two men discussing network mapping

Network Mapping Best Practices: Four Steps for Success

February 22, 2017
Network mapping best practices

Network mapping can present a difficult project for network engineers and administrators alike. Despite its challenges, it is a very necessary process to ensure that the company has a visual representation of the network and all of its components. With an overarching picture of the network at hand, the IT team is better equipped to manage all the systems involved and troubleshoot any issues that might come up.

In order to streamline the process of network mapping, here are a few things every network administrator should take into consideration:

1. Know what to include in network mapping

One of the first things to understand when network mapping is which components should be included in the visualization. Packet Pushes contributor Charles Galler notes that there are several essential items to include here, such as all IP addresses in the network, firewall and filtering equipment, and the rack layout making up the infrastructure. In addition, managers should consider creating an inventory list that includes all details relevant to network components, such as the equipment manufacturer, model, serial number, host name, and location. Companies that have an asset tag system should add this information to the list as well.

Related Content: Finding Your Way: Mapping Your Network to Improve Network Manageability 

2. Create a network mapping policy

Once managers know what should be included in the network map, they can create a policy to govern the process within their organization. TechTarget contributor Brien Posey notes that this is especially beneficial as a policy lays out each network administrator’s responsibilities as part of the mapping process. An essential part of creating a network mapping policy is determining what performance baselines and indicators need to be captured in your maps. These baselines allow network administrators to standardize what the normal working conditions of the network infrastructure are, ensuring that the infrastructure is configured appropriately going forward.

3. Establish maps

Now that you’ve created a policy that standardizes performance baselines and ensures the configuration of devices are in place, you can get down to the task at hand: establishing the actual network maps. There are three different ways to establish a map: by auto-discovery, manual entry, and importing a data file. Auto-discovery allows for full discovery of your entire network automatically, while manual entry can discover devices, subnets, and smaller aspects of your network. Import of a data file can add a range of devices or individual devices to a map.

4. Utilize an industry-leading network mapping solution

Because the process of manual network mapping can be tricky, the team should leverage a best-in-class solution to help. In these regards, a dynamic network mapping tool provides all the necessary capabilities, including auto-discovery, visual traffic flow, and mapping of physical connections. A software application often allows you to utilize hierarchical, geographical, and physical maps, giving you flexibility in how you want to view your network. With these solutions in place, the IT team can avoid many of the headaches related to network mapping and reap all the rewards. 

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