Network Diagrams – Don’t be lazy!

Old 7 Comments on Network Diagrams – Don’t be lazy! 110

You might think I’m being mean or sarcastic, but I’m dead serious. IT professionals need to stop being lazy, and put forth the effort into creating decent network diagrams.

Let’s begin with the reasons why a network diagram is a good idea. Well, for starters, it gives you a complete picture of the entire network. It shows you what network elements are where, how they’re connected, and if drawn properly, also give any special information that may be pertinent to anyone looking to perform any work. If you’ve been thorough in your diagram, you can even find out where certain equipment is physically located. Network diagrams help significantly when it comes time to upgrade a network, or look at a refresh cycle. No more questions about whether the Cisco switch is 24 ports or 48 ports, or whether there is 1 NAS appliance or 2.

On top of all that (which is already reason enough to create a network diagram), it makes life a lot easier for other technologists who need to work on the network. Maybe you’re sick one day and someone needs to cover your job, or you hire a new staffer and they’re thrown into the mix right off the bat. For those who aren’t familiar with a network and don’t work with it every day in the same capacity as you do, figuring out all the information a network diagram can tell them is very time consuming and unproductive.

Remember, network diagrams are simply part of proper organization, and having one will make everyone’s life, including your own, that much easier.

Author

Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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7 Comments

  1. Jeff Newman July 27, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    What’s your favorite tool for creating network diagrams?

    • Martin Lehner July 27, 2014 at 6:43 pm

      Honestly, I haven’t found that I think excels as every aspect. There a lot of paid ones that aren’t bad, but are missing one element or another. Like the ability to add IP addresses. Or the ability to make a note or a custom label on a piece of equipment. Or there’s only 1 image for a switch. That kind of thing. I use Network Notepad, which has a free edition, although they do offer a Pro edition for 18 pounds sterling, which I think is well worth the money.

        • Jeff Newman July 27, 2014 at 7:48 pm

          Thanks! Hadn’t heard of it before.

          Most of us use Microsoft Visio at work. One of my coworkers used Word until recently, until I cajoled him mercilessly into using Visio as well. Oddly, his Visio diagrams look almost exactly like his Word diagrams. Go figure.

          • Martin Lehner July 28, 2014 at 10:01 am

            I’ve used Visio too, but honestly, find it a bit lacking in terms of available object ? In Network Notepad for example, you can get a different object for an 8 port switch than a 16 port switch.

  2. Jeff Newman July 28, 2014 at 10:14 am

    I agree that Visio out of the box lacks shapes. I think that situation has gotten worse from Visio 2007 to 2010 to 2013.

    But the nice thing about the package is that many vendors, manufacturers and others have created shapes and stencils, generally free to download, for various hardware. From racks to wiring to… switches.

    In fact, if you download, say, Cisco’s Catalyst stencils, you’ll get the shapes for just about every model they make, front and back. And many of the shapes are flexible so you can “insert” a management blade shape into a chassis shape and it sticks with it and aligns automatically.

    Dell has shapes for their servers and networking equipment. HP does as well. IBM, etc.

    Visio can still be a pain though when looking for simple shapes like a cloud, or as you mentioned, generic switches, modems and the like. Like a lot of other Microsoft software, each release brings more but adds obscurity to much of what you already know.

  3. Christian Due July 30, 2014 at 12:19 am

    I have used a variety of network diagram tools like Visio, Spiceworks, Dude and network topology mapper. I kinda liked Whatsconnected and network topology mapper as they allow exporting the diagram to Visio directly.

    Some links:
    Spiceworks – http://www.spiceworks.com/free-network-mapping-software/
    Whatsconnected – http://www.whatsupgold.com/whatsconnected/
    Network Topology Mapper – http://www.solarwinds.com/network-topology-mapper.aspx

    Hope this helps!

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