Enhance NOC Alerts With Incident Management and Alert Automation
In a network operations center (NOC), alerts originating from hundreds of servers, application monitoring systems, emails and ticketing services compete to catch a NOC analyst’s attention.
NOCs face many challenges in parsing through alerts to identify actionable notifications and mobilize the right response team into action.
In this post, we’ll explore how to empower NOCs with an incident alert management solution to facilitate operations and keep an organization’s digital estate functioning 24/7/365.
This blog will cover:
- What is a NOC?
- NOC team responsibilities
- Challenges faced by NOCs
- Modernizing NOCs
- How OnPage can help NOCs
What Is a NOC?
A NOC, also known as a “network management center,” is a physical location where technicians monitor and maintain an organization’s network infrastructure. Networks consist of servers, computers, mobile devices and application infrastructures that power a firm’s digital operations.
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What Are the Responsibilities of NOC Technicians?
NOC technicians are responsible for maintaining network availability by monitoring for scenarios that may lead to service disruption. They must be skilled at detecting system issues, identifying potential red flags and mobilizing the right response teams.
NOCs gather the appropriate resources to manage an incident and facilitate incident communication across the response team. NOCs must also maintain an updated knowledge base via comprehensive documentation and reporting.
Challenges Faced by NOC Engineers
NOC teams are measured by how quickly they detect and resolve network issues. To achieve high productivity levels, engineers must take shifts in monitoring networks and emails to ensure full coverage. They may even deploy artificial intelligence (AI) tools to detect network issues and orchestrate preemptive measures to keep systems up and running.
Advancements aside, NOCs still face impediments that prevent them from carrying out their tasks successfully. Three major issues faced by NOC technicians include:
1. Alert Noise
Technicians receive alerts from monitoring tools, help desk tickets, phone calls and AI systems. As NOC alerts pile up, it becomes difficult to distinguish real alerts from “noise” (false-positive notifications). Alert noise desensitizes engineers to the point that critical alerts are overlooked or wrongly classified as false positives. If technicians are left to manually parse through alerts to determine priority levels, it can lead to missed critical alerts and system downtimes.
2. Alert Volumes
Using monitoring tools to improve a firm’s network uptime and availability has its implicit downsides. The high volume of NOC alerts originating from monitoring tools contribute to alert fatigue, especially during the pandemic where a substantial portion of business is managed online. NOCs are pressured to remain responsive 24/7 to any network-related issue.
One of the key challenges that NOC technicians face are prolonged incident response times. Technicians monitor systems and coordinate with response teams but are not expected to have knowledge on the networks. Thus, they may face challenges in gathering and mobilizing the right resources when complex issues arise in the systems. This issue is exacerbated by ever-changing IT ecosystems, resources and technologies.
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Modernizing NOCs: Bringing Automation to the Mix
When networks go down or when there’s availability issues, NOCs can’t afford to lose valuable time manually orchestrating incident teams. It is crucial that NOC technicians reduce the time it takes to communicate and collaborate with relevant teams.
Automated solutions, such as OnPage’s incident alert management system, can help NOCs identify and resolve incidents faster. OnPage enhances NOC operations in six ways:
1. Introducing Real-Time NOC Alerting
OnPage improves system uptime and availability by empowering NOCs with effective means of communication and collaboration. When NOCs receive incident notifications, they dispatch high-priority alerts to the right on-call specialist. Supported by well-defined OnPage hierarchies, escalation policies and fallback systems, NOCs can rest assured that their alerts will be acknowledged by the appropriate specialist.
2. Improving the Real Alert-to-Noise Ratio
In time-sensitive situations, technicians can’t lose valuable minutes weeding out real alerts from the noise. If NOCs are channeling their energy in parsing noise, they are essentially losing their focus from real incidents.
The OnPage solution can be configured to only alert NOCs of real critical incidents. OnPage delivers intrusive, persistent high-priority mobile alerts when an incident occurs. Automated priority alerting allows technicians to address and resolve urgent issues promptly.
3. Keyword-Based Alerting
NOCs that receive incidents via tickets can use keyword-based alerting to enhance their workflows. With OnPage’s alert automation capabilities, NOCs can trigger contextual, intelligent mobile alerts based on words or phrases found in tickets. If a string or word matches pre-set conditions, a NOC alert is triggered and sent to a NOC responder. If conditions are not met, the on-call NOC staff will not be disturbed.
4. Digital Scheduling
Based on digital schedule configurations, OnPage only alerts the assigned or tasked on-call engineer. OnPage’s digital scheduler helps create an equitable, balanced workload for NOC analysts. On-call schedules can also be used to create rotations or “turns” for system specialists.
5. Managing Contacts via a Centralized Contact Management System
Before alert automation tools, technicians would rummage through Excel sheets, Google docs and physical notes to get to the right specialist on call.
Today, network management centers require systems that allow them to reach specialists promptly. OnPage offers a centralized contact management system that consolidates organization-wide contacts. The system enhances team coordination and allows NOCs to quickly select and alert the desired contacts.
6. Keeping Stakeholders Informed
When an incident occurs, it affects many stakeholders in an organization. NOCs can use BlastIT, OnPage’s mass notification platform, to automatically disseminate situational reports (SITREPS) to stakeholders. Broadcasting timely updates eases down the situation and allows teams to do their jobs effectively.
How OnPage Helps NOC Teams Keep Systems On
Intelligent alerting solutions, such as OnPage, eliminate the need for constant monitoring of networks and emails. OnPage provides an “Alert-Until-Read” mobile application that triggers loud, intrusive push notifications to an engineer’s smartphone. OnPage alerts can also be sent to email, SMS and phone call so incidents are never missed and always addressed.
By empowering NOC teams with a powerful alerting solution, organizations can improve system uptime and availability.