About Carol Brayton

Carol’s technical, marketing and business acumen are the driving factors behind her track record of growing revenue and getting results. As product manager for managed services at Fujitsu, she is responsible for development and delivery of maintenance services, managed network services, and cybersecurity solutions. In addition to her product management, marketing and business expertise, Carol has a wealth of experience with analytic solutions and various types of Software as a Service (SaaS) and SD-WANaaS.

Do You Have the Bandwidth to Manage Your Broadband Network? Part 2

The second installment of our two-part blog on network management, we look at why small broadband service providers— such as tier 2/3 telecommunications providers, electric co-ops, and public power utilities—might choose to outsource their network operations center (NOC) rather than setting up and operating their own.

A Little NOC Refresher

In case you missed Part 1, the NOC is the network’s command center. It houses the personnel, equipment and processes necessary to monitor and manage network operations and respond to issues in the field as they occur. The NOC is also responsible for maintaining and implementing a disaster recovery protocol in case of a catastrophic network failure. For this same reason, each network is typically supported by two NOC facilities to ensure full redundancy.

Some of the critical functions of the NOC include:  

  • Network monitoring and incident response
  • Monitoring and managing SLAs to ensure compliance with performance and quality standards
  • Managing hardware and software version updates
  • Maintaining uninterrupted power supply, redundant fiber paths, and sufficient network capacity
  • Securing the network with firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, threat analysis, and antivirus filtering

As discussed in Part 1, creating, staffing and equipping a full-service NOC capable of 24×7×365 monitoring and response can quickly become cost-prohibitive for smaller broadband service providers. The alternative is a contract with a third-party provider for outsourced NOC services.

Outsourcing NOC Services to a Managed Services Partner

Outsourcing a NOC typically involves the managed services partner’s redundant centralized remote facilities connecting to your network via highly secure, redundant high-speed connections. Each of the partner’s NOC facilities is equipped with the personnel, equipment and processes needed to provide complete network monitoring, incident/fault response, field service help, and disaster recovery procedures.

Aside from the obvious upside of not having to build and run your own redundant NOC, a third-party arrangement offers other attractive benefits:

  • Economies of scale: A provider with the resources and capacity to deliver managed NOC services to multiple customers can enable cost savings and performance improvements that you can’t achieve operating on your own. 
  • Staff utilization: A third-party arrangement enables you to allocate your in-house staff where they are most needed. 
  • Customization and control: Third-party managed service providers generally have extensive technical expertise and resources, giving them greater ability to customize solution designs and configurations precisely for your network.
  • Reduced risk: The certified NOC engineers employed by a managed services provider have breadth of experience and knowledge that ultimately reduces your business risks.

Understanding Your Managed NOC Service Options

Providers of managed network operations offer an array of choices that let you get the biggest bang for your buck. It’s worthwhile to allow yourself time for comparison shopping and negotiation.

At one end of the spectrum is a full-service contract that offers 24×7×365 monitoring and response, with full NOC facility redundancy. If you’re thin on qualified personnel, this may be the right option that more than justifies the price tag. Even if your NOC services provider is “handling everything,” you’ll typically retain control over many areas, such as reporting requirements, thresholds for elevating service tickets, etc.

At the other end of the spectrum, highly customizable NOC management plans allow you to control pricing by picking and choosing the capabilities you need. Most plans provide a basic set of services and capabilities that you can supplement with value-added or customizable service selections. Your service provider might, for example, enable you to build a NOC management plan around back-office functions, such as performance and alarm monitoring, after-hours support, and disaster recovery. 

Typical add-on managed NOC services include:

  • Spare parts management: Onsite replacement of hardware within four hours
  • Back-office systems: Monitoring, ticketing and management dashboards
  • Network operations: Fault management, performance optimization, and cybersecurity
  • Smart hands: Experienced technicians deployed onsite for installation, testing and replacement

Tips for Creating an Outsourced Program that Works

Regardless of the range of choices available, the most important choice is a program and provider that works best for you. Making the right choice of provider and plan begins with having a clear understanding of what your needs are. With that in mind, here are a few tips for selecting the right provider and service.

  • Define your short-term and long-term goals. Examples might be managing for the best combination of co-op growth, for technology migration or for financial stability.
  • Map your existing skill sets, operational processes, and resources against the complete list of needed roles and responsibilities to identify gaps.
  • Target and prioritize areas to be outsourced.
  • Select the provider and level of partnership that most closely aligns with your needs and goals.
  • Expect a high level of ongoing involvement and communication from candidate providers and ensure they fully understand your needs and challenges.

By using a fully vetted NOC provider, along with a strategically designed and customized service plan, smaller broadband service providers can manage their next-generation networks for growth and revenue without breaking the bank.

Fujitsu Managed Network Services offers quality and reliability, plus the peace of mind that comes with dependable protection. We work with you and within your budget to align our end-to-end capabilities with your specific needs. For more information on our NOC management services, visit the Network Services section on the Fujitsu website.

Do You Have the Bandwidth to Manage Your Broadband Network? Part 1

Technology is fast-moving and ever-evolving. Whether you are a current broadband provider or thinking of becoming one, you need to consider how to efficiently and effectively manage technology. If you have a smaller network—such as a rural electric cooperative, telecom cooperative, or public power utility—transitioning to a new service platform is challenging enough. Managing delivery of those new services to ensure value for your customers while maintaining profitability…that’s a whole other issue. It requires the personnel, facilities and systems to maintain five-nines availability, as well as the resources to implement a solid disaster recovery plan, should the need arise.

When it comes to managing your broadband network, you’ve got a couple of choices. You can add more resources to your existing network operations center (NOC), or you can outsource the expertise and resources you need. In this two-part blog, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of each, starting with identifying and integrating broadband service support into your in-house NOC.

The resources you’ll need can be divided into three categories: facility, systems and staff.

Facility Planning

These days, most networks—including smaller rural ones—either maintain their own NOC facility or lease from a NOC facility provider. In either case, you can’t assume your facility has the broadband management resources and personnel required. More specifically, it should be large enough to add redundant power and cooling systems, network infrastructure, backup phone systems and the staff needed to provide 24/7 monitoring.

One important thing when it comes to the NOC facility is the increasing need for redundancy, not just in systems but in facilities. Depending on your KPIs, two complete facilities may be required. From a cost perspective, expect to spend over $1M plus annual maintenance and other operating costs for two facilities with redundant systems capable of providing 24/7/365 coverage and disaster recovery.

System Requirements

Inside the NOC, there are two general types of systems needed to support your broadband network. First are the monitoring and support systems that are primary to the success of any network. These include an ultra-reliable network connection that allows you to monitor and respond to issues quickly, as well as diagnostic systems and dashboards for troubleshooting throughput, device configuration, and network topology issues. You’ll also need performance monitoring and alert systems more specific to broadband services. These provide centralized and actionable insights for troubleshooting throughput, availability, capacity loading, hardware thresholds, service interruptions, and other key metrics.

The second type of system includes anything pertaining to the operation and support of the NOC itself. This may include power monitoring, automated infrastructure management (AIM) systems, or—for larger facilities—data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solutions that provide a holistic view of both the IT and facility stacks. For any system, you’ll need to factor in the annual cost of maintenance, technology upgrades, and expansion.   

Staffing Needs

A typical NOC will require a minimum of eight IT techs for 24-hour support. It’s important that your staff is well trained on IP, Ethernet and fiber networks in order to monitor your new broadband network and respond to issues. That may sound like overkill, but there is real danger if you are understaffed. First, you run the risk of quick burnout and high employee turnover, which would seriously impact staffing costs. More importantly, your credibility as a broadband provider is at risk if your service is not reliable. When you’re making your staffing decision, think in terms of hiring the most qualified people to keep your network operating and your service level high, while keeping customer churn low and maintaining the ability to acquire new customers.

Additionally, you’ll need field staff to respond to issues requiring diagnosing and/or replacing hardware failures, as well as any software issues that prevent remote connectivity to devices. Average annual cost for a mid-level NOC technician is approximately $50,000. For an eight-person staff, salaries and training will run around $400,000, plus the cost of a three- or four-person field team.

Pros and Cons

While it can be complex and costly, integrating broadband into your existing NOC provides certain advantages. For starters, leveraging existing facilities and in-house capabilities can help you reduce time to market and begin monetizing your broadband business quicker. At the same time, using your existing NOC offers the opportunity to cross-train existing staff on broadband, making them more valuable to the organization. If your existing NOC has the capacity and systems required, you may not have to build or source a new facility to support your broadband network. Owning your own NOC and integrating your broadband network within it gives you full control over how the operation is set up and managed. Lastly, combining the management of multiple networks—such as an electric grid and broadband—improves economies of scale.

On the other side of the ledger are the challenges that this approach creates, and cost is one of the biggest. The do-it-yourself model requires a significant investment in facility improvements in order to support your broadband network from day one. Upfront costs, therefore, are a concern. The need to continually monitor and upgrade the technology deployed in the NOC also creates added opex costs. It is important to remember that if you elect to go this route, you are responsible for virtually all aspects: employee training systems management, testing protocols, consumables management. It’s not that it can’t be done—but you need to carefully consider if you’re ready to take it on. In part 2, we’ll flip the equation and discuss outsourcing options for all or part of your broadband network operations. In the meantime, I invite you to check out Fujitsu’s portfolio of managed network services.