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INSIDE THE NOC (NETWORK OPERATIONS CENTER)

The network operations center is the most misunderstood, misrepresented and marketed concept in the Web hosting industry.
It is the master control center consisting of infrastructure, equipment and the personnel necessary to provide business consumers with first-class Internet connectivity. All first-tier providers and major telecommunications companies build them to create the physical environment necessary to keep their business clients connected to high-speed Internet trunks 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Network operations centers, or NOCs as they are commonly referred to, are expensive, world-class facilities. They are located in major metropolitan centers throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe and are designed to provide the widest range of security, reliability and speed. NOCs usually have multiple connections to high-speed, first-tier T1, T3, or OC-3 bandwidth connections. These connections are referred to as first-tier, because they are the raw pipes that contain the majority of Internet traffic.

NOCs are considered major junctions on the information highway, physically routing major amounts of Internet traffic for telecommunications and broadband providers. Because such facilities are pivotal to the Internet and the new economy in general, many are built to military specifications.

Most NOCs are custom designed to withstand any seismic or man-made disaster. All are equipped with smoke detection, fire suppression systems, motion sensors, secured access, video surveillance, redundant computer and power systems and multiple backup power generators. NOCs are complex, expensive undertakings that are primarily implemented by major enterprises and telecommunication companies. For this reason, you should be very wary if a second-tier hosting company claims that they operate their own center.

Most hosting companies will co-locate their equipment at a first-tier NOC owned by a larger firm, but few hosting companies actually operate a first-class network center. Many resellers and second-tier Web hosting companies have attempted to deceive consumers by claiming that they operate their own network facilities. This in most cases must be regarded for what it is: a false claim. Hosting companies and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may operate their own intricate, in-house server farms, with customized servers and local loop connections to T1 or T3 lines. However, they cannot honestly claim that such a set up is evidence of their investment in a sophisticated network operations center.

Some hosting firms will claim that they have all the bells and whistles of a complex NOC, but savvy consumers will recognize that they are only co-locating their servers on the premises of an advanced broadband or telecommunications provider. For this reason, consumers must be very wary of small to medium-sized hosting firms that claim to make multi-million dollar investments in hosting infrastructure and equipment. All these companies are doing are locating computers at somebody else's NOC, and in reality this is enough. When you pay for hosting, you not only pay for high quality and quantity bandwidth and redundant connections, but mostly for server maintenance expertise.

Hosting companies like to boast that they build network infrastructures, but in reality most firms simply purchase space in NOCs and maintain it for end-users who require hosting and e-commerce services for their small to medium sized enterprises. Many hosting companies also feature "meet-me rooms," which function like NOCs.

"Meet-me rooms" are facilities where telecommunication carriers and network service providers gather to cross-connect. They are purpose-built, shared resilient rooms within notable real estate locales where carriers can situate fiber racks, direct digital frequency synthesizers (DDFs) and other high-speed switching technology.

Data networks and hosting companies use meet-me rooms to make peer-to-peer interconnections without costly fees. Telephone companies also use meet-me room infrastructure to connect their voice networks to each other. Most rooms are located in the downtown cores of major metropolitan areas throughout Canada, the United States and Europe.

So make sure that you are not paying a premium simply because a hosting company claims that their NOC is superior. Ask you hosting company whether they actually run their own network operation facilities, or whether they simply co-locate their servers at another company's NOC or in a meet-meet room.

Always make this inquiry if the Web host claims that it possesses superior network facilities in its advertising. Remember that determining whether your future hosting service is honest with you is very important. Ultimately you have to trust your hosting service, since you will be totally dependent upon it for your site income.

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