Ah, network documentation: one of the most tedious tasks in IT. When you have to start from square one, it’s even more tedious. It’s also incredibly important. Proper network documentation helps you troubleshoot problems faster, gets new employees up to speed and saves time (and money) dealing with contractors and advisors. In short, it’s worth it to document your network.
At the beginning of a new documentation project, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You may be looking around and wondering, “where do I begin?” My answer is incredibly simple: begin at the beginning, of course! What an answer, I know. You’re probably saying, “who is this genius?”
Let me clarify a bit. Start by doing some high-level thinking: take some pictures of what you want to document. How about a selfie or two with your favorite router or patch panel? Don’t forget that oh-so-nice looking wiring closet. Really though, pictures are great because you can look over some of the details in your data center, wiring closet, lab etc and start to think about what you want to know about this equipment. What’s most important? What will you need to access in a given situation.? Look deeply at that chassis…what’s it saying to you? It’s saying: “hey you want to know stuff about me! “
But what stuff? Maybe a serial number, maybe the model number, IP address information, where it lives, what power it consumes…and so on. The point is: start to look around and write down what it is you want to accomplish. The project called “document my data center or network” is nice and high-level, sure, but you need to work out some of the details.
Once you’ve identified what stuff you want to document, think about where you will get the information you need. It’s time to set up a search party to get all the information you need. Places to start? Your network management system, asset management system, Jim’s brain, random pieces of paper, or that fancy excel spreadsheet. Anyway, go talk to that chassis and patch panel and see what they have to say about it. Then… get going!
Network documentation isn’t exactly simple, but when you do it, things will get simple for you.
With your network documented, you won’t have to worry if Jim quits one day or if the cleaner throws out those random pieces of paper that contain all of your important information.
To get started, first figure out the overall plan for what parts of your data center you want to document, move on to deciding what information is crucialand then go roundup that information. The time you invest now will pay off in the future.