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Four Ways A Network Operations Room Can Benefit From A/V Technology

A network operations room, or NOC, is a command center, responsible for overseeing an entire network and troubleshooting any service interruptions or incidents that emerge. Companies, universities, government institutions and public utilities now rely on their networks more than ever, which means they rely on their NOCs more than ever. As networks are finicky beasts and service interruptions can mean a staggering loss of fiscal or temporal resources, it pays to invest into an NOC. And by investing, this means ensuring the NOC is armed with superior A/V technology. An integrator can greatly improve NOC efficiency, giving engineers better information and more responsive interfaces to do their job faster.

NOC and A/V: A Clear Match

Operations CenterNOCs are tasked with a great deal of responsibility, in that they are usually relied on to manage resources located in several discrete locations. As data redundancy is practically mandatory in both the private and public sector, NOCs have to protect networks that span thousands of miles. A critical failure in one part of the network can seize up operations worldwide, resulting in a massive toll in financial and manpower resources. In short, failure is not an option. NOCs have been iterated on heavily in recent years, to the point that there is a pretty standard layout. How does this standard layout, which relies heavily on A/V technology, make the NOC more effective?

1. A/V technology disseminates information quickly - At one end is a video wall, mostly dedicated to a visual representation of network resources, network organization and its health. If there are any outstanding alerts, they will be presented up on the video wall for rapid perusal and analysis. Having a top level representation of the network ensures all engineers are kept apprised of any changes or ongoing issues. Also, a large, high contrast video wall is easy on the eyes, which should be a relief to engineers that test their eyes every day in front of a monitor.

NOCs run better when engineers work together. Another benefit of a top level overview of the network is that engineers can troubleshoot from a shared interface. The results are better solutions, faster solutions and improved team cohesion.

In addition to network status, parts of the video wall can be reserved for other sources of information. Weather status of critical regions can be cycled through, which can help engineers forecast network slowdowns or outages due to inclement weather. News feeds can also provide up-to-the-minute updates on conflict zones or natural disasters, also providing insight into potential network hiccups.

2. A/V technology can help engineers get organized – Large NOC teams are split into tiers to better partition work and ensure critical alerts are handled by senior staff. Maintaining this level of organization requires repeatable, intuitive processes, and that takes intuitive A/V technology. To enhance teamwork and organization, NOCs may set up islands of workstations, where every team is in close proximity, and separated from other teams so that there is no interference. A/V technology can support this approach to NOC organization, in the form of zoned audio. With smart microphone and speaker placement, NOC engineers can communicate with other team members or relay important information to higher tier engineers with a single button press.

Think of this approach like mission control at NASA. At the head of the operation is the flight director, and they are responsible for overseeing every aspect of the mission, but at the top level. When necessary, they are involved in detailed analysis of various flight operations, but only when that team requires guidance from the director. An NOC can function much the same way, with a senior engineer guiding troubleshooting efforts and performing executive duties when needed. Zoned audio is excellent for promoting this dynamic, as NOC teams can patch into the senior engineer’s office or workstation immediately and create a private communication channel free of distraction.

This approach can be scaled up as additional tiers are added into the leadership chain. In fact, as extra layers are added to the chain of command, instant one-to-one communication may be the only way to keep NOC operations manageable.

3. A/V technology keeps everything glued together – Hardware is nothing without the appropriate software, and this is doubly true within an NOC. Because NOCs rely heavily on their A/V hardware for information delivery purposes, they must be paired with video wall software and control interfaces that ensure their usability.

There is excellent variety in video wall software, and an integrator can help NOC managers select one according to their needs. In most cases, a top priority will be ease of use on the backend, as most NOCs will want to set up their layouts and then be done with it. However, when a critical alert is ongoing and more visual real estate is needed to confront it, being able to go into the backend and quickly change the video wall layout is a major convenience. An integrator can help select a piece of software that offers just that, and can also provide a crash course in configuring it properly.

All the NOC’s A/V components should also be tied to a single control interface. From this interface, the video wall, audio equipment and the room’s lighting can all be controlled. An integrator can work with the NOC to establish several user profiles with varying permissions, so that there is no unauthorized access into the A/V system.

4. A/V technology keeps the NOC connected – NOC engineers may feel like they are operating down in a cave somewhere, but they have to stay in touch with other NOCs or campuses to stay up to date with the user side of the equation. Also, NOC engineers are occasionally tasked with providing technical support to end users, and this requires clear communication.

All of this can be accomplished with the use of video conferencing technology. Video conferencing is an A/V staple and allows for instant face to face communication with people anywhere on the globe. Video conferencing can be scaled down to the desktop level or scaled up to incorporate an entire room full of people. It’s a flexible solution that integrators are clearly well versed in.

NOCs are technological marvels and critical implements in any institution’s operation. Ideally, they represent a perfect merger between talented people and talented technology, and an A/V integrator is the go-to expert for the latter.