Network diagrams are similar to an organizational chart for digital infrastructure. More than being mere illustrations, these are important to determine how the parts of a computer network interact together.
In the case of a system emergency, these diagrams will be crucial in providing insights on how to get the network back in order.
Vital Role of Network Architecture Diagram
When it comes to troubleshooting network configurations, a network architecture diagram removes the guesswork out of the equation. It saves resources such as money and time when it comes to restarting a network. With an organized outline of how the components work together harmoniously, it is easier to pinpoint the specific areas where errors or problems occur.
This is very important for businesses that rely on these networks for their output. Time is of the essence and industries can’t afford any prolonged stoppage or interruption. With a network diagram, the hope is that any downtime can be sorted quickly with a reliable diagram as a guide.
Instead of the support staff wasting valuable time and guessing what aspects are providing to be problematic, the network diagram can help the business get back on its feet in no time.
This is a visual representation that provides a map of the structure of the network as well as the various line connections of the infrastructure. The optics of the illustration makes it easier to visualize the flow of the network.
Steps to Keep a Well-Documented Network
Network documentation may not be the favorite job of many network engineers and architects, but it is really crucial. It is a requirement under the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) under requirements 1.1.2 and 1.1.3. It is a rule of thumb in maintaining the stability of company networks.
The creation of data-flow diagrams and network infrastructure diagrams are also important to protect aspects such as the Cardholder Data Environment (CDE).
The diagramming process is very specific on details, tedious and even time-consuming. These are the reasons why some companies don’t even take the time to carry it out. Some companies may create network diagrams but won’t devote resources to verify its accuracy or timeliness.
But make no mistake, this process is very important to assure the security and stability of networks that are the backbone of many companies. Here are important steps to achieve a well-documented network diagram.
1. Securing a Platform for the Network Diagram
To eliminate the complication of creating documentation, especially for small business network setup diagrams, it is important to find a program that will efficiently assist you in streamlining the process of creating a network diagram.
An excellent program will minimize the stress of this tedious process. Available solutions in the market include Visio and Lucidchart. They can create data flow diagrams, compliance illustrations and network diagrams.
Take Lucidchart for example. They have a library in place to accommodate various networks such as Cisco, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS). They also have an option to have AWS architecture import by running a bash script to import data or to input AWS credentials.
Instead of creating networks from the ground up, these programs have templates and stencils that you can use as an original piece to build your own tailor-made network diagram. This is important because you just need to add lines, segments, components, according to your specifications. There can be added emphasis on customizing the diagram according to the needs of the company, instead of trying to learn everything from scratch.
2. Creating a Single Source of Reference
In a perfect world, a business can just entrust the network documentation to just one person. But this has risks and also offers less versatility. It is best to have multiple people working on the network diagram to maintain it — or to have a system in place where there can be a turnover of network documentation that can easily be referenced and understood.
But this can also be confusing with multiple access data and numerous versions of the documentation lying around. This may provide problems when it comes to finding the most updated version of the network diagram.
For this purpose, everyone in the team should be on the same page. Have a single reference point for vital data to access the documentation. Use permission-based controls for editing, commenting and viewing so that everyone can see any significant change. The right platform will enable this seamless, safe and efficient collaboration among team members. Revision history logs and access rights will permit everyone to see who made changes to the network.
The good thing about this easier reference point is that it is not only an internal amenity. It can be used to show diagrams to clients, partners and vendors with varying levels of complexity.
3. Documentation Update and Review
Change is inevitable. This is true in life, and more specifically so in businesses where everything is in constant flux. With this understanding of how industries are in constant motion, evolution and scaling, companies should also be vigilant about the review and update of their network diagrams. It is important to look for ways to innovate or keep up with documentation changes to always be on top of your game.
This is evident in the way industries have embraced the digital revolution. Most businesses have networks that accommodate the processing, acceptance and storage of debit and credit cards. Many companies have also migrated their infrastructure into the cloud with services such as GCP, Azure and AWS to facilitate greater bandwidth requirements, better offload maintenance and compliance burden management.
For this scenario, it is important that any network migration or new technology adoption should be reflected in the network diagram. This is important to survey and potential network security vulnerabilities and to address them should they present any problems. You should also provide these changes to your order so that it reflects the validation for the PCI compliance.
Network Diagramming for Small Businesses
To help guide a small business with the creation of a network diagram, here are some infrastructure pointers.
Very small offices usually employ routers or cable modems. As the company increases the scale of its operation, a full or fractional T1 line can be implemented. These come with several wires, boxes and even a built-in firewall system. Map out these connections in the network diagram during installation.
The firewall is very important in any enterprise to protect its data and privacy — especially vital industry information. This helps separate your database from the public world wide web. The firewall connection forms a significant core of the network diagram. This must be outlined carefully to address vulnerabilities that can lead to the theft of vital company information.
Outlined correctly, the firewall can help facilitate two separate connections on the wireless network: a WPA2 connection for work computers and an open connection for public use. This will enable you to protect your work computers. The proper documentation of these components will help secure faster recovery times when problems occur in the wireless network.
The wireless network is also an important part of the network diagram, owing to the expanded role of smartphones in business operations. There are also companies that offer wireless connectivity as an amenity.
The router configuration and position should be documented properly to prevent any security loopholes for the company. A vulnerable network can be hacked and cause significant damage to the company.
Mapping out the network architecture of the wireless connection should take into account that there must only be one ethernet cable in the wireless router. The work computers should not be plugged here for data privacy. The Ethernet input must pass through the firewall for an additional wall of protection. To protect from rogue devices, the network diagram should include web authentication from clients and customers.
For small businesses, a backend server is also beneficial, especially for those that operate Point of Sale or POS. This is a dedicated computer server for this purpose only, in order to secure private company information that might be breached if it is otherwise available on a public network. Without any other applications, programs, or browsers that take away from the capacity of the backend server, the network will run more efficiently and quickly.
Likewise, surveillance equipment is also helpful for business operations to monitor financial transactions and general safety. This can be installed hand in hand with the POS for better supervision of vital data. The rule of thumb is to keep a month’s worth of surveillance logs before they should be overwritten or stored, in order for the business to create monthly reports for better supervision.
All these aspects are vital for many small businesses. Integrating everything together to form a well-oiled and efficient machine has to have an excellent network diagram to avoid problems later on.
The Benefits of Documentation
At its core, network documentations comprise a complicated string of technical details for servers, software, hardware, user profiles, data and all digital information that companies use for their everyday operations.
It may appear to be a lot of hard work to compile everything in an organized manner. But if all these technical specifications are organized properly in a network diagram, it can easily help IT professionals and administrators to identify problems and vulnerabilities in the system. It is also vital in eliminating these issues altogether to ensure that operations run smoothly.
Network diagrams make all these complicated technical information accessible and easily understandable by other professionals who may be called upon to help with troubleshooting.
This is more important when taken in the context of career successions. While companies may have trusted IT professionals, employment situations vary with every organization. When there is a need for a new employee to take over the troubleshooting function, the network diagrams will be vital as a guide to instruct the new personnel about how to manage the software and servers. There is continuity and any important changes can be implemented quickly and efficiently.
Well-maintained network documentation will minimize interruptions in the operation of a business, saving resources such as time and money by addressing recurring problems and by establishing consistency in the performance of the network system.
Network documentation will always be necessary — but it doesn’t have to be a necessary evil. With these tips, you can streamline the process for creating professional diagrams that meet compliance and help you manage your network through growth and change.
Lucidchart allows users to build high-quality network infrastructure and data-flow diagrams related to the Cardholder Data Environment (CDE). These diagrams help to define and visualize the entire PCI DSS scope or the CDE. If your business uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) for your network infrastructure, you can save nearly 12 hours while documenting our network.
Get Expert Consultation on Network Diagrams
Although it is complicated and very necessary, network documentation doesn’t have to cause you stress. Seek professional consultation to ensure that you have the best insights to create network diagrams for your company.
RSI Security has the experience and expertise to guide you through the comprehensive process of building and implementing strategies in building network diagrams. We can help you adapt to your business needs and to comply with the regulations and mandates in your industry. Our team of experts and analysts can run tests on your existing network documentation to check their security and efficiency — especially in the event of contingencies, problems and emergencies.
Our goal is to ensure that your IT resources and investments will be put to maximum use by giving you the best network architecture diagram that aligns with your business operations, goals and vision. We are an extension of these vital technologies to help keep your business stronger.