As a managed services provider (MSP), you’ve likely had to deal with a device failing on your network—or worse, the network itself facing connectivity issues. When this happens, how do you respond? Is there a place you can easily access and analyze network performance data to get things back up and running?
When dealing with network or device failure, MSPs need to act fast to restore availability. Each second that goes by without resolution has a direct impact on revenue, productivity, and customer satisfaction. To restore the network as quickly as possible, technicians need an easy way to get a comprehensive overview of the network to identify the problem.
To do so efficiently, MSPs should consider using a network topology map. A network map can show you exactly where a device is located, as well as real-time data on network performance that can help diagnose the root cause of an issue. This article will cover what exactly a network topology map is, how to create one, and what tools MSPs should have in their arsenal to aid network mapping.
What is network mapping?
Network mapping provides a visual representation of your network’s connectivity, both physically and virtually. The phrase “network mapping” refers to a group of tasks that contribute to the creation of a network map. This includes network diagrams, flow charts, device inventories, and topology detection. Network maps are visual aids often used for network maintenance purposes. They are also useful for sharing network information between technicians, particularly those who are new to the network.
How do you create a network topology map?
These five steps will help you create an accurate and useful network map that features all the necessary elements and can be shared with your team. Using a network topology mapper tool can simplify and centralize this process, increasing your team’s productivity.
1. Identify which areas of your network need to be mapped
The first step in creating a network map is identifying which network elements need to be mapped. For example, do you want visibility of your complete distributed network, an individual subnet, or simply an IP address range? While some organizations will employ complex network maps that reflect their extensive requirements, others may find that simple network maps with just a handful of elements are capable of meeting their needs.
Once you have determined what your network map needs to feature, you can move onto the next step. Remember that every network map, no matter your organization’s size or requirements, should show connections between devices. These may include servers, printers, customers, routers, switches, and more.
2. Pick a method to utilize
Now that you know what you want your network map to include, you need to decide which platform or method you want to use to create your map. Some organizations may choose to draw their maps by hand, which will take a lot of manual effort but can be suitable for a simple network.
Using network mapping software is a highly recommended alternative, which can save you a significant amount of time and potential headache. With a good network topology mapper, network mapping can take minutes rather than days, updates are automatic, and any device issues are flagged in real time.
3. Optimize your network map
A network map should be visually optimized to make interpreting it quick and easy. At this stage, you should take time to adjust the colors, layout, and icons so the network map’s design is intuitive and easy for all viewers to understand. Keep in mind that this map is likely to be viewed by stakeholders, who may not have a technical background, so the design should reflect this.
4. Distribute the network map
Once you have finished optimizing the design of your network map, it is time to share it with all relevant parties. Avoid printing or sharing your map as an individual document, because this could lead to outdated versions being accidentally utilized in the future. Instead, consider uploading your map to a location that can be accessed securely from anywhere, like a shared cloud storage platform.
5. Keep your network map updated
If you decide to use a manual method of creating your network map, the process of keeping your map up-to-date may be more difficult and time-consuming. You will need to update your network map each time you add or remove a device. Or, you will have to analyze your network periodically and redistribute updated network maps. In the meantime, technicians may not have the most current view or competing versions of the network map. A network mapping tool can add all devices for you automatically, ensuring everyone has the same view and the most current information.
Choosing the right network topology mapper
SolarWinds® N-central® delivers a fully automated network mapping experience. The network topology mapper tool automatically discovers your complete network and generates detailed, comprehensive maps that are dynamic and easy for anyone to engage with. N-central even automatically detects changes in your network, like added devices, so keeping your network topology map up-to-date is effortless.
N-central is easy to use and helps you rapidly troubleshoot issues in your customers’ networks, servers, and workstations—even while you’re on the go. With the mobile app available for Android and iOS, you’re never out of the loop. You can receive alerts pushed directly to your phone, which you can use to run remote control sessions using Take Control.
In addition to the network topology mapper, N-central offers additional automation features to help your MSP save time, including patch management, backup management, security management, report management, and endpoint detection and response.
Overall, N-central is a powerful, customizable IT solution that allows MSPs to manage complex networks from one consolidated location—including comprehensive remote monitoring and management capabilities. Give N-central a try free for 30 days.