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Network Operations Center vs Security Operations Center: How to choose a mature security solution

Within a large enterprise’s IT organisation, there are two separate groups that focus entirely on safeguarding the critical IT assets: NOC and SOC. Smaller organisations might not be able to resource both NOC and SOC teams. In order to best decide what you need, you may want to know what the difference is between the two, as well as what they are charged with protecting, their relevant security role, and which of the two should be your priority.

They both have different roles to play, and the right one for your business depends entirely on your organisation’s unique circumstances.

Nexon Asia Pacific /
Cybersecurity

The key differences between NOC and SOC
As far as the end-user is concerned, the impact that both the NOC and SOC have on a business can feel similar; they both keep the IT lights on. In reality, what they actually do is completely different, and with very little cross-over.

The SOC’s principal focus is on information and data security. It identifies anything that might threaten the security of your organisation’s data and IT environment. The SOC’s job is to monitor and analyse the IT environment, and, when an abnormality is detected, the SOC moves quickly to escalate, determine the nature of the threat, and then address it.

The NOC, meanwhile, keeps an eye on the network itself. The team ensures that the networking environment is meeting its performance and availability requirements. If the network is performing inefficiently, the NOC’s job is to determine why. There is still a security element to what the NOC does, but this exists in the context of a function that focuses purely on operating your network smoothly. In practice, the role of the NOC is considered to be operational, while the SOC is seen to have a strategic business impact. In this way, the operation and management of both groups is different.

Are the NOC and SOC both important?
The NOC provides a general security function to the company, and is typically outsourced to a managed provider. Typically, a NOC will assist with implementing security hardware and software, managing them through a Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) solution.

When a NOC is working well, you’ll never even be aware of their presence. The most they’ll be called on is to manage a password reset. Behind the scenes, however, the NOC will be preventing prolonged downtime, malware from infecting the network, and addressing poor network functionality (which you will experience as slow Internet speeds). In the event of a disaster, the NOC can be called on to assist with complex issues such as disaster recovery and backup restores.

In comparison, SOCs tend to be more hands-on and visible within the organisation. Their role is to prevent and respond to cyber security incidents. This highly specialised field means that where a NOC will also be managing uptime, data backups, and hardware upgrades, a SOC focuses entirely on monitoring and developing security strategy.
Both have a role to play. The right option depends very much on your kind of business.

Which is right for my business?
If your company is less reliant on 24/7, high speed computing, then a SOC might be the ideal solution. You might be able to tolerate a short outage or a slower Internet speed, but every business has sensitive data that it can’t afford to have compromised, and the SOC is better-positioned to handle that.

Likewise, if you’ve got an IT team, but they’re being overwhelmed, the NOC might be the wiser third-party support to call in. In remaining focused on the single issue of security, the SOC frees the internal IT team to focus on the rest of the environment.

Given that it’s a risk to leave your security to an IT employee who isn’t an expert, this means that outsourced SOC teams are often of greater appeal to smaller organisations that don’t have the resources to set up an internal SOC team of their own. Australia needs an additional 17,000 cybersecurity workers by 2026; that kind of skills gap means that setting up an internal SOC organisation will be expensive and difficult to retain.

The NOC, meanwhile, is a boon for your business if you can’t afford downtime. An online retailer during a big sale, for example, or a company with 24/7 operations around the world relies on uptime as the foundation of their business. For example, when Amazon experienced a 40-minute outage a few years ago, it lost $5 million in revenue in just that time period. Businesses that are in constant operation lose around 545 hours of productivity every year.

Preventing your business from experiencing these kinds of outages is where the NOC comes in. Additionally, the NOC is the best choice for ongoing monitoring and response. A SOC team (unless in specific cases) will operate 24 hours a day 7 days a week. A NOC team will typically be charged with meeting an uptime requirement (a SLA of 99.99% or 99.999%). Hackers will often aim to target an environment after hours, when they think that the defences will be weaker, and therefore the NOC is often the first line of defence.

Making the final decision
In practice, your business will benefit from both, and most businesses that reach a certain size should have both. The NOC and SOC are complementary and collaborative in nature, and whether outsourced or internally resourced, both will support the internal IT team by allowing them to focus on other matters.

If you only have the resources for one, the best way to summarise the decision is this. The NOC is a general support function, and will manage IT infrastructure, provide general support to the IT team, and have a security function. They are capable of handling some of the mechanics of a SOC team, and can certainly document and report on incidents as a SOC team will. The SOC team has a narrow field, and won’t be able to offer general support as the NOC does. What a SOC focuses on, security, is so essential that most businesses will want dedicated resources looking after it.
When considering the role of the NOC or SOC, choosing the right solution is critical to your business’ health and ongoing operation. For more information, or to discuss which solution might best bolster your business, reach out to a Nexon expert today.