I’ve written a number of articles about why network documentation is important and why it should be a priority project (instead of being sidelined and pushed as a lower priority project). At this point in my career, I’d take out a billboard ad if I thought it would help: “automated network diagram software (aka network documentation) saves you money.”
I have spent the last two decades talking to network engineers on a daily basis about their day-in and day-out problems and this is what I have to say:wake up managers and directors! When your network engineers and operations ask to get documentation funded, don’t just brush it off, and say stick with Visio and spreadsheets, or ask Joe, who has been at the company for 20 years, how the network is setup.
Network documentation/network diagram software can really impact your bottom line. For a recap of the reasons why, navigate over here.
How Exactly can Network Diagram Software/Documentation Make an Impact?
Below is a list of some questions to ask that can help you decide if and how proper documentation can help your organization and engineers:
- How accurate is your documentation when an outage occurs or when your service desk folks get flooded with calls and tickets?
- For your internal organization, how much productivity is lost when your employees can’t do their jobs efficiently?
- Will your SLA not be met when it takes your network guys some very important time to find information about the network through lots of spreadsheets, and Visio diagrams?
- How about audits for compliance too?
- How many network devices do I actually have? Do I need to spend another $100K for a new switch?
- Is accurate inventory management something important for your bottom line?
- Can you reuse underutilized equipment instead of buying new equipment? Is this important enough to warrant your network documentation to be a higher priority?
- Would a network asset report, displayed in a nice management style dashboard that your manager and my CIO can see easily, be beneficial?
Did any of the above questions resonate?
If you are fed up spending unnecessary money for new equipment, annoyed spending too much time with deployment of their network, taking too long to troubleshoot an issue, then perhaps your network documentation should be considered a higher priority project.
Do You Need Network Diagram Software if You Already Have Network Monitoring?
Maybe you have a network monitoring tool in place? There can often be some confusion around network diagram software and network monitoring tools, so let’s clear the air!
A network monitoring tool alerts you when there is an issue – this helps you with troubleshooting, and network monitoring systems are essential to get notified when an equipment is down. In fact, one of the most popular data integration that many of our customers utilize is our Solarwinds connector.
So — why do so many Solarwinds users also use our network diagram software that we have a connector? Solarwinds doesn’t do network documentation — which means a central repository to store other important attributes which you simply cannot enter in Solarwinds. Examples of important attributes you need to have include equipment under warranty, who owns this equipment, who are the customers this equipment impacts, and other items like how much this cost us, storing documents like escalation procedures and tech manuals. Having these attributes readily available helps reduce finding information, an advantage for having both tools.
For a longer recap between the difference between a network monitoring system and network documentation, navigate over here.
Can I Automatically Populate Data with Network Diagram Software
One of the questions we get is how I can populate data. With netTerrain, yes!
If you have Solarwinds, or other tools, like Service Now, CA Spectrum, and others, you can use netTerrain API to capture its data. You can then add your own additional information for each network device. You can also populate the network diagrams through our SNMP network discovery (please make sure your network devices have SNMP turned on!).
Speaking of netTerrain’s network discovery, my colleague Jan Durnhofer, discussed in his latest article: netTerrain’s new feature The Collector, which houses our SNMP discovery and API connectors. For more information on our collector and how it now supports multi tenancy, navigate over here.
Just How Automated and Easy is Network Diagram Software?
I have finally have up to date network documentation! I can search for information quickly to reduce the time it takes to fix an issue.
Now, can I also use my network documentation and also create data center diagrams with racks, cabling, and have the network device appear in a logical network diagram as well as show it inside a data center room automatically?
As I discussed in that article, whether or not there is an easy red button for you truly depends upon what you are looking for. With the combination of a network documentation system, network monitoring system, maybe a service desk application that has location information (what room, rack position), and smart patch panels to discover how things are connected inside your data center, perhaps the magic button can be achieved!
Let’s recap. At the beginning of this article, I pointed out that I see far too many managers and directors who simply don’t prioritize network documentation. Network engineers are left without the tools, such as network diagram software, that they need to properly manage the network. Inefficiency and skyrocketing costs are the result. If you think proper network documentation would be an asset to managing your network’s assets, consider trying netTerrain for an easy-to-use, comprehensive, and affordable solution that delivers ROI year after year.