Ryan Stickel

By: Ryan Stickel on May 11th, 2023

Print/Save as PDF

What is the Difference Between a SOC and a NOC?


You probably hear many names or terms when working with your IT company. You may have heard the acronyms SOC and NOC. These sound pretty similar, but what do the acronyms stand for? What is the function of each? And, most importantly, if you have services provided by a NOC or SOC, what do those services include, or not include?

If you’re having trouble differentiating the two or aren’t sure what either is, no worries! Let’s walk through SOC and NOC and see what the difference between the two is.

This article will use Innovative’s SOC and NOC as an example. Not everyone’s SOC and NOC will be the same as ours. Keep that in mind when reading this article and ask your service provider questions about their offering.

We’ll also add that this is a high-level overview of each. We’ll try our best not to get too into the weeds, as this topic could get very technical very fast. Now, let’s get into it.

What is a SOC?

A SOC (Security Operations Center) is the people, process and technology that continuously monitor (and, in some cases, react to) security issues for a business. It’s typically staffed 24/7/365 by highly trained security professionals who evaluate information generated by logs and other tools.

What is a NOC?

A NOC (Network Operations Center) is a group of people and processes that monitor and troubleshoot critical elements of servers and networks, including hardware and performance. The NOC works behind the scenes to ensure everything is up to speed and functioning correctly.

People who work in the NOC don’t go out in the field, but they do alert the proper teams to issues that need their attention and the solutions they should use to remediate them. In addition, the NOC catches problems that might not be noticeable to an end user.

Plenty of issues might affect a device that the end user can recognize, and for that, they’ll notify the help desk. The NOC keeps an eye on functionality behind the scenes, hopefully addressing problems before the end user experiences noticeable symptoms of the issue.

What does the SOC do?

The primary goal of the SOC is to prevent the spread of any cyber threats or attacks. At Innovative, we leverage a SOC staffed by our partners at Solutions Granted. Their SOC and our NOC work collaboratively to help keep client networks secure.

Usually, the SOC will detect a potential security issue and alert us. From there, the NOC will go in and remediate, sometimes receiving guidance from the SOC. This collaborative effort exists because of the expertise on both sides, the SOC being cybersecurity and the NOC being our clients’ networks.

We outsource support to the SOC for a couple of reasons. One is that they can provide 24/7/365 monitoring and support. The other is because the job has a specific scope: cybersecurity. Our NOC is a group of specialists focused on network and server infrastructure, not cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important in the world of technology, and it helps to have dedicated security specialists monitoring our clients.

What does the NOC do?

The primary goal of the NOC is to prevent worst-case scenarios by proactively monitoring networks. It’s the nerve center of monitoring that can catch potential issues before they become actual issues.

For example, if there is a failing disc in an end user’s device, the NOC will be alerted to that through our monitoring software. They will then inform the end user and get their approval for the new part.

Had the NOC not caught this issue, the disc would have failed, putting added pressure on the rest to perform, leading to issues or downtime for the end user.

Innovative’s NOC

Innovative monitors and supports over 100 client networks, which means our operations team needs to be able to work efficiently. In addition to traditional NOC functions, our NOC works with our technical standards team to create processes that make sure apps play nicely with one another, ensuring efficiency and consistency across all our managed networks.

This goes to show that not all NOCs are the same. We emphasize these app integrations to ensure the alerts we receive are all actionable — without the false alarms. This ensures we can target and react to alerts more confidently instead of wasting time confirming they’re legitimate. Other managed service providers might not do this. That’s not to say they are worse; it just shows that some operate differently.

What is the difference?

The main difference between the SOC and the NOC is their focus. The SOC is the specialist focused on security, and the NOC is the generalist focused on overall network health.

While the two entities work together to solve problems, they both have different skill sets with defined roles. The reason they both exist is the same reason you wouldn’t hire the same person to be your security guard and your maintenance person.

The SOC and NOC are great examples of how technology should interact. Yes, they are two separate groups with different focuses, but at the same time, they need to be able to communicate and work together to ensure everything runs smoothly.

NOC vs. SOC Services

Every MSP structures its services a little differently. At Innovative, every standard managed services contract includes what we call “flat rate support and monitoring.” This is essentially an outsourced NOC. While some of the work that the NOC does, patch management for example, is essential for maintaining a minimum level of network security. The service provided by the NOC is intended to maintain basic network functionality, not security. This service is essential to keep your network up-to-date and functional but isn’t actively looking for or solving security issues.

To proactively address security vulnerabilities, you’ll need to add a specific cybersecurity service. Innovative’s “cybersecurity essentials” service includes a managed detection and response (MDR) service supported by our SOC. And “cybersecurity advanced” includes the MDR/SOC plus a vulnerability management service provided by our SOC. Our SOC also provides other customized and advanced security services, but we’ve found these two packages meet the need of most managed services clients.

A Better Understanding

We hope you’re leaving this article with a better understanding of what a SOC and NOC are, but remember that this was a high-level overview of the two.

A lot goes into both services and their operations, but we’ll spare you some of that technical jargon. It’s a little too in-depth for the purpose of this article.

If you’re on the outside looking in and trying to decide whether these are services you want, keep in mind that not all services are created the same and that specific offerings will work better for certain businesses.

Schedule your free cybersecurity network scan