The Differences Between the NOC and the SOC
A Network Operations Center (NOC) and a Security Operations Center (SOC) are both teams that are tasked with ensuring that the organization’s network is functioning properly. A NOC is primarily responsible for ensuring that the corporate IT infrastructure meets service level agreements (SLAs) and is capable of sustaining normal business operations. A SOC, on the other hand, focuses on protecting the network against cyber threats.
These two teams have similar tools and techniques required to do their jobs. However, they also differ in a few crucial ways.
A NOC’s focus is on the performance of an organization’s IT infrastructure. NOC engineers will perform monitoring of endpoints and network infrastructure and attempt to identify issues and make changes to make the organization’s network ecosystem run more efficiently and effectively.
A SOC’s focus, on the other hand, is solely on security. While it may perform much of the same network and endpoint monitoring as the SOC, it is looking for evidence of potential cybersecurity incidents, not performance issues. SOC-driven network upgrades and redesigns will be focused on improving visibility and the prevention, detection, and response to cyberattacks.
Required Skill Sets
A NOC and a SOC analyst both need to share certain skill sets and knowledge. In both cases, the analyst needs to have an understanding of the technology that they are working with – the network infrastructure, endpoints, etc. – and how to differentiate between normal and anomalous operations.
However, beyond this baseline knowledge SOC and NOC analysts specialize in different things. A NOC analyst will focus on identifying and remediating situations where something is causing degraded performance or outages in the system. They also will specialize in best practices for optimizing network infrastructure and how endpoints function.
A SOC analyst, on the other hand, will be focused solely on the security of the system. While they need to be able to identify abnormal behavior, the goal is to use these anomalies to detect potential attacks in progress. SOC analysts’ specialist knowledge will center on the different types of attacks that an organization may experience, triaging and investigating security alerts, and best practices for remediation.
A major difference between NOC and SOC analysts is the adversaries that they are facing. While both of them deal with incidents that can impact an organization’s operations, the sources of these challenges are very different.
A NOC is tasked with dealing with naturally occurring events that can affect normal network operations. This includes everything from system failures to power outages to natural disasters. Their responsibility is to ensure that the organization continues to operate at the highest possible efficiency in all situations.
A SOC, on the other hand, deals with intelligent threat actors. This means that, unlike a NOC, SOC analysts have to deal with situations where the threat is actively working to undermine and overcome their defenses and attempted remediations. This adds an additional level of complexity to the maintaining normal operations and achieving their purpose.
Ensuring Network Performance and Security
NOCs and SOCs are similar but have very different objectives. A NOC is tasked with ensuring that an organization’s IT infrastructure continues to function properly, while a SOC is responsible for detecting and protecting against cybersecurity threats.
To be both effective and secure, an organization’s IT infrastructure should be supported by both a NOC and a SOC. Having distinct teams, whether internal or outsourced, is essential to ensure that the company has access to the proper expertise and gives adequate attention to both network performance and security. That being said, collaboration and coordination between the NOC and SOC is also vital to maximize efficiency and ensure that network modifications or upgrades do not sacrifice performance for security or vice versa.