Considering some network documentation to make managing the network less of a headache? Whether you’re troubleshooting or planning, it’s nice to quickly get answers to your questions. If you are considering implementing documentation, one of the first questions you may have is: “do I need to start from scratch?” The short answer is: no.
Chances are, you already have an abundance of information about the network that you can put to work in getting your documentation started…you just need to know where to look.
Where to start? If you have already have existing documentation about the network, use it. Get creative in finding data that can be used for documentation. Your existing network management system (if you have one), an asset management system, your coworker Bob (or whomever that colleague is who knows everything about the network), those random pieces of paper you find on desks, and, of course….spreadsheets.
How you track network changes is another good place to gather information. Do you currently have any processes in place for keeping track of changes? Examples of what you’re already using include: a change management system for scheduling changes and updating the hardware…or maybe just email and Excel for tracking changes.
If you are using a network monitoring tool, you could pull the data you have in that. Ticketing systems and troubleshooting systems are also possibilities. You can get data and config files out of your servers and switches by communicating with them via SSH or Telnet.
Planning to use an automated network documentation solution? You may be able to automatically discover your data. netTerrain, for example, has its own discovery engine. Our engine supports a number of protocols, including: SNMP, IPMI, WMI, and many more. Users can discover any devices or properties in the network, L2/L3 links, custom MIBs, application data, interface information, live status, and much more.
netTerrain has than 15 different adapters for connecting to commercial systems (and an open, documented database structure for connecting to any text file, spreadsheet, or database). We also have a robust API that gives developers hundreds of methods for reading and writing data to netTerrain (using SOAP and our RESTful API).
Bottom line? Documentation tends to fall to the bottom of the must-do list …. that is, until it’s time for an audit (or you have a major security breach or outage on your hands). Having access to the details of the network gives you the power to truly manage the network; one of the reasons network documentation falls to the bottom of a priority list is that it seems like such a large (and tedious) undertaking….by leveraging your existing data sources, you can get a jumpstart with your documentation and be prepared next time you really, really need those insights on the network.