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Network Security Monitoring

Security Operations Center (SOC) vs. Network Operations Center (NOC)

December 21, 2023

3 minutes

people standing in security operations center (SOC)

Your home security system monitors your house to ensure that everything is running smoothly, while the job of the police is to monitor, prevent, and respond to threats. In terms of businesses, network operations centers (NOCs) assume the role of your home security system and security operations centers (SOCs) take on the responsibility of the police.

Often confused or thought of as being interchangeable, they both offer the services of a team of experts in their field, but they specialize in very different areas of technology for businesses.

The difference between SOCs and NOCs is important to be aware of when considering what your company may need. Stay up to date on all things cybersecurity by subscribing to DOT Security’s blog.

What Is a Security Operations Center (SOC)?

A security operations center (SOC) is a centralized hub for cybersecurity experts to monitor a business’ network, devices, and security protocols. The main purpose of a SOC is to manage, prevent, and respond to cybersecurity concerns like malware, social engineering, and other threats.

Inside a SOC is a full-fledged cybersecurity team filled with engineers, advisors, Virtual Chief Information Security Officers (vCISOs), analysts, compliance officers, and more. They collaborate to ensure that a cybersecurity strategy is implemented correctly to protect businesses.

What Is a Network Operations Center (NOC)?

A network operations center (NOC) is an IT hub that manages the status of computer networks—including a company’s IT, cloud, network, and technology—from a remote location using different resources, tools, and software.

Though a NOC works to solve issues of all sizes, its main goals are to reduce prolonged downtime, improve network functionality, and ensure that businesses are always running smoothly when it comes to their technology.

NOCs, and oftentimes SOCs, are usually run by managed service providers (MSPs) who are able to manage multiple client networks because they’re equipped with a full staff, top-of-the-line equipment, and all the expertise needed to solve simple and complex problems.

What’s the Difference Between NOCs and SOCs?

While a NOC is designed to handle IT-related issues like network support and devices, SOCs specialize in implementing and bolstering cybersecurity for businesses. The main objective of a SOC is to secure a client’s network, and the main objective of a NOC is to manage and support it.

NOC vs SOC infographic

There’s also a big difference in the employees you’ll find at each. NOCs are usually filled with IT specialists who specialize in IT infrastructure, network maintenance, data analysis, and technology.

In a SOC, you’ll find cybersecurity-centric expertise in the form of vCISOs, security engineers, compliance officers, and cybersecurity analysts who all focus on securing a business through a holistic strategy.

SOC vs. NOC: Which One Do You Need?

To figure out whether your team may need a SOC or a NOC, consider the following factors:

  • Size of the Organization: SOC teams surpass NOC teams in both size and comprehensiveness. SOC teams take on the responsibility of overseeing all security facets, such as monitoring, detection, response, and incident management. NOC teams predominantly focus on network security and monitoring.
  • Nature of Threats: While NOC teams can sometimes deal with common and simple attacks, SOC teams can handle those as well as tackling advanced, persistent threats.
  • Response Time: Given their exclusive focus on security, SOC teams usually exhibit faster response times compared to NOC teams.
  • Cost: NOC teams tend to incur lower operating expenses, while SOC teams are more expensive due to their size and complexity.

The choice between the two depends on the specific needs of your organization. If you’re still struggling to decide which may be better for your business, here are a few questions to consider to help you figure it out:

  • How Much Internal IT Support Do You Currently Have? If you have any current internal IT, is it enough to handle the problems that arise with your network and technology? An MSP can perform an assessment on your current environment to determine what’s most needed when developing a network management plan.

  • What is the State of Your Cybersecurity? Consider the state of your current cybersecurity policies, software, and strategy. Do you have one? Do you have a recovery plan in case something does go wrong? If you’re worried about a cyberattack but have no defense or no recovery plan, you need the help of cybersecurity experts and the support of a SOC.

  • Is Your Internal IT Team Stretched Too Thin? If you do have an internal IT team, are you asking them to do too much? There is no IT or cybersecurity “unicorn” who can do it all. You need teams of specialists in all aspects of IT and cybersecurity.

  • How Crucial is Data Security for Your Business? Data security is important for every business, but if you’re in an industry like healthcare or finance, you’re regularly handling very sensitive information and data from your customers and you can’t rely on simple, set-it-and-forget-it cybersecurity.

  • What Are the Detriments of Downtime for You? Similarly, consider how crucial it is that your network always stays up and ready. Ask yourself: how would significant downtime affect my business? If you have a lot of digital processes, extended downtime could cost you thousands of dollars in productivity and sales. Don’t leave that up to chance or a small, overworked IT team.

Parting Ways on SOC vs. NOC

In essence, a security operations center acts as a central hub for cybersecurity by monitoring a business’s network and devices to manage and respond to threats, while a network operations center oversees all IT infrastructure and network functionality.

The choice between using a SOC or a NOC is dependent on a number of factors, including organization size, nature of threats, required response times, and cost considerations. SOC teams, which are more specialized, excel in security oversight—albeit at a higher price—while NOCs focus on network monitoring and ensuring functionality.

Understanding the difference between SOCs and NOCs is crucial when determining the specific needs of your company. Keep yourself informed about all aspects of cybersecurity by subscribing to DOT Security’s blog.