Network Diagram Software: What Is It? What are the Options?

Are you ever confused about what the heck network diagram software is?

Over the course of this blog, we talk a great deal about
why it’s so important to document the network
and to keep that documentation up-to-date. For us, the means to this end is our network diagram software netTerrain Logical (
there is more specific information on Logical here
). Until now, however, we haven’t delivered a larger overview of the current network diagram software market: what is the purpose of network diagram software, what are some examples of how the software is used, what is the best way to diagram the network, what software options are available today (and are there any viable free options for diagramming the network).

What’s the Purpose of Network Diagramming Software?
Sometime after dinosaurs roamed the land and before Dylan went electric, ” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>networks started to evolve from primitive implementations to extremely complex beasts upon which the business world as we know it is dependant.

Back when networks were not responsible for keeping business functions securely chugging along, thanks so some real ingenuity engineers started to devise some fairly creative ways to diagram the network. Notes kept in shoeboxes and sticky notes on desks slowly evolved into spreadsheets and even Visio diagrams — or, in many cases, denial (simply pretending network diagrams aren’t needed and looking the other way while praying for the best).

The problems with these kind of haphazard methods of network diagramming are all too obvious (and exasperating) when you end up entrenched in them: a network outage that stretches on for days, network equipment that’s being bought and not used and even bought again (for example: the problem of zombie servers), audits that cause complete chaos, and so on.

Examples of How Network Diagram Software is Used
Network diagram software is sharply different from other types of ‘diagramming methods’ such as sticky notes, spreadsheets, ‘Bob’s Brain’ as we like to call that one guy who knows everything about the network, and of course, Visio.

How?

With a proper network diagramming software, you can actually see the entire ecosystem of the network from one place (ideally from site to the port). You can view physical and logical views of the network (again, from one central place), and proactively manage your entire IT inventory and assets.

Why?

When you can manage the network, and know what is connected to what, you start to see results. Troubleshooting is faster (and network outages can even be prevented), capacity planning is made easier, you can reduce risks and keep in compliance with regulations — and enhance security.

You simply can’t achieve all, or really any, of the above with Visio and spreadsheets alone.

The Best Way to Diagram the Network
While some folks reading this may think the answer is obvious, “network diagramming software of course…” the truth is that while network diagram software can be hugely helpful to keeping business functions going, it may not be the best option for diagramming the network for every single network under the sun.

Specific calculations exist to show you exactly how much you may save with a proper network diagramming software (you can access them here), but for the sake of brevity: if your network is medium-to-large, diagramming the network with software is probably the best solution for your organization.

If your network is small, you may or may not fully benefit from network diagramming software (again, check out the calculations to determine how much you’d stand to save). Whether or not your organization needs network diagramming software, read these words over and over again: your network NEEDS documentation in some way, shape, or form.

Top Network Diagram Software Options

So, what are the top network diagram software options on the market today? Let’s take a look…

Option 1: Visio
Yeah, Visio isn’t exactly the optimal software for diagramming the network – but, because it’s so commonly used to this day, we’ve got to list it here. You can use free stencils and templates to get started and…hey, it’s better than nothing.

Option 2: Online Network Diagram Apps
If your network isn’t too complex, or an on-premise software isn’t required (for security), an online network diagramming software may be what you need. Benefits are affordability, browser-based usability, and scalability (especially if you need to start very small). Examples of online network diagram software products include LucidChart, Draw.io, and netTerrain Cloud. Limitations include security and discovery capabilities.

Option 3: Enterprise-Grade Network Diagramming Software
Online network diagramming software may work depending upon your needs, however, sometimes you know you need the big guns or, in other words, software made to meet the needs of business today.

Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention that we offer a network diagramming software – netTerrain Logical – that emphasizes usability and flexibility to deliver the ROI our users want.

For another example, netBrain is another popular software used for diagramming the network.

Option 4: Free Network Diagram Software Options
There are some free options for diagramming the network with software. Dia is an example: it’s an open-source tool for making network diagrams, flow charts, and so on.

To summarize, network documentation is a beautiful thing for many organizations (and certainly it’s been transformative for the users who use netTerrain Logical). If you peruse the articles in this blog, you’ll gain a greater understanding of how our product can help you better manage the network through solid documentation.

There are other products out there — and there isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all network diagram software — so know what you need the software to do, what your budget is, and what your must-haves are when evaluating any kind of diagramming software…

And, if you want diagramming software that accurately documents the network without the tediousness of Visio and without the needless bells and whistles of some other software solutions, you may want to look at
netTerrain Logical
.

Jason Sherman
Jason Sherman
As Graphical Networks’ Sales Engineering and Support Services Manager, Jason Sherman leads the pre and post sales cycle with the entire Graphical Networks software portfolio, and ensures current customers are able to use the software to its fullest potential.

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