In the latest MSP Institute business webinar, Jamie Smith, SolarWinds MSP’s senior director of sales engineering, looks at the roles that service desks and network operations centers play in your organization and which one is best for your business. Here’s a brief summary of the key things you need to look out for with both systems.
From an IT perspective, a NOC is defined as one or more locations from which network monitoring and control is exercised over a computer network. It is a central point in your business that enables you to run and monitor all IT functions 24/7. It’s important you don’t confuse this with a data center, as NOCs are more of a management control center.
The NOC manages infrastructure and procedural changes, events, customer calls, security, quality control and assurance, monitoring tools, ticketing systems, integration with customer tools, reporting and dashboards, and more. However, just as important as the technology that lies within the NOC is the operations and the team required to deliver high-quality support.
The ultimate decision on whether you need a NOC should be based on a number of different factors, including the size of your IT team, how business-critical the network is, and the degree of sensitivity of the managed data or networks. Another important point to consider is regulation—NOCs are widely used in network security, national security agencies, unified communications/digital video (physical security), and managed/hosted/cloud service providers. In fact, industries such as utilities are required to have their own internal NOC.
A service desk is the primary IT service within IT service management (ITSM) as defined by the information technology infrastructure library (ITIL). It is intended to provide a single point of contact to meet the communication needs of both end users and IT staff.
A service desk is seen by many as offering a step up from a help desk. As such, this poses a secondary question, what’s the difference between a service desk and a help desk? As with most things in life, the answer here is “it depends.” It depends on what you want your IT support to be, who you're talking to, what you wish to convey, the level of concern of those involved, actual IT support and IT service management understanding, and probably a lot of other things.
However, to go back to basics, a help desk was borne of IT-centricity (mainframe computing), whereas a service desk was borne of IT service-centricity (the above-mentioned ITIL-espoused approach to delivering IT as a service).
It might seem obvious, but many will say that a help desk provides help, whereas a service desk provides service—with a service desk, there’s a focus on delivering a service to end users with some semblance of customer service.
Also, a help desk is focused on break/fix, whereas a service desk is there to assist with not only break/fix but also with service requests (requests for new services) and requests for information (such as “how do I do X?”). Although there’s no reason why a help desk can’t also offer these additional capabilities (other than IT terminology trends), a help desk might be considered as offering a subset of service desk capabilities by some, or be qualified as limited in scope.
Help desks are often considered old-fashioned vs. the more modern service desk. How we arrived at this conclusion is unknown. Maybe it was a result of ITIL-based marketing of ITSM tools, other service-based ITSM offerings, or the fact that the term “help desk” is absent from ITIL publications.
While there is sometimes a thin line of distinction between the two, there are key differences between an NOC and a service desk that should be noted by anyone trying to decide which is best for their business requirements. The service desk differs from the NOC in several ways, some of which include the following:
For more insight into this subject, you can watch the full webinar below:
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