So what are you going to do differently in 2022 to enhance your MSP business? What is your end-of-year strategy?
How about improving your network operations center (NOC) services? Perhaps you don’t have the funding needed to implement one from scratch or enhance your existing one. Have you ever considered outsourcing your NOC services? Yeah, it’s a tough decision. You’re entrusted with your clients’ critical and sensitive data, making security a top priority, while other areas like business continuity and network management are close behind. Thus, there’s a lot riding on your shoulders – above all, your company’s integrity. So you’re hesitant to partner with an unknown NOC provider.
To help you make this vital decision, here is some valuable guidance that covers the key benefits to outsourcing, the downsides to doing so, and the necessary questions to ask a prospective NOC service provider.
Outsourced NOC Services: Five Key Benefits
An appropriate NOC service provider can positively impact your business and your clients in the following ways:
Cost savings: Creating and maintaining your own NOC can prove expensive, including a large initial financial outlay that you may not have. Other costs entail keeping up with technological changes like monitoring tools, hiring and maintaining specialists to provide the needed expertise to man the operation, etc. Outsourcing will eliminate this daunting financial headache.
Time savings: Your IT staff will have more time to focus on other tasks without worrying about surprise network issues, mediation, and troubleshooting. A reputable NOC service provider will alert your staff of any problems that it can’t handle. This will improve the productivity of your staff and organization, leading to an increase in your revenue.
Individualized Client Attention: Related to the time savings above, outsourcing allows you to give your clients special attention, especially for those with unique IT system needs. For instance, these needs may require customized run books. Time is required to develop those specifications. A good NOC service provider will have the time to create customized run books that your team may not have.
Rapid Scalability: As your business grows, your infrastructure needs will evolve. An outsourced NOC can rapidly respond to your changing needs, accommodating necessary growth and support new business initiatives. An outsourced partner can speed your time-to-market as you bring new services and products to customers.
Retain Your Reputation: If you already have a solid track record of being a reliable, high-performing MSP, then choosing the right NOC service provider will keep that reputation intact. If you’re a new MSP, then the right candidate will help you quickly establish a reputation that will garner you more clients and more revenue.
Two Key Downsides
Helping in your decision-making process is that there are only a few reasons why outsourcing your NOC services may not be a good idea.
Finding the “One”: As with any relationship, finding the right partner is the biggest challenge. Your candidate must be a true partner and not just another vendor on your roster. Additionally, like any partner, they must not only satisfy your current needs, but they must also be able to support your long-term goals for the future. Only time will tell. You can only hope that the chosen provider will prove to be a reliable and successful partner. You don’t want this keeping you up at night.
Lack of Control: What level of control and participation are you are willing to surrender in the running of the NOC? This regards the deployment models your outsourced NOC service provider can offer. A good one will be flexible with a sharing of responsibilities and give you some level of visibility and control over their activities.
Grill the Prospect: 10 NOC Outsourcing Questions MSPs Should Ask
You don’t need a dark room with a swinging lightbulb overhead to identify an appropriate NOC service provider. But you must be armed with these 10 key questions:
Do you provide 24x7x365 live telephone access to a qualified engineer? In a typical NOC, technicians are not commonly available for live calls: rather, they work behind the scenes and use an intermediary to handle communication. Be sure that your candidate can fulfill this requirement.
Do you work in tiers or provide full incident management?Some NOCs may use a standard run book to determine in-scope actions for troubleshooting, fault detection, etc. Then the ticket is sent back to the customer, leading to possible unexpected overages in your bill. Rather than working in tiers, the full incident management team creates a workaround solution to overcome the issue as quickly as possible so the affected network can continue operating normally.
Are you SOC 2 Certified?Having SOC 2 certification ensures they securely manage your data to protect the interests of your organization and the privacy of your clients. With security being a top priority, SOC 2 compliance is a minimal requirement when considering an NOC.
Will you sign BAAs for HIPAA clients?If compliance with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), Payment card industry (PCI), or General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) is important, you need a service provider with the tools and certifications to handle it. Ask if the NOC candidate offers a service-level agreement (SLA) and a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) that guarantees the compliance you require.
Do you have a detailed and comprehensive onboarding process?Onboarding (the process of incorporating a new service or solution into the existing environment of an MSP) can be complicated because it involves communicating with multiple vendors to ensure that everyone’s on the same page. A good NOC candidate will make sure all hardware and software in use by the MSP and its customers are integrated. The entire process must also touch on essential processes such as incident management and escalation.
Do you perform quarterly business reviews or conduct bi-weekly or monthly service reviews?Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) are vital to your success. QBR or biweekly/monthly review meetings can include, among other items, recaps of big wins and losses, service ticket reviews, endpoint management, and infrastructural future needs and goals. They are terrific opportunities when both parties can discuss strategy and results.
Do you have a full team and a single point of contact?There are advantages to having access to each member of the NOC team, but having a single point of contact (SPOC) brings discipline and consistency to the support process. Also, a SPOC model typically means lower costs. A SPOC is not expected to resolve every ticket it logs but can be a facilitator and coordinator of the entire end-user support process.
How do you build efficiencies?This depends on the candidate’s structured operational processes. Building a table of escalation (to ensure all team members are clear on the proper protocol and channels for escalating issues) and understanding the prioritization of incidents in terms of their business impact can help foster NOC efficiency. To ensure you’re selecting a proactive NOC, the candidate should have the ability to work on problem management alongside ongoing incident management (minimizing ticket volume).
Do you provide detailed reporting?A fervent NOC creates reports on a daily and monthly basis. Detailed reporting keeps your IT department and shift leaders informed about the NOC activities and of major incidents. Compiling these daily reports into a monthly report will help you measure the team’s progress and reveal areas of improvement.
What is your escalation path?A high escalation rate means clients are not pleased with the resolution at the SPOC level; they may want someone at a higher level within the NOC to resolve the complaint. To maintain a reasonable escalation path, a table of escalation should be retained to ensure that all team members know the proper protocol and channels for escalating issues.
The right answers will help you make the right decision when you face the question of whether to outsource your NOC services.