Author Profile - Tony Fortunato is a Senior Network Specialist with experience in design, implementation, and troubleshooting of LAN/WAN/Wireless networks, desktops and servers since 1989. His background in financial networks includes design and implementation of trading floor networks. Tony has taught at local high schools, Colleges/Universities, Networld/Interop and many onsite private classroom settings to thousands of analysts. Tony is an authorized and certified Fluke Networks and Wireshark Instructor. His Pine Mountain Group CNA Level I and II certification demonstrates his vendor neutral approach to network design, support and implementations. Tony has architected, installed and supported various types of Residential Wireless High Speed as well as hundreds of WIFI hotspots. Tony uses a variety of technologies from Powerline, Wireless and wired technologies to find the most cost-efficient and reliable solution for his customers. Tony combines custom programs, open source and commercial software to ensure a simple support infrastructure.
I am still surprised how many places I visit that DO NOT have a network diagram or site documentation. Many times the network information is a combination of napkins, spreadsheets and emails with passwords, login id's and configuration notes.
I have fixed many complicated problems by taking all these bits and pieces and putting it into a concise document. And in many cases, it takes less than a day to put the information together.
When I leave a customer site, I typically suggest ways to maintain the documentation. For example, using your Outlook calendar to remind you to update your documentation every quarter. Having the summer student, co-op or intern review and improve the documentation as part of 'learning the ropes'. Printing documentation and maps at least yearly, or after a major network change. Having a hard copy is critical since the server may not be accessible if there is a network outage.
In larger groups, I suggest a collaboration site like zoho.com or a ticketing system like spiceworks.com to better track who is doing what. Not only in reference to day to day work, but getting commitments as to documentation updates.
Documentation has to be part of your job and should be in the back of your mind all the time. Its not "someone else's problem", nor does the typical "I don't have to do it" cut it anymore.
Just think about getting that weekend 2 am outage call from the help desk and realizing when you get there there that there isn't any documentation and the 'expert is on vacation'. That butterfly/panicky feeling should be all the motivation you need to keep something up to date. I often explain to managers and directors that if they had current documentation, they could have cut their troubleshooting time in half and saved money.
A customer asked me if I had a sample of a Site Document they can use. So I sanitized a working copy I had and gladly shared it. I have posted the site document Download Site Document Template for you to use. I'm sure, and hope, you will change it and make it your own.