What Is Network Documentation?

If you have never heard the term “network documentation,” then you are in very good company.  Many small to medium-size businesses with limited in-house IT support find the creation and maintenance of their IT infrastructure a very challenging and time-consuming task. Every time that a company installs or replaces a new piece of hardware, an update of the documentation should immediately follow.  This rule is also true for new software or software updates.  So every time that your company upgrades their Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Office Suite, Windows Operating Systems, or any other integral program, a change needs to be made to the documentation.  Is this occurring in your office?

Why is network documentation important?

Proper methods of documentation save the company time and money. In cases where the company calls an outside IT professional technician to repair or upgrade the existing system, the documentation provides the information to make the repair quickly and with minimal downtime. Instead of spending countless hours learning how your company’s system is configured, the technician can begin the repairs almost immediately when up-to-date documentation is readily available.

What should network documentation include?

Every company has very different IT infrastructures. But many of the components will be nearly identical.  Proper documentation should include both aspects of your computer systems–the traditional and the unique.  Some basic items to include are:

  • A visual diagram of the entire network, including the IP address assignments for each connection location.
  • A detailed inventory of all hardware and software
  • Patch panel / Switch diagrams
  • Cable mapping
  • Servers configuration
  • Vendor contact information
  • Dates and vendor names of past services performed on the system
  • Administrative passwords and accounts (These should be kept in an exceptionally safe location, perhaps separate from the remainder of the network documentation)

Who is responsible for maintaining the documentation?

For businesses with brand new IT infrastructures, the original architect of the system may not immediately provide you with the related network documentation.  This can be for a variety of possible reasons.  First, it can be quite a tedious task to complete. Second, the vendor may simply forget to offer it. Third, many in the technical community feel that the documentation is unnecessary. And lastly, your vendor might intentionally forget to provide it so that you remain dependent on his or her services forever.  Always be sure to ask for this documentation before signing the contract.

Network documentation is never complete. It is a document that is continuously changing with every new upgrade or addition to your system.  It is a “living document” that must be easily accessible but by only a select few. You might want to keep a “read-only” copy on the network for all employees to access. If the system goes down and the designated IT guru is not available to talk to the onsite repair technician, then the documentation is still readily available. A hard copy should be placed in a secure location somewhere on the premises. After all, you won’t be able to access the online copy if your entire system goes down.  We also recommend keeping a second hardcopy offsite, as a disaster recovery document.  For more information contact us at Method 1 IT.