What’s one of the biggest reasons engineers fail to document their networks?
Job insecurity. Fear that documentation could jeopardize their job. "If I document the network, it makes me replaceable."
Have no fear. With a 1% IT unemployment rate in the Bay Area, you have better job security than you think!
Besides, documenting your network is the mark of a true IT professional and makes your IT department better organized, easier to manage, and fully prepared for the unexpected.
Documentation’s Value: Planning for All Future Possibilities
What if your network engineer suddenly goes on extended leave? Your firewall dies. Your servers crashes. Your switch blows. Or your company suffers an unexpected power outage.
Documenting your network layout, hardware assets, service logins, critical processes, etc., prepares you for it and helps reduce network downtime. Having solid network documentation takes a disaster recovery job down from days to just hours.
So let’s start the process. What should a smart business document?
What to Document—Be Pragmatic
Chasing down every little IT process is an exercise in documentation futility. Instead, focus on documenting your critical information and processes.
- Start by answering this question: “If an IT Consultant had to help us recover from a complete disaster, what documentation would he/she ask for?” The response represents the architecture of your mission-critical IT…what you must document.
Here are areas this documentation must cover:
- Critical IT Infrastructure Information
- Network diagrams (physical and logical)
- List of network hardware and logins (firewalls, switches, access points, routers)
- List of servers, their functions and logins (critical to keep up to date)
- Firewall, switch, and router configurations (saved to a network share)
- Support contracts for network hardware and servers
- Software licensing contracts and keys
- Details of all cloud services used, including logins
- ISP—contact information, login, contract dates, and associated circuit ID
- Backups (vendor name/account #)
- Domain registrar and login
- IT Processes
- Process for patch management
- Process for retrieving backups from storage
- Process for requesting VPN access to internal resources
- Disaster recovery plans (if any)
- Build documentation updates into the calendar. For example, documentation is reviewed and any new procedures added quarterly.
- Store documentation someplace secure, and keep a backup offsite in case of disaster.
- Securely store administrative accounts separately from process documentation and only provide them to staff on a “need to have” basis. Your CEO or CTO/CIO should be provided with the master administrative account. All other users should be assigned a user-specific administrative account appropriate for their roles and responsibilities.
Solid Documentation Helps Keep the Business Going
Solid IT documentation keeps you prepared for the day when someone in your company may not be there. It could be a Network Support Technician. Could be the IT Manager. It could even be the business owner.
If you've documented your critical IT infrastructure, then you’ve nothing to fear.
Is It Time to Upgrade Your Network? – Part 2: Things You Need to Know – 02/27/2013