Universities, government agencies, military facilities, DOE and DOD contractors, and telecommunications providers all use network operations centers (or NOCs). For these vital services, continuity of IT systems is essential. NOCs are intended to maintain this continuity. Companies or agencies that are too small for a NOC may outsource NOC services to an outside provider.
If you ever see a NOC, you’ll be forgiven if you think you’ve walked into NASA’s mission control center. NOC facilities are usually designed by audiovisual integration system specialists to blend integrate IT and audio visual technology. A video wall or other large screen audiovisual system provides the engineers providing NOC services with all the information they need to keep large or important networks running. Here are five circumstances that you hope you never experience, but you’ll be grateful you have NOC services if you ever do:
Weather can affect network operations in many different ways:
- Wind can cause power and Internet service outages
- Flooding can cause power outages and water damage
- Lightning can cause power surges and fire
NOC facilities do not need to be located with the network. That is, NOC services may be provided to remote managed systems from a location that is separate from the network. In fact, NOC services may be provided to many geographically disparate networks from a single NOC.
When dealing with weather events, a NOC proactively route services around the affected area and bring backup systems online to compensate for potential outages.
Denial of Service Attack
Denial of service (or DoS) attacks are particularly insidious because they do nothing more than overwhelm your network with traffic. The easiest solution is to cut off your network to outside access. However, this means that your network resources are unavailable to respond to bona fide requests.
NOC facilities are one way for responding to DoS attacks. Engineers can manually check connection request logs to try to pinpoint the source of the attack. Moreover, redundant or backup servers can be brought online to try to mitigate the effects of the attack. Unfortunately, DoS attacks can be difficult to deal with using automated tools. Fortunately, can be dealt with using NOC services and some elbow grease.
Hackers work around the clock to find information worth stealing and ways to steal it. NOC facilities can work around the clock to monitor your networks for intrusions and prevent or mitigate breaches.
Although 80% of companies that use cloud services see improvements within their IT departments within six months, cloud services do have a dark side in the form of data intrusions and hacking. Ideally, monitoring services provided by a NOC would detect unusual activity that might indicate the work of malware inside the network or an outside attempt to hack the network. In the event that an attempt to breach the network has been detected, the NOC can leap into action to stop the intrusion. Again, this often requires human intervention to analyze the intrusion and find a way to stop it.
One of the most important routine tasks that NOCs provide is monitoring the network and providing real time traffic management to prevent or resolve service outages. Network performance issues, such as hardware issues, software bugs, and problems with communications lines, can cause slowdowns in the network.
Similarly, a natural increase in network traffic due to, for example, public events, holidays, or emergencies, can tax bandwidth and may require additional resources to be brought online to help keep the network up and running. Having live technicians who can exercise their expertise to identify the problem and develop a solution can be the difference between a major service outage and a minor slowdown.
Two characteristics of catastrophes are that they are unpredictable and cannot be stopped. However, their effects can be addressed and mitigated.
Catastrophes can take many forms:
- Natural catastrophes: These can be highly localized, such as a wildfire that knocks out electricity or a flood that damages some network servers. They can also affect entire countries, or multiple countries, such as a tsunami, earthquake, or volcanic eruption.
- Man made catastrophes: These can be directed at communications and network infrastructure, such as terrorism or a state-sponsored attack. They can also be accidental and untargeted, such as a nuclear power plant meltdown.
Regardless of the underlying cause, the benefit of NOC services is that experts are on call exercise their judgment to react and address problems in real time.