What Is a Security Operations Center and What Do They Do?

The threat of cyberattacks continues to grow. Year over year, cybercrime has increased in frequency, totaling 2.7 million complaints and $18.7 billion in losses between 2017 and 2021. To that end, asking what is a Security Operations Center is part of the due diligence required to safeguard your business from cybercrime. 

An attack could come from anywhere and at any time. Protecting your organization from this constant risk is a round-the-clock job, requiring steadfast vigilance.

That’s why Security Operations Centers (SOC) exist. They serve as the first line of defense, standing between your organization and any bad actor who wants to cause it harm. 

What Is a Security Operations Center?

A Security Operations Center is responsible for enterprise cybersecurity.

In the past, an SOC was the name given to the physical location where a team of cybersecurity experts proactively monitored an organization’s IT environment. But as both technology and the threat of cybercrime grew more sophisticated, SOCs had to adapt.

The meaning has shifted from an on-premises hub to a vital security function comprised of people, processes and technologies. 

Today, the actual location of the command center isn’t as important. Whether they operate on-premises or remotely, SOC team members will leverage their expertise to manage your overall cybersecurity strategy. 

Their goal is singular: detect, analyze and respond to cyber incidents—24/7/365. 

What’s the Difference Between an SOC and a NOC?

If an SOC’s primary purpose is to protect an organization from real-time threats, a NOC’s purpose is to optimize network performance. 

Like an SOC, a Network Operations Center (NOC) plays a critical role in supporting an organization’s digital infrastructure. Yes, it provides round-the-clock data protection. But its underlying purpose is to improve network performance. 

By performing system monitoring, patch management and regular system maintenance, an SOC reduces downtime and ensures that the technology environment is operating at peak capacity.  

Common tasks include: 

  • Infrastructure management 
  • Proactive system and software maintenance
  • Networking (local and remote support)
  • Critical hardware, service and system monitoring

So which is more important, an SOC or NOC? The answer is a bit nuanced. Both play critical roles in protecting you from the natural and human-caused events that threaten your network and business operations. 

Essentially, they complement each other. As a result, your business will be better off if you have an SOC and a NOC working in tandem. 

How Does an SOC Work? 

Software tools and IT security teams form the foundation of an SOC framework. They work together to implement an organization’s overall cybersecurity framework, monitoring, detecting, investigating and responding to cyberthreats. 

To meet this complex challenge and ensure that operations run smoothly, an SOC will rely on a diverse team of security experts. The team is trained to recognize threats, skilled in various security tools and well-versed in the proper incident response protocols.

For a medium-sized business, this might include the following specialists: 

  • SOC Manager – Charged with oversight, an SOC Manager runs the team, manages overall security systems and reports to an organization’s Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).
  • Analyst – Security analysts compile and analyze the organization’s data with an eye toward detection and response. Once suspicious activity is detected, they act as the initial incident response, investigating the issue and prioritizing threats.   
  • Engineer – Security engineers first build the organization’s cybersecurity architecture. Once it’s up and running, they must manage it by constantly testing, analyzing, updating and implementing security tools and technologies.   
  • Auditor – Whether it’s PCI, HIPAA, NIST or any other compliance standard, an auditor stays up to date with the most current requirements. Equipped with this knowledge, they can advise the organization on the best practices necessary to maintain regulatory compliance.  
  • Expert security analysts – Sometimes called threat hunters, these higher-level specialists focus on searching for vulnerabilities within the network, detecting and containing advanced threats.  

What Does an SOC Do? 

The better question is, what does an SOC not do? 

Charged with the colossal task of safeguarding an enterprise from both external and internal threats, an SOC team must manage all operational activities related to network and infrastructure security. This includes: 

Asset Inventory

An SOC will first take stock of your existing infrastructure to prepare and plan your cyber defense strategy adequately. That includes a comprehensive list of every asset that requires protection and the tools used to protect them.

Incident Response Planning

An SOC will develop an incident response plan, which informs your overall strategy. This process involves defining the specific actions an organization should take in a cyber incident and identifying the key metrics that characterize a successful response.    

Ongoing Maintenance

The security tools you rely on must be maintained and updated. An SOC team will regularly perform preventative maintenance activities like:

  • Patching software
  • Upgrading software and hardware
  • Updating firewalls
  • Overhauling security policies 

Routine Testing

An SOC team will continuously perform vulnerability assessments and penetration tests to optimize your overall incident response plan.  

Round-the-Clock Monitoring

With the help of security information and event management (SIEM) technology, an SOC will provide perpetual monitoring of the entire IT infrastructure, including:

  • Network
  • Servers
  • Applications
  • Devices
  • Physical infrastructure
  • Software

Log File Analysis

An SOC will collect, maintain and review log data from endpoints and network resources. Once collated, they can analyze the data to set a baseline for normal network activity and reveal the existence of suspicious anomalies. 

Alert Ranking

When threats are detected, an SOC will analyze each one to remove false positives, gauge the danger posed, and triage the threats to address the most pressing issues immediately. 

Incident Response and Recovery

An SOC will coordinate the proper response to an existing threat. The goal is to respond appropriately to the threat level, taking the necessary actions to limit the damage while mitigating its impact on business continuity

Depending on the severity of the incident, the ideal response could range from actions as simple as running an antivirus program to entirely disconnecting compromised endpoints from the network.


After an incident has been contained and the threat eliminated, the SOC will work to return the impacted assets to their previous state. 


Once the main problem has been addressed, the SOC team will analyze how it occurred and install measures to prevent it from reoccurring. Often this involves adjusting your strategies, processes and security monitoring and alerting tools. 


Depending on your organization, you may be required to comply with various data privacy regulations. After an incident has occurred, your SOC team will notify the appropriate parties and retain the incident data for a potential audit. 

Helixstorm—SOC as a Service

In this evolving threat landscape, all it takes is a single breach of your perimeter to jeopardize your company’s ability to operate. 

But an SOC can help prevent these unfortunate mishaps.  

At Helixstorm, we offer 24/7 SOC as a Service, providing the resources, tools and guidance a growing business needs to detect cybersecurity incidents in real-time and respond appropriately. With our world-class security experts and advanced tools, we can help you bolster threat intelligence and deflect issues before they ever damage your business.