engineers who can look at, and solve problems holistically.

While there are many things to look for in a NOC service provider, here are three that aren’t frequently talked about despite being critical:

1. A tiered organization/workflow – As we mentioned earlier, the structure is essential to the success of a NOC. Does a prospective NOC service provider bring this to the table? For example, here at INOC, our support framework typically reduces high-tier support activities by 60% or more, often as much as 90%.

2. A support system for the NOC itself — 24x7 support requires more than a fully staffed NOC. Each activity that surrounds NOC support, including onboarding, tools integration, and reporting (just to name a few), requires a dedicated team that can put experience and best practices to work for you. 

Again, success in NOC support is a combined effort between the NOC team and the critical teams supporting it. Here at INOC, for example, the INOC Team encompasses all of these roles and functions, giving you a complete support package from initial service transition to close-knit customer experience management (and everything in between).

3. A workflow enhanced by AIOps — Especially in enterprise or similarly complex environments where incidents and events need to be correlated across perhaps three, four, or five different monitoring platforms, successfully supporting multiple enterprise clients requires the advanced analysis and interpretation capabilities only AIOps can offer. 

As far as we know, we’re so far the only NOC support provider applying powerful AIOps capabilities to the NOC operations environment—consolidating and correlating data from disparate systems and providing remarkable intelligence for better, faster support.

4. A highly integrable support platform — Complex environments that require support for multi-vendor, multi-technology IT stacks need an outsourced NOC support partner who can augment and build on any current IT support capabilities with integrations without disrupting your operation.

Here at INOC, for example, our platform offers a wide array of existing system integrations developed over many years, as well as the flexibility to integrate with virtually anything you or your customers may use. Building a homegrown platform that’s integrable enough to connect to multiple enterprise environments is an incredibly difficult feat that would require extremely rare operational and technical expertise. 

Whether it’s a monitoring tool, ticketing system, or anything else, your NOC provider should have the knowledge, procedural flexibility, and platform capability to integrate with your customers’ operations and toolsets without creating new problems and risks.

5. A 24x7 service desk – The service desk is the single point of contact for you and your customers. All phone calls, emails, and other alerts are processed into incidents and requests before being dispatched to the appropriate personnel based on your desired level of technical support. 

Since enterprises and other large organizations need all kinds of support around the clock, it’s important to ensure your service provider has a 24x7 service desk for notification, Tier 1, or more advanced NOC support based on your specific needs.

6. A comprehensive and flexible approach to Service Level Management (SLM) — Complex support services often require more than standard SLAs. You or your customers should have the flexibility to choose which service levels reflect actual measures for success. Your NOC service provider should then help you assemble the SLM package that reflects the specific demands of your IT environment while balancing business goals and budget.

At INOC, for example, in addition to standard KPI reporting, which includes monthly SLA measurements, we deliver an array of additional SLOs to better measure performance and keep both teams aligned on success.

7. Continual service improvement delivered through a broader Customer Experience Management program – Enterprise customers demand the highest standards for quality support. Your support provider should be prepared to build out not just a NOC, but a support operation to continually improve it.

Here at INOC, for example, our dedicated quality control and assurance programs maintain proactive and reactive checks on virtually every service component we provide. These quality measures come together with next-level reporting capabilities to deliver the comprehensive Continual Service Improvement only an operationally mature IT organization can deliver on.

Here are a few questions to consider when assessing prospective NOC service providers:

  • Do they provide full-service 24x7 support?
    Is their NOC based in the United States or overseas?
  • Are NOC services this provider’s primary business, or is it supplementary to something else?
  • Do they offer both shared and dedicated support models—thereby enabling economies of scale or the dedicated resources we need?
  • Will their NOC platform integrate with our existing tools and infrastructure without forcing changes upon us or creating risk?
  • Can they demonstrate success in supporting organizations like ours?
  • Do they have an adequately comprehensive business continuity plan and redundancy in place?
  • Do they offer a robust client portal with convenient visibility into the state of our support?
  • Do they offer runbook development services and manage runbooks as a component of service?
  • Are alerts and escalations handled in a way that doesn’t disrupt our current operations
  • Do they offer a full service catalog?
  • Does their speed and effectiveness in detecting, diagnosing, and remediating issues reflect our needs?
  • Will they open and manage vendor and carrier tickets?
  • How fast can they establish service?
  • Is the outsourced NOC price fixed, tiered, or will it vary with usage?

Considering outsourced Support? Let’s Talk NOC.

Have questions? Want to learn more about building, optimizing, or outsourcing your NOC? Connect with us to take the first step in unlocking the full potential of your IT infrastructure and keeping it running 24x7.

Our NOC solutions enable you to meet demanding infrastructure support requirements and gain full control of your technology, support, and operations. Choose the appropriate next step below to get in touch with us or get the resources you need to inform your decision-making.

Book a free NOC consultation

Connect with an INOC Solutions Engineer for a free consultation on how we can help your organization maximize uptime and performance through expert NOC support.

Our NOC consultations are tailored to your needs, whether you’re looking for outsourced NOC support or operations consulting for a new or existing NOC. No matter where our discussion takes us, you’ll leave with clear, actionable takeaways that inform decisions and move you forward. Here are some common topics we might discuss:

  • Your support goals and challenges
  • Assessing and aligning NOC support with broader business needs
  • NOC operations design and tech review
  • Guidance on new NOC operations
  • Questions on what INOC offers and if it’s a fit for your organization
  • Opportunities to partner with INOC to reach more customers and accelerate business together
  • Turning up outsourced support on our 24x7 NOC

Contact us

Have general questions or want to get in touch with our team? Drop us a line.


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*Originally developed by the UK government’s Office of Government Commerce (OGC) - now known as the Cabinet Office - and currently managed and developed by AXELOS, ITIL is a framework of best practices for delivering efficient and effective support services.

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