Network Documentation Best Practices
Network Documentation is a very powerful process to implement in your network environment. Here we list out the network documentation best practices so that you have a better idea of what needs to be done and how you can do it.
When we think of network documentation, we know in theory that it is a way of keeping a record of what hardware and software is on a organizations network. However, many of us are uncertain about how to do this or even where to get started.
Why do we need Network Documentation?
First, let’s answer the all-important question; why do we need network documentation in the first place? Network documentation is more than just knowing the hardware and software components on your network; it is also about knowing which devices are connected to other devices and how.
Network documentation helps keep track of the flow of information, how changes to one device affect the rest of the network, and what is required if upgrades are needed or recently completed.
Network documentation allows you to keep a pulse on your network so that inventory management becomes easier, you are prepared for disaster recovery, and any glitches in the network can be ironed out more easily and quickly.
Troubleshooting when problems arise is a lot easier with network documentation.
Without network documentation, you might find yourself in an emergency situation without a safety net to fall back on.
So yes, if you have an organization comprised of hardware and software on your networks, you do need network documentation.
The Best Practices for Effective Network Documentation
To get started with your network documentation process, it first helps to automate the system. Using network documentation software helps to speed up the process and remove the risk of human errors.
Good automation software will assist in updating every time there are changes in the network so that no device or new program are omitted in the documentation process.
An automated system ensures that network documentation takes place in real time, without the constant need for human intervention.
1. The documentation policy:
Before you start the network documentation you need to be clear about what parts of the network you are going to document and how. With an automated system, it is feasible to automate the entire system and provide several layers of visibility.
With a network documentation policy, you can plan not just the documentation of the network but also the role of each administrator using that network. As and when human intervention is required to permit a task, the person with authority can go ahead and grant permission.
2. The network diagram:
Network documentation should include diagrams to be most effective.
Large networks usually will have multiple layers and segments.
At the very base, the first layer will be a visual of all the physical devices on the network along with connecting cables. Color coding cables by type or thickness helps them to be identified more easily.
The second layer contains information about trunk connections, VLAN numbers, and so on.
Then there is a layer for routing and IP addresses on the network.
These layers can be viewed individually or superimposed on each other as a whole.
3. Things to be documented:
There are a few other things aside from the physical components of the network that need to be documented which can be assigned to an appendix. These details would include server names and IP addresses, whether the server is a DHCP, mail server, etc., and if servers have multiple IP addresses.
It is essential to have all these details documented in case of a problem that needs quick troubleshooting.
4. Keep a log:
Networks are regularly undergoing upgrades which cause changes in their configuration.
Keeping a log of every upgrade will help in case the change creates a problem in the network.
Configuration changes on one device can affect the whole network and are easier to trace if you know where the upgrade took place.
All patch installations, modification in a security setting, or installation of any new applications should be accounted for in the log.
5. Inventory management:
Network documentation also includes inventory management.
As part of the documentation process, you need to have details about the version of the application on a server, license information, and information on renewals and upgrades.
An automated system can send out an alert when a license is expiring or when a security system is due for an upgrade so that these tasks don’t get overlooked.
6. Label components:
Make sure that you label all the components on your network diagrams. Servers might all look the same, and without knowing which one is which, it could be quite difficult to match the diagram with the actual devices.
Components labelling purpose is keeping track of where everything is on the network. Without proper labeling, the whole process of network documentation would prove futile as it defies its purpose.
With well-labeled diagrams, it becomes a lot easier to define a start point of the network and see where it moves from there. Labeling the physical devices is also important so that you have a reference to match with.
After the whole network documentation process is complete you need to check to see if it is serving its purpose properly. Wait a few months and observe if you have had any problems with the network and if the documentation process helps avert a shutdown of the entire network.
It would be even better if the documentation helped to prevent a potential problem from occurring.
Don’t forget that the network documentation process needs to be an ongoing and dynamic process so that every change in hardware or software is accounted for.
8. Network documentation is absolutely necessary for all types of networks
If the network is small with a single server and a few devices the documentation can be done manually. However, for medium to larger networks, it is recommended that the process be automated to save time and eliminate any errors in the documentation process.
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