How To Create Effective Network Diagrams

Follow these eight tips to ensure your network diagrams are helpful, reliable tools.

Easily the most useful – yet often most neglected – form of network documentation is the network diagram. With it, you have access to a visual and textual map of the network that can prove invaluable in all sorts of situations including: troubleshooting, adds/changes, and future roadmap planning. So what does it take to create and maintain useful network diagrams? In this slideshow, I'll provide eight tips to get you started.

The main challenge with network diagrams is that everyone has their own idea of what layout works best. In reality, there’s no real right or wrong. But following some general guidelines will help you create clear, concise and accurate network diagrams that you can use for years to come.

In general, there are a few common pitfalls that IT departments fall into when they create network diagrams. One is a lack of agreement between network engineers/architects as to the overall layout a diagram should take within an organization. From one diagram to the next, each can have its own unique layout, information, and structure. So reading diagrams can be incredibly challenging and time consuming.

Another problem I see on a regular basis is that the creators of the diagrams often fail to understand their target audience. Obviously, the core audience will be architects and support engineers inside the company. But other parts of IT, department managers and external, third-party consultants may also need to read and understand the diagrams. So if the diagrams lack the necessary information or are too complex, they fail to satisfy all of the organization’s needs.

However, the No. 1 culprit of poor network diagram documentation is failure to update diagrams as network adds, changes and modifications occur. So what may have been an excellent document that provided all of the necessary information on day one, ends up simply confusing a year or two down the road.

Continue on to learn how to avoid these missteps and ensure your network diagrams are valuable now and in the future.

(Image: violetkaipa/iStockphoto)

About the Author(s)

Andrew Froehlich, President, West Gate Networks

President, West Gate Networks

As a highly experienced network architect and trusted IT consultant with worldwide contacts, particularly in the United States and Southeast Asia, Andrew Froehlich has nearly two decades of experience and possesses multiple industry certifications in the field of enterprise networking. Froehlich has participated in the design and maintenance of networks for State Farm Insurance, United Airlines, Chicago-area schools and the University of Chicago Medical Center. He is the founder and president of Loveland, Colo.-based West Gate Networks, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and data center build outs. The author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex, he is a regular contributor to multiple enterprise IT related websites and trade journals with insights into rapidly changing developments in the IT industry.

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