Network Diagrams…. You NEED them!

There is so much truth in the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Pictures matter, especially in the technical field!

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I majored in Computer Science in college.  These days, “Computer Science” should be called “Computer Programming”.  They taught the OSI model from layer 1 to layer 7, but the majority of the time was spent on application development.

The more complex projects and programs always required a flow chart diagram from start to finish.  This diagram was typically done BEFORE we even started defining variables.  Diagrams have saved me countless of configuring and troubleshooting throughout my career as an application developer earlier and even more now as a network architect. Visio and Omnigraffle diagrams have brought me many hours of peaceful sleep! 🙂

Before The Project

20070531_107761_image001_201198_57_0Developing a diagram before the project even starts is KEY to helping a project go as smooth as possible.  You can’t think of EVERYTHING that will come up during a project, but you can definitely envision overall architecture and design. Going through the exercise of envisioning flow of information from start to finish will give you an intimate relationship with your project before you even get started.

If you’re building a house, you’ll want to sit down and design the house on paper first.  Building a blueprint diagram helps with costs, timing, and knowledge of the project before it even gets started.

During the Project

“What was he thinking!?!” I’ve said this over and over when trying to build a network with a “list of equipment” without a network diagram.  I usually stopped implementing the network and created a Visio diagram outlining what I thought they wanted to accomplish with the tools they gave me.

When running into routing problems without layer 3 diagrams, I was left “winging it” and reinventing the wheel instead of continuing on building the network.  Building anything without instructions (i.e. the Tim the Toolman Taylor way) is NEVER the best way to build something.  Cookie cutter installations by people with experience are a bit different, but at one point they took the time to view the blueprint.

After the Project

You’ve got your network up and running.  It’s works perfectly…. Until it doesn’t.  If you’re like me, you have your hands on a lot of projects and you may not remember building the network.  That’s not a good place to be.

It’s also incredibly valuable to have a diagram and map of the network to help out people who may not have installed and designed the network when they’re troubleshooting issues.  Engineers and analysts understand network troubleshooting, they just don’t have the vision they need.  This is where you give them the tools they need to succeed.

Changes

As your network grows and expands, you’ll be adding links, IPs, ports, etc.  If you have an existing diagram, it’ll be super easy to keep your diagram updated and help your operations teams when they are fixing the inevitable issues. Don’t neglect keeping your map up to date.  You hate it when your GPS gets roads wrong, your staff will hate it when theirs is too!

 

In the end, your engineers and analysts don’t just want network diagrams, they NEED them!


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