Recently, I read on Reddit something alarming: someone called Visio ‘the gold standard’ for network diagram software…what? Visio, really?
While Visio may be an excellent diagramming software — made for diagramming the network it is not — #sorrynotsorry as the kids say.
I got out the popcorn and I kept reading the comments on this particular Reddit thread: another well-meaning commenter suggested that Visio should be used for diagramming the network, and “opendcim” for documenting racks.
In this post, I’d like to refute the idea that Visio is the “gold standard” and discuss the importance of an enterprise-grade diagramming software for basically any organization subject to privacy and compliance regulations.
First of all, allow me to say: Visio is simply not, nor has it ever been, a network diagramming software. Is Visio diagramming software? Yes, absolutely. Is Visio network diagramming software? No, nope, no way, sorry.
Is it truly the standard for diagrams and flow charts? That depends on what diagrams and flow charts you need.
As we are software vendors specializing in IT documentation, we offer an enterprise-grade network diagramming and rack and cable management software called netTerrain. While I’m certainly not pushing netTerrain in this post (we have other posts for that), I will just say I know what I’m talking about when it comes to enterprise-grade diagramming software (afterall, it’s consumed my professional life for decades now).
So…back to why Visio is not the gold standard for proper network diagrams:
1. The Network is Always Changing
Unless you’re documenting a preserved historical network that once existed and isn’t ever going to change again, Visio isn’t your best friend when it comes to keep your network diagrams and documentation current. Sure, it’s better than spreadsheets — but you can do far better. Why? Your networks are constantly in flux. It’s 2019: there is software out there that can automatically track and update changes to the network — no manual data entry required. Go home early and spend time doing your favorite hobby or be with your family more.
2. ‘Pretty Network Diagrams are as Pretty Network Diagrams Do’
There’s an old saying I remember, “pretty is as pretty does”. Visio lets you get very elaborate with its various stencils and icons. Sounds like a good thing at first, and netTerrain certainly helps you generate pretty diagrams too — but honestly: Visio can become a time suck and how much time do you really need to spend creating pretty network diagrams?
3.Your Network is Intricate: Your Diagrams Should Be, Too
Need to document assets inside racks, and showing cabling down to the ports? Doing something like that would be quite a feat in Visio, but with an enterprise-grade network diagramming and documentation software, it can be a breeze. As IT assets continually evolve, a proper network diagramming software gives you access to an evolving catalogue of ready-to-use models and icons that match your actual IT inventory.
4. Your Network is Secure: The Software You Use to Diagram It Needs to Match
Your network is only secure as your knowledge of it is current…afterall, you can’t protect what you don’t know (and you can’t find the network’s various exits and entrances with outdated diagrams). if you’re using Visio to diagram and document the network, you may well have diagrams and documentation that’s sorely out-of-date and at risk. A proper, enterprise-grade network diagram and documentation solution helps you stay current and comply with regulations such as HIPAA and PCI regulations.
5. Your Network Doesn’t Fit in a Shoebox
If you’re a longtime reader of our blog (and if you are — let us know and we’ll send you a shirt), you probably already have heard this one before but I’ll say it again. If you’re network doesn’t fit in a shoebox, and you’re not a hobbyist with a home network or something like that, you need enterprise-grade network diagram and documentation software. A living, breathing network is just that: alive — and the stagnant diagrams that Visio lets you create just don’t hold up to the demands of a modern network.
Maybe you have a small enough network and Visio can do what you need it to do for now. That being said, it’s 2019 and if your network is constantly changing, and up-to-date information about it is needed in order to troubleshoot quickly and plan for capacity, in my opinion: no, Visio is NOT the gold standard when it comes to network diagram and documentation software…treat your network to an enterprise-grade diagramming and mapping solution.