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Will Automated Alerting Replace the NOC?

How alerting & incident management solutions enhance (not replace) the NOC

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If you have a Network Operations Center (or NOC, as the kids call it), you have a skilled set of eyes monitoring your system and alerting your engineers when things go wrong. (If you have something like a NOC, such as a first tier team that processes tickets, we’re looking at you, too). You also probably have strict SLAs and a need for high availability at all times. You can’t waste a second when things go down. Solutions like PagerDuty that help you identify and resolve incidents faster can help you improve your Network Operations Center performance. These solutions can shave minutes off your time to detect incidents (one of our customers took 8 minutes off theirs) and can make it easier for NOC personnel to escalate to experts when needed.

We’ve found five ways that our customers use PagerDuty to enhance their NOCs.

Increase signal:noise ratio

NOCs handle a high volume of tickets and can easily become victims of alert fatigue, which makes them less effective at doing their jobs. If they are burning their energy parsing unimportant tickets, they have less focus for the critical stuff.

PagerDuty can be configured to alert your NOC on serious outages, helping to separate the important from the unimportant and keeping focus on quickly sorting through issues.  Some NOCs receive over 10,000 emails a week from their monitoring tools. Even with thresholds and email filters set up, that volume of information will inevitably mean that your NOC’s wall graphs and ticket queues have more noise than actionable alerts.

Manage contact information

In the heat of an outage, a NOC can’t lose valuable minutes catering to different product teams’ special-snowflake contact preferences. Before PagerDuty, some NOCs would look team members up on Confluence and pray that one of several phone numbers would work. PagerDuty gives subject experts ownership over their own contact information, and it helps them understand how critical it is to keep it updated. In fact, one of PagerDuty’s key value propositions for a NOC is having everybody’s contact info in a single place.This way, your NOC employees aren’t playing operator; they’re valued assistants on each and every incident.

Fewer phone calls, more incident resolution

With PagerDuty, our NOC customers are more efficient at reaching the right people. They can simply create an incident in PagerDuty to get on-call personnel on the incident. PagerDuty stores each person’s preferred contact methods and personalized alerting rules so that when an incident is triggered, the phone calls happen automatically. Additionally, PagerDuty stores on-call schedules and automatically escalates incidents to the next person in line if there’s no response so that the right expert is always found. NOCs can then shift from making phone calls to tracking and facilitating resolution. For example, they can set up conference bridges for the entire team and then stay on the line to actively work with them, without the need to drop off to get another person. This gets  NOCs more engaged in the process of resolution rather than just making phone calls. By having a single point to monitor incident resolution, everyone has visibility into how an incident is progressing. Getting the right people in touch in a short amount of time means that you can address issues before they get out of hand.

Reporting and metrics

Top-performing teams use metrics to continually evaluate and improve their processes. Our customers with NOCs use PagerDuty advanced analytics to calculate uptime and availability, and determine how long it takes your NOC to respond and resolve. Do you have teams that need additional training? Is your run book up to date? Metrics can help you get answers to these questions and more. You can also use our awesome API to get exactly the information you need, and then you can distribute it for more visibility company-wide. Some of our NOC customers use PagerDuty to pull a daily report that goes out to executive staff every morning.

Escalate to your customers or to management

If you provide an engineering service to your clients, you may need to let your customers know about your incidents. Also, for severe outages, you may need to let executives across your business know that something is wrong. PagerDuty can help in both of these situations.. For example, one of our customers, Cascadeo, uses PagerDuty in exactly this way. Cascadeo provides long term DevOps infrastructure and operations support for a wide variety of clients, and their clients need to know when an incident is occurring so their engineering teams can respond. Its NOC creates on-call queues in PagerDuty that are associated with each customer. This allows for the NOC, the lead engineer, or the project manager associated with the client, to automatically send alerts to the client’s escalation contacts. A similar workflow can be set up to notify other business stakeholders for critical incidents.

How do you use PagerDuty with your NOC? Let us know in the comments section below.