Network documentation means clearly recording details of what systems have been set up, what equipment has been used, how it’s been wired together and how it’s been configured. All companies should have thorough documentation of their existing systems. And ensure these are properly updated each and every time there are changes to the network, equipment upgrades, expansions and new installations.
Network documentation should consist of a visual diagram of the network. And include cable mapping, an equipment inventory, software versions, IP addresses, server configurations. Also backup/disaster recovery procedures and administrative accounts and passwords.
Due to the sensitivity of some of this information, the documentation should be available in digital and hard-copy format. And stored in a secure place. It is also worth keeping a separate copy in an offsite location for disaster recovery purposes.
This may seem like an arduous task. But there are a number of key reasons why it’s one not to be overlooked:
1. Staff turnover
Some degree of staff turnover is inevitable. Even without members of staff leaving the company, employees may take holiday or sick leave. This leaves the management of your IT systems in the hands of someone who may not know the infrastructure as well as they do.
Thorough network documentation future-proofs your system against any potential staff changes or uncertainties. Because it means other qualified individuals should be able to come in and easily familiarise themselves with the architecture, understand how it works and why it has been built up in the way it has.
Any knowledge gaps that do arise in your team are easier to identify with a clear picture of all your equipment. This means new candidates can be recruited with the necessary skills to bridge these gaps or training can be arranged to bring all team members up to speed on the technology they need to be aware of to manage your infrastructure.
2. Planning for future growth
Documentation provides an excellent base from which to plan future growth and system developments. It is impossible to make fully informed decisions about a network transition or new deployment without a thorough understanding of your existing systems. Documentation makes it easier to plan how new equipment will integrate into existing infrastructure, which areas need to be replaced, where capacity is lacking and so on.
3. Managing equipment lifecycles
With so much different equipment, often from different vendors, making up a full network, it is important to keep track of different warranties, support contracts and upgrade paths. This ensures your equipment is always fully covered and performing as it should. With full documentation detailing each piece of equipment, it is also possible to learn more about its value and depreciation curve in order to plan for timely upgrades, trade ins or refurbishment.
4. Resolving problems and inefficiencies
If there is a specific problem in your network, documentation means valuable time can be spent instantly resolving the problem. Rather than first trying to understand how the network is configured. This is particularly valuable when a third-party service engineer is required as faster problem resolution results in significantly lower costs.
A full network map also makes it easier to identify any inefficiencies in your network. And any areas for optimisation. Whilst helping to ensure that fully up-to-date best practices and configurations are used throughout your system, preventing many potential problems from occurring.
5. Replication of architectures
Providing a roadmap from which to replicate your architecture, network documentation can prove invaluable as part of a disaster recovery plan. If any sections of the network are damaged or inoperable for any reason, they may need to be rebuilt. Of course thorough documentation effectively provides a set of instructions for how to do this.
Additionally, if a network architecture is particularly successful, a business may want to replicate it in new premises as part of an expansion plan. Documentation saves time and money on network design, pre-staging and installation. Making it easy for engineers to identify what equipment they need. And how it should be configured and installed for roll-out in a new location.
Overall, comprehensive network documentation can save you time and money. And is key to maintaining a successful and high performing network.
Network Documentation Services
If you need help documenting your systems, Hardware.com offers full audit services to help you gain a thorough understanding of your existing infrastructure including documentation. We are also able to offer documentation services alongside new installations. We record details of what’s been set up, how it’s been wired together and how it’s been configure. So you can be sure you have all the necessary records in place. If you would like further information on any of these services, please get in touch.