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January 12, 2018

A Better Way to Document Your Network Topology than Visio

by Charlie Elliott

Yesterday, Brandon Heller and I recorded a podcast with Ethan Banks and Greg Ferro of Packet Pushers fame. If you are not a fan of Packet Pusher Podcasts, you should be. They have a large following of highly technical network nerds and their podcasts are always engaging and educational. When they finish production on the podcast, I'll post a link here.

During the discussion, we talked about how Forward Networks can be a "single source of truth" for all things networking. Network admins are always looking for a single source of truth for the topology and implementation of the network in a digestible documentation source rather than trying to cobble it together when needed from individual devices. For many years Microsoft Visio has been the most frequently used tool to document network topology and connectivity, including IP addresses, etc. But the problem has always been that complex diagrams are hard to maintain and keep current, and there's no guarantee they reflect reality.

Ethan had a great line, that Visio is the "single source of the way the network looked at some point in time". Which was humorous and insightful enough that he tweeted it out. Then all sorts of hilarity ensued.

 

Ethan Visio Tweet

Several of his followers took it a step further:

Visio response 1

and

Visio response 2

LOL, and

Visio response 3

So, Visio may represent a somewhat archaic view of the network, maybe? Or maybe Visio as a topology mapping tool is somewhat of a relic? Finally, someone asks:

Visio response 4

A Better Way

Well, as fans of Forward Networks know, that answer is a resounding "Yes!". In fact, if your primary interest is automatically maintaining an always-up-to-date topology diagram, with a centralized repository of configuration files and network state, then you only need our Free solution, Forward Essentials. It can collect all of your network data in minutes, builds a diagram, and you are ready to dive in and drill down on all your current network details, protocols, ports and plumbing.

Forward Essentials Topology Diagram

Essentials can collect a new snapshot every day, or more frequently if desired, so you are automatically up to date. And Essentials doesn't merely generate a diagram. It's a very interactive, intuitive user interface that allows you to search, explore and drill down into the network to help research and document devices from every angle. A perfect training tool or a repository for compliance and audit data.

If you're interested in seeing a quick demo video, learning more, or a trial the free product, it all happens here.

 

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