This post about the Help Desk and NOC was initially published on CX Expert. It has been updated to reflect current market trends and information.
Perhaps, there is no other obstacle that causes more concern to managed services providers than how they are going to manage, monitor and provide services to their clients. For companies that are getting into managed services or cloud, one obstacle must be tacked. This obstacle is what you will do about your help desk and NOC. You must determine the best practices to follow, the cost, and many other essential things.
Origin of the NOC
The help desk and NOC is the heart of managed services providers. It is capable of providing redundancy, physical security and an area that is secure for collaboration for technicians to be able to manage and monitor customer environments.
Every managed service provider (MSP) service delivery model needs the NOC. However, many people don’t know where the idea of the NOC came from and how the early MSPs came to rely on them. With the advent of cloud computing and other business process and technological advances, it is essential to know how different factors influenced the NOC for the cloud provider and MSP today.
The idea of the NOC is not new – it has been around for a very long time. Initially, it was a creation of telecommunications, and it was used to monitor and manage telecommunications networks. Technicians sit and receive information in real-time inside the NOC. The NOC’s physical configuration allows for an intimate, secure and safe place for technicians to collaborate and discuss with other technicians on issues and problems that would otherwise be unsafe or unsuitable around other non-approved personnel.
MSPs came into existence in the mid-1990s. During this time, nearly all companies had a business plan. The plan included a 27/7 operational NOC that was physically secure from which to deliver their managed services. These configurations, procedures, and tools used in each of the MSPs were different, but the presence of the physical NOC was an essential and consistent characteristic.
The Help Desk and its Importance
A lot of people confuse the terms help desk and NOC when they serve two different and vital functions. The main reason behind the confusion is easy to understand when you look back at how they both came into being and how they have been split apart gradually in modern time managed services conditions.
We have already discussed the role of NOC, but it is important to look at how the help desk fits in the equation. Older NOCs have the help desk integrated into them to maximize the benefits of security, redundancy and collaborative work environments. The simplest and easiest way of distinguishing and defining the two models is system-based work, and the NOC performs network around the management and monitoring of objects that are under management with the MSP. On the other hand, the help desk is more responsible for interfacing with end-users, and it is also a customer-facing department. It helps to respond to problems and get solutions.
It is easy to see why the two areas seem to be similar. Each company should make these choices on their own, but it is important to understand that there is a difference between the two and they service unique and important functions within managed services practice.
The Interaction Between the Help Desk and the NOC
Now that we know the difference between help desk and the NOC, we must look at how they should interact with each other in managed services practices. It is important to acknowledge that there are different ways in which help desk and the NOC interact and co-exist.
Helpdesk Existing Within the NOC
Having a help desk and a NOC should be evident. All MSP’s logical and physical security controls can be addressed in one physical space. The physical access to workstations, how technicians log in to systems belonging to clients and change management are important to control and can be monitored effectively and be enforced if the NOC has the help desk residing into it.
There are more configurations where the MSP can create an entire floor of their work premises, where the help desk teams and the NOC teams work, complete with secure access, albeit in sections within the secure area. The main purpose of mingling the help desk and the NOC is to take advantage of the process efficiencies and security. If you take the security of your operation into account in the same way, there is no need to build out different facilities. Instead, you can just build it once.
There are many other benefits to have the configuration. Any interaction between the help desk and the NOC is naturally easier when they are both located within the same secure area. This can help with redundancy, and the continuity of the business plans should anything happen to the facility.
The Help Desk Existing Outside the NOC
In larger MSP environments, you will find the help desk outside the NOC. This is common, but it will depend on your unique situation. In most cases, you will find large companies with the help desk located outside the NOC because the help desk team won’t fit within the NOC. Typically, MSPs that need to have multi-time zone help desks or multilingual helpdesk do not manage the MSP centrally, but they have several help desk facilities that are located in different locations.
It is not always needed to build full NOC around all the help desk areas. Therefore, help desks exist outside the NOC. Regardless of how you operate and configure your NOC and help desk, there should be enough controls that deal with how the two elements in your business interact with one another. There should be documentation on the handling of trouble tickets, the handling of the connectivity within the MSP and how the redundancy of power is handled within the MSP organization to maintain operational effectiveness.