What is Network Operations? & Best Practices
Network Operations refers to the activities performed by internal networking staff or third parties that companies and service providers rely on to monitor, manage, and respond to alerts on their network's availability and performance. Staff that have primary responsibilities for network operations are often called network operations analysts or network operations engineers.
A Network Operations Center, often called a NOC (pronounced "knock"), is typically a centralized location where the network operation staff provides 24x7x365 supervision, monitoring, and management of the network, servers, databases, firewalls, devices and related external services. This infrastructure environment may be located on-premises and/or with a cloud-based provider.
Some key Network Operation activities are:
- Network monitoring
- Incident response
- Communications management (Email, voice, & video)
- Performance, quality, and optimization reporting
- Software/firmware installation, troubleshooting and updating of network elements
- Patch management
- Backup and storage
- Firewall management
- Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) and other security tool deployment and monitoring, in collaboration with Security Operations
- Threat analysis and blast radius analysis in collaboration with Security Operations
Challenges Facing Network Operations
Because of the complexities involved with today's networks and services, especially in light of the adoption of cloud-based infrastructure and SaaS applications, there are many challenges that network operations staff face not only associated with having a thorough understanding of the technology itself, but in maintaining streamlined communications access between all those involved.
Some key network operation challenges include:
- Lack of collaboration/coordination across teams
- Fast pace of change in the cloud and dynamic resource orchestration means that documentation is usually not up-to-date for troubleshooting problems
- Troubleshooting is time consuming because it often involves correlating data across multiple devices and tool sets and requires manual processes to arrive at sound diagnoses
- Many disparate tools from different vendors in use that may require staff work with different technologies, low-level utilities and Command Line Interfaces (CLI)
- Problems arise and then disappear by the time all information is collected that is necessary for troubleshooting
- Escalation to more senior staff is required frequently to assess root causes
Network Operations Best Practices
Well run network operations teams embrace a variety of tried-and-true best practices. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Continuously monitoring a wide variety of information and network systems that include communications circuits, cloud resources, LAN/WAN systems, routers, switches, firewalls and VoIP systems and application delivery.
- Providing timely response to all incidents, outages and performance issues.
- Categorizing issues for escalation to appropriate technical teams.
- Recognizing, identifying and prioritizing incidents in accordance with customer business requirements, organizational policies and operational impact.
- Collecting and reviewing performance reports for various systems, and reporting trends in performance to senior technical personnel to help them predict future issues or outages.
- Documenting all actions in accordance with standard company policies and procedures.
- Notifying customer and third-party service providers of issues, outages and remediation status.
- Working with internal and external technical and service teams to create and/or update knowledge base articles.
- Performing basic systems testing and operational tasks (installation of patches, network connectivity testing, script execution, etc.).
- Supporting multiple technical teams in 24x7 operational environments with high uptime requirements. Varied shift schedules may include day or evening hours.
Out of this list of best practices, today's staff is more likely to focus on network performance versus application availability. But application availability and performance is key to driving business goals for enterprises and service providers. The shift of applications to the cloud will be the key driver in network operations spending more time on application availability and performance going forward. Specifically, network operations teams will need to ensure internal and external networks and services do not impede application availability but instead accelerate its delivery.
Network Intelligence technology addresses many of the challenges associated with the pursuit of network operations best practices. To assure optimal network and application performance, network operations teams need detailed and accurate network path visibility, along with routing and application layer data. For more information on how Network Intelligence can help network operations fulfill their roles, explore the Network Intelligence page.