abstract network connectionsIn the first installment in this series, we discussed whether or not you have pain. If you’re still reading, you probably determined that you do, indeed, have some very real pain points that you want to solve with automated network mapping and documentation.

Your next step, then, is to define what you want to do…vs. what you actually need to do. Of course, need will outweigh want. That being said, sometimes ‘want’ makes things a lot more fun.

Ask yourself this: ‘what do I want to document…and what do I need to document?

  • “Dad! I need new Nike sneakers with a built-in electric pump and the phone app for tracking air pressure and vertical height.”
    I happen to think this is a want and not a need. My son does not agree….you know where I’m going with this. Finding automated network diagram software is a little finding a good pair of sneakers. What do you actually need the sneakers do to for you vs. what would be cool to have?
  • “I need a system to document my cabling”.
    OK this may be a little too vague though. What cabling? Where? Define exactly what you need to do before you look at a software solution that may be able to help you out.
  • “We need to document data cables in the DC1 data center for cabinets R1-R52.”
    Maybe you may expand it to define ethernet cables only or ethernet and fiber? But details are important. Now, I don’t think you need to get super detailed like “only the cables that are light blue” but some details are needed so everyone can be on the same page. Details will also help you understand the number of devices/objects that will be documented. This is important if you happen to look at software systems that cost money: DCIM or network documentation tools may charge based on the number of racks or devices. So… it’s good to know this information when it’s time to get a quote.
  • “We need to document our outside plant with a new tool since Google Earth is not (insert issue here)…”
    This can help define Want vs Need.
  • “I want 3D rack views so I can spin the cabinets around and they will be super cool and pretty.”
    Maybe this is a need but it’s probably a want (it could be a very expensive want).

Bottomline? There is a huge difference between documenting to get the job done — and documenting for the sake of using some cool features. Going forward as you evaluate software solutions and vendors — and find yourself in doubt, go back to the simple question, ‘Do I need this or do I want this’.

Should you keep reading? Here’s a handy checklist to recap what you’ve learned this far:

What do you need to document?
It’s key to sort out what you actually need to document vs. what would be nice to document (or fun or cool or impressive).

Are there specific requirements driving this project?
What is the end goal of your project: what measurable results will you (or your bosses) need to see?

What is the reason?
In just a few words, describe the reason for your documentation project.

What is your real pain?
See the first installment in this series. If there is no real pain then stop reading — and get back to work (sorry).

What’s your budget?
Do you need to find a free way to document the network or are you looking for automation that can streamline things and deliver more ROI? Know what your budget is (or isn’t) before you spend time looking at software solutions.

Do you have the time?
Let’s face it: it takes time to properly document and diagram the network. Do you have the time for this? Is your boss on board? If they aren’t, stop reading now and go back to watching cat videos on Youtube.

About 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.