A network is a lot like any piece of complex equipment – it often needs frequent tuning to keep things running optimally. Without proper monitoring, it's easy to find your network efficiency slipping as you add hardware to the system.
A detailed network diagram is one of your best options for keeping track of your network's physical setup. Being able to match up your access points to your switches physically, while knowing everything currently utilizing the network, makes ongoing management far easier.
Making An Up-To-Date Network Diagram
While it's possible to do it by hand, we don't recommend it. Instead, find software to do it for you. There are plenty of options, including plenty of free or extremely affordable options.
If you want free, we'd recommend Spiceworks for being relatively powerful for the price. If you don't mind spending a few dollars, look at Masshandra. It has the most features on the market, including 3D visualizations and live monitoring.
Either way, the software does the work for you. It “spiders” your network and reports back on its findings, in a chart that shows the entire layout. This makes starting a network map quick and easy. From there, it's easy to keep it updated as things change, or to (in some cases) have the software automatically generate reports for you.
The Benefits A Network Diagram Brings To Your Systems
1 – Optimizing Your Physical Layout
In the age of wireless devices, it's easy to forget that the physical locations of your devices matter. It still takes time, even if it's just milliseconds, for data to flow through the cables, or transmit through WiFi.
So one easy benefit from a network map is that it allows you to ensure that you have your access points connecting to the nearest physical switch or router. Over a larger-scale operation, this can provide some immediate speedups.
2 – Planning Future Upgrades
Being able to visualize your network's layout makes future upgrades easier, especially when looking to optimize new hardware from the very beginning. It avoids the jumble you get when a company adds pieces to their network ad-hoc, by creating a reliable planning tool for future implementations.
Many of the software tools allow you to add hypothetical devices as well, allowing your network admin to pre-plan and adjust for upgrades before rollout.
3 – Investigating Unauthorized Devices
It's extremely common in businesses these days to discover unauthorized network appliances, even entire servers, being run by employees for their own use. This is a tricky situation because, in many cases, these unauthorized additions truly aren't causing harm, and host tools a particular department needs.
That said, if they're outside your control, they may be outside your security settings and network optimizations. So if you find unauthorized devices, investigate their usage. If they're beneficial, bring them into the official network so that everything stays under the same umbrella.
If they're using your connection and not serving a business purpose, then kicking them off the network frees up plenty of resources.
4 – Boosting Your ROI
Along with enhancing your systems management, a network map may even pay off directly. Keeping good records on your various network devices makes it far easier to resell them when you upgrade, which is a popular way for growing businesses to reduce your hardware spends.
Some network mapping software even allows for custom label creation, specifically for repackaging and resale.
Diligence Keeps A Network Optimized
You can't neglect a network for too long – it has a way of developing problems all on its own, especially if there have been recent equipment replacements. A good set of network mapping software is ultimately one of the best tools to keep your network running smoothly.
Have you found any effective network optimization techniques? Let people know in the comments!