Friday, December 22, 2017

Network Documentation: Start Somewhere

I can't count how many conversations I've had over the years about how to "get started" with network documentation. The truth is, everyone in this business has already started. That's not the challenge.

The challenge is to create a system that's scalable!

If you think you're at the stage where you don't have a system, that just means you're really at the stage where you need to start taking stock. Where you keep track of domain name registrations? Server IP addresses? Passwords? Client usernames and passwords for Microsoft licenses? Network maps? DNS configurations? etc.

If you have more than a couple of clients, you simply can't keep all that stuff in your head. So where is it?

There are three fundamental approaches to documentation that work:

1) Index where everything is kept

2) Create a tiered storage system

3) Keep everything in one place

No matter what people have tried, #3 is simply impossible. But it's still a legitimate goal because you CAN manage to get MOST documentation in one place. Generally, that place is either going to be a storage area (Server "X" drive, ShareFile, OneDrive, DropBox, JungleDisk, Achor drive, Datto drive, etc.) or a software package (IT Glue, Docusnap, Confluence, OneNote, PassPortal MSP, SharePoint, etc.). Some people even attempt this with their PSA or RMM tools.

If you can get most of your most important documentation in one place, then you just need to know how to access the rest of the documentation as needed. Some might be stored on individual client servers or or storage arrays. Some might be in various tools (e.g., You might store most network-wide information in ITGlue but keep individual PC information in the RMM tool.). Very often, license information is stored at paper documents for older licenses and electronic files for new licenses.

So, as you can see, the three "systems" all come into play. Keep as much as you can in one primary storage system or tool. Then keep other information where it makes the most sense. And that leads to the final element: Index it all or create a system so everyone can know where everything is.

One of the obvious weaknesses of "modern" education is that tests often require students to memorize arcane information. This is obviously a problem because you are rarely in a position in the real world where you cannot access books, tools, libraries, or the Internet. So the skill you need for success in the real world is not to memorize everything: It is to know how to find the information you need.

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Now is the time to start building your Network Documentation Library for 2018. Create a ticket in your ticketing system to start gathering information.

Job One: Figure out where you have all this information now.

Write it down. If you haven't made an effort to be organized in the past, the information is probably in a different place for each client. That doesn't matter at this point. Just write down where it is located. At a later stage, we'll scoop it all up and put it where it belongs.

Also . . . start thinking about the information you need to keep and the information you don't need to keep.

Check in next Friday for another post on network documentation.

Feedback welcome.


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