In the last two blogs in this series on finding the right network diagram software, we discussed identifying your pain and basic vendor research. After you’ve […]

Finding the Right Network Diagram Software: Features vs. Usability

In the last two blogs in this series on finding the right network diagram software, we discussed identifying your pain and basic vendor research. After you’ve […]

In the last two blogs in this series on finding the right network diagram software, we discussed identifying your pain and basic vendor research. After you’ve identified your pain and narrowed your vendor search down, what’s next? You’ve got to look at how the features that a vendor offers will solve your pain and evaluate if the software will be usable enough to help you get your diagramming done and keep it current.

When you’re buying a sports car, what’s the first thing you want to know? It’s probably not how well it will fit into your home garage, or how much room there is for a car seat in the back: you want to know how fast it accelerates, how it handles, what’s the top speed it can reach, and so on. So, you need network diagram software — not a sports car…though buying a Ferrari would be nice! Unlike with a sports car, however, the whole point of buying network diagram software is to ensure that the software will fit into your home garage. When you’re purchasing network diagram software, don’t get so taken in by all the features a software may have that you end up with software that doesn’t do what you actually need it to do.

Features

In the first blog in this series, you learned to identify the pain that’s causing you to seek out network diagram software in the first place. The pain points you want to solve are what determine the features you need. When scheduling a demo to see network diagramming software tools (like netTerrain, shameless plug here), make sure to ask to see the features that will solve your pain.

Below are some examples of issues you may have, and the features that can solve them. For any issue you have, you want to ask about the features that will solve that issue.

  • Need to find what’s on your network and how your network devices are connected? You will probably need to see a network discovery and how it maps your network.
  • Need a report of all of your network devices to help manage equipment and plan for future growth? You’ll need software that lets you easily run your own reports and, perhaps, a team that also will generate reports for you upon request
  • Need to manage network capacity? Ask to see a list of available ports on a per network rack, per row?
  • Need to know if network devices are up or down? You will need a polling service: ask if the vendor offers this.
  • Need bandwidth utilization? Monitoring your bandwidth speed or capacity to help you observe network traffic between devices or general web application traffic. Ask your vendor if they have this feature, too.

Usability

After going through the features, you finally find software that checks all the boxes and which, on paper, promises to solve your headaches….great, right? Not so fast! With any enterprise-grade software solution, usability is key. Unfortunately, enterprise-grade software is not always designed with usability in mind.

There are far too many horror stories out there, ones I’ve heard about from new customers migrating over to netTerrain from a different solutions as well as stories on the Internet (aka Reddit), about folks buying a solution that promises to be transformational…only for a team to diligently try to implement it and the solution is so dense and complicated that it never gets off the ground.

Key usability questions to ask include:

  • How long will it take to deploy a solution?
  • How much manpower will be required? How many hours per week? For how long?
  • How much manual work will be required?
  • How is the support? How hard is it to connect with a human?
  • How are the integrations to other tools like Solarwinds? Can you connect with a few clicks or will you need consultants?
  • How flexible is the software? Are you able to customize it as needed?

In sum, be careful when you’re evaluating features and pay attention to usability. We’ve written about it before, but to quickly summarize: 3D views of your network rack diagrams look impressive in a demo, but in most instances, they slow down the software. What’s more? You probably don’t need them. So, if you don’t need 3D views (and you probably don’t), that’s just a nice-looking feature that does nothing for you and hurts usability…the more features that a solution has, the more bloated a solution may be… and the more expensive and hard to deploy/use it can get.

As we often say on this blog, no software is one-size-fits-all (not even our software netTerrain)..and for good reason: software that tries to do everything for everyone ends up doing very little at all (except costing you an arm and a leg).

Fred Koh
Fred Koh
As a seasoned sales executive, Fred Koh serves as Director of Sales and is responsible for Graphical Networks sales and channel partner program, marketing strategy, and operations.

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