One of the first things you should do before setting up a complex network is draw out a network diagram. This is a drawing of the layout of the network’s architecture; it sets out the structure of the network using a range of symbols to represent the different devices on the network, with lines showing clearly how these devices are connected.
Your finished network diagram could end up including hundreds of different symbols, ranging from individual PCs to complex server racks or even a cloud-based storage system. Different scales and sizes can also be used in your diagram to represent different levels of network granularity. For example, individual nodes in a local area network (LAN) may represent just a single device or server, while in a wide area network (WAN); a single node may in fact represent an entire city.
How Do You Use a Network Diagram?
The key aim of a network diagram is to demonstrate how one computer or system is linked to others in the same network. This information can be used on two important levels:
- It can be especially useful when you have technicians trying to track down problems within a network. Often these issues can be more easily traced if the technicians have an understanding of how all the different devices in a network are connected to each other.
- Network diagrams are also really useful for network engineers and designers as it helps them to compile detailed network documentation.
How to Draw a Network Diagram
There are a number of different ways you can create a network diagram. They can be created using anything from a pen and paper or a white board to a specialist diagramming tool. Ultimately, it depends on what you want to do with the diagram and how big the network is, but the latter approach will give you a much more efficient and effective end result. The ability to drag and drop pre-defined icons for network devices and components onto a diagram onscreen will save you time, effort, and energy.
Tips on Creating Your Network Diagram
- Paper first—You network diagram may have a lot of elements, so it’s probably helpful to sketch out your network diagram on paper first.
- Make a list—Before you do anything, list out all the different components in the network. What do you have in there? Cloud storage, servers, PCs, peripherals, hubs, and routers. This means you don’t have to completely redraw everything when you find you forgot a printer.
- Get labelling—It may seem obvious, but if you don’t label everything, you can’t be sure that everyone else will be able to understand what they are looking at. If you can’t label everything directly, then just use a key/legend with descriptions. This will have the added benefit of keeping your diagram less cluttered.
- Making connections—Your next step is to look at how your devices are connected. Draw lines between the different devices to see how they will connect. Try not to let lines cross each other, as that way you can easily see the connection points.
- Get the right tool—Once you’ve got your general layout sorted, it’s time to transfer this to your chosen network diagram tool in order to map it out. A lot of free network diagram tools will provide you with basic templates that give you a good starting point. It’s also worth noting that when you chose your tool, make sure it has images readily available to represent all the parts of your network. It will also be useful to have the option of a grid background so you can easily align and position items on your diagram.
- Add more texture to your diagram—Using different font sizes for peripherals and backend components, and different colors for the lines that symbolize connections will make your diagram even easier to follow.
- And finally—When your network diagram is complete, you should be able to save and print it. On top of this, if you’ve used an online network diagram tool, you’ll also be able to share it and even invite others to work on it and refine it.
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