I’ve written several articles about network documenting and automating the documentation process (you can see a recent article here)– afterall, our company specializes in IT documentation.
In today’s article, however, I want to break documentation down into simple, easy-to-digest terms so you can arm yourself with the knowledge you need to really talk to upper management and make the case that yes, your network needs documentation — and that yep, that documentation request really should earn approval.
Where to begin? From time to time, folks want to know who our competitors in this sphere are. Believe it or not, my response is almost always, ‘our biggest competitor is inaction’!
No IT documentation business on the market today can hold a candle to inaction.
Why is that? There seems to be a perception that network documentation isn’t that important or that it’s easiest to just stick with diagramming in Visio or maintain spreadsheets — and hope they are up to date.
When people think of network documentation/network mapping/network diagrams, some correlate this with network monitoring/management. That’s a slippery slope as there is a big difference between network monitoring and network documentation.
While most organizations know that maintaining proper network documentation is important, it seems that people overlook the importance of documenting the regular changes done in their network. When changes are performed and are not tracked with documentation, it is easy to see how network diagrams are almost always-outdated. Let’s face it: outdated IT documentation doesn’t do much good against an outage — or preventing one.
A key reason network documentation is so important is because it makes it much easier for your network support staff to diagnose issues when you know how network devices are connected, or how they have been configured within your network. It reduces costs by allowing your staff to troubleshoot problems, find issues quickly, and if you have remote hands, third-party staff, or outsourced team, help them find the network equipment faster, and reduce their time and money that is being charged.
Beyond just ensuring that uptime is optimized, downtime is minimized, and troubleshooting is easier, proper IT documentation comes with a host of benefits.
Key Benefits of IT Documentation
The ability to have access to information about the organization’s systems and processes is critical for business continuity, surviving the loss of key employees and making smart decisions.
- Sharing of enterprise information
Users can communicate the changes and planning of the organization in real-time. What happens when your key staff isn’t around? If they are sick, on vacation, or worse, no longer with your organization? Proper network documentation will allow organizations to transition any and all IT knowledge to other internal resources and/or outside vendors.
- Security compliance
Proper and up to date network documentation means you’ll be prepared for your next security audit and avoid any future fees/penalties for not having proper documentation. Make sure that your network is protected/configured according to your best practices.
- Optimize utilization and reduce costs
With network documentation, organizations can find issues faster and optimize capacity planning to discover/find stranded or underutilized assets, and have better informed data for budgeting for new devices, replacement of obsolete hardware, and see what equipment is nearing their end-of-life.
- Management-style dashboard reports
Keep management satisfied and keep them up to date with knowing the status and health of your network.
To sum up, proper IT documentation should be a priority for every organization, regardless of how small or large. Risk mitigation, sharing key info across stakeholders, staying in full compliance with all relevant regulations and protocols, keeping costs right-sized, and providing clear dashboard reports can all be achieved with an automated network diagram software solution (and, more often than not, this solution ends up paying for itself many times over).