Network documentation: generally speaking, it’s not for the weak of heart.
In its natural state, you’ll generally find it outdated (when you do find it, that is). It will probably be dispersed across numerous lackluster spreadsheets and drawings somewhere on your S drive. Always out of sight, never out of mind (how long has it been on your to-do list again?): network documentation is the one that got away…time and time again.
For some, network documentation might as well be the Loch Ness Monster. In fact, we know people who claim it’s a complete myth and simply doesn’t exist. Others claim to have photographs of it (but of course, they can never furnish the evidence when asked). To be a bit more realistic: your network documentation may be a bit like your house’s furnace… you know you need to get it routine maintenance but you put it off – and eventually, you pay for it. Big time.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Imagine this: your network documentation has been collecting dust and rumor is it may not even exist. Enter your manager, in a frenzy. “Drop everything right now,” she says…”Get those network diagrams ready. The Bobs (also a mythical creature until now) are on their way to perform a major audit on – insert random mandate here- compliance. Or, even worse: maybe something just caught fire.
So…everyone starts running around like chickens with their heads cut off in a desperate hunt for sheets, files, and basically anything that will keep the auditors, or the major outage, at bay. When the storm finally winds down (and maybe the lost revenue totals or fines are finally in), you may find yourself and your company in one of two positions:
There are three things you can count on in life: taxes, death and the need for proper network documentation.
Ok. So the above examples were a bit extreme. Many companies do understand that an important part of an effective IT strategy is effective network documentation. With just a modest budget and a blessing from the guys upstairs, the average IT department can compose a detailed, flexible and user-friendly system that not only automates a great deal of the documentation process but also documents the IT objects that are mission-critical to operations.
Networks are now a critical player in the efficiency and success of business today (and not simply layer 2 and layer 3 networking). There’s been a big increase in the number of teleworkers out there. Simple phones have been replaced by smart ones; laptops are connecting to servers run on virtual machines via VPN tunnels, wireless and so on. On top of all that, a plethora of applications that run on end-user systems and servers, all kinds of database engines, and of course: employees accessing all of this concurrently from all over the world. Needless to say: the resulting picture is not a pretty one.
And what happens when any of the above fails?
The network is to blame.
Well, that’s what your users will say (you know: the ones that are coming at you like zombies in The Night of the Living Dead) because they can’t fill out their all-important TPS report.
Truth is, a proper network documentation not only helps you troubleshoot:
So, unless your corporate network happens to fit in sneaker box…making the case for proper network documentation really is as easy as asking LeBron James to do a layup into a Little Tikes net. Whether you need to design, optimize, plan out for capacity or solve a problem, you need to keep track of how your assets are configured and how they are connected – in an organized system that’s accessible for appropriate stakeholders to access from wherever they happen to be and at any time (with proper permission and security levels).