System & Network Documentation

System Documentation Networks

"Keeping a comprehensive and accurate set of network documentation is essential for any business running IT systems..."

Yet despite this, it's not uncommon for WTG consultants to come across customer sites where little or no network documentation exists..

This can be a major challenge as a lack of network documentation presents a number of problems to businesses.

The Importance of Creating Accurate Network Documentation

So, if documentation is so important, why do so many companies neglect this critical area of IT management? The answer can be one of many reasons but the most common is simply that the consultancy who implemented the network initially never provided any degree of documentation and so there wasn't anything to update in the first place.

Lesser IT consultants sometimes do not appreciate the importance of documentation and in the worst cases, unscrupulous companies take the view that not providing network documentation plays to their advantage as the customer has no option but to call them as only they understand the network.

Here at WTG however, we like to do things differently to much of our competition, as every network installation we provide comes fully documented. Similarly, the network documentation for each site we support is always updated as and when we make configuration changes to the network.

Risks of Poor or No Network Documentation

It's undoubtedly bad practice not to provide network documentation but there is also a business risk to the customer which might cause financial loss through extended system downtime in the event of a hardware failure or problem.

Typical examples of the sort of problems that no documentation causes include:

  • Lost passwords, especially after staff changes 
  • Failure to renew mission critical security software such as anti virus 
  • Failure to manage data backup problems when not properly documented 
  • Financial risks through poor software licence management

More Problems Associated with Poor Documentation

Changes in staff can exascerbate the detrimental effects of poor or no network documentation. Furthermore, poor training can also impact adversely and increase business risk.

Recently, one of WTG's IT consultants was asked to visit a new client site where the customer was being prompted to insert a second backup cartridge each morning in order to complete their daily backup. What we discovered was that they were merely pushing in the ejected tape and, in so doing, were overwriting all but a few files of their daily backup.

Had the customer in question been trained and provided with network documentation, this situation could have been avoided. Similarly, had they employed WTG sooner to provide their IT Support then as part of our procedures, we would have identified this problem sooner.

"Changes in staff can exascerbate the detrimental effects of poor or no network documentation. Furthermore, poor training can also impact adversely and increase business risk..."

What to Include in Essential Network Documentation

As a starting guide, it's considered best practice to include the following items in your network documentation:

  • Server Hardware Configuration & roles 
  • Key user account usernames & passwords 
  • Device usernames and passwords 
  • IP addressing and subnet mask details 
  • Details of procedures 
  • software licencing information 
  • 3rd party contact information

NB - depending on the structure and size of an organisation, it's usually best practice to keep passwords securely protected, say in the fire safe where backup tapes are stored.

Alternatively, there are a number of software utilities such as KeyPass which can be used for the storing of passwords. Naturally, WTG will be happy to advise on which method is deemed best for your business.

Network Diagrams

Ideally, a visual network diagram should be created to demonstrate the logical structure of the network. That said, it should be borne in mind that a network diagram is no substitue for and only useful in the event of accompanying written information, plus it does present a further layer to keep up-to-date.

For larger networks, products like WhatsUpGold provide a useful tool for network discovery and documentation. Alternatively, Microsoft Visio has many useful elements for constructing a detailed and meaningful network diagram.

Documenting Written Procedures

Procedures on how to maintain the network technology, including Operating Systems, security related services, backup and disaster recovery (business continuity), and firewall technologies should exist.

Software Licencing Documentation

Additionally, you should document and secure all Operating System and application licensing. WTG can help with auditing your entire software inventory, using the latest tools to ensure that unauthorised or unlicenced software is not being used on the network and thereby putting your business at risk of fine.

This is something that is very often overlooked and is imperative if you have to recover from a disaster situation in which the rebuild of systems is necessary.

Contact Information for Third Parties

An often overlooked area is to document all the third party contact information necessary for providing effective IT support. Documenting this key contact information should include details for web hosting providers,the ISP providing Internet access, software support site IDs, username and telephones etc.

With regard to the web hosting, we often discover that the registrate that hosts the Domain Name Services (DNS) is not the same as the hosting company itself. Keeping a record of how to change DNS records is essential for ensuring no interuptions to email services mailflow and website availability are experienced.

Finally, as with website code itself, if bespoke software is in use then it is necessary to record contact details for the software author/developers concerned. While WTG is highly experienced in both these areas and has previously had to "rescue" customers who have lost their websites or whose bespoke software has ceased working.

"Contact WTG today for more advice and information on ensuring the IT audit and documentation procedures of your business are effective..."

Call us today at (585) 502-8521 for any type of virus removal or to improve your virus scan protection. We'll schedule a visit from one of our expert computer technicians for computer repair, computer services or computer support. For your convenience, we also have an easy to use contact form.