Setting up a network plan can be tedious and time-consuming, but it is the basis of a secure IT infrastructure and protects companies in the event of a catastrophic failure or a Netpocalypse – the Internet version of Apocalypse. We’ll show you what a network plan entails and why it’s worth creating one.
Network plans provide an overview of the entire IT infrastructure and show all inventoried systems in the network, from hardware and software to logins and passwords. Important means of repelling or overcoming the internet Apocalypse.
The day when a company’s network infrastructure becomes inoperable and the company in question is doomed to incapacitation.
The Netpocalypse has many causes and faces. A central hardware component of the system fails, a replacement is purchased – and nobody knows how the component has to be configured. An intern logs the head of the IT department out of the company-wide password manager’s account – and no one knows the password manager’s password.
A system administrator goes, taking with him the knowledge of 15 years of freely improvised system expansion; two weeks later the first server crashes. Hackers encrypt important databases and will not be heard from again after the successful bitcoin transaction. The result of the Netpocalypse is the same in all these cases: nothing works anymore.
It is extremely important that network plans are always up-to-date and easy to find for every employee, because: If the network fails, troubleshooting begins. But during this period, many areas of work are paralyzed for the time being.
However, creating and maintaining a complete IT network map involves costs and time, which may be the reason why some companies still work with Excel spreadsheets instead of the network map software.
However, network documentation protects companies from the nightmare scenario of a total failure – or allows them to rebuild their network if something does go wrong. Incidentally, the network plan keeps the company’s infrastructure lean, efficient, flexible, and secure, as well as open to innovation – and saves money at the same time.
In other words: Good network documentation is the basis for a secure IT infrastructure and is therefore actually a so-called no-brainer.
Creating a network plan against netpocalypse: What companies should pay attention to
1. What does the network plan say?
The network map is more than just a visualization of the company network and also more than a listing of the inventory. For example, a (good) network documentation also contains process descriptions – for example for creating a new employee account. Here is an overview of the information that should be included:
Offices and enterprise architecture
- Information about the company and all its branches and headquarters (how to get there, contact persons, and contact addresses).
- Floor plans of the building with the location of the IT components and graphic representations of the network architecture (e.g. representation of the computers with IP addresses, WLAN/LAN diagrams, network socket plan, etc.).
- Description of the infrastructure (e.g. which data cables, switches, hubs, etc. including serial numbers).
- List of all servers and workstations with serial number, hardware equipment, software, computer name, and assigned user.
- List of peripheral devices such as printers, USB hubs, mice, monitors, etc.
- Visualization of the logical structure of all servers followed by the logical and physical structure of all Active Directory and the logical structure of DHCP (addresses used, subnets, domains and gateways, file system structure, and user rights).
- Configuration of groups, login scripts, policies, and protocols.
- Data sheet with the configuration of the individual components (e.g. server tasks, dial-in data for DSL routers).
- User documentation (full name, login, group memberships, contact details, rights, devices used).
- Which software is used on which devices for which users?
- Important information for the license check (which licenses are needed, how often and by when; regular check of need vs. current status).
- Internet Service Provider (ISP) and access data.
- Configuration (depending on DHCP or static IP address).
- List of associated devices including configuration.
- WLAN (configuration, user rights, passwords).
- Other information (e.g. browser, mail programs, mail server, e-mail address scheme, external access rights, firewall settings, and restrictions on internet use).
- Security regulations, permissions, privacy policies.
- Measures for energy security (e.g. use of UPSs).
- Physical security measures (e.g. restricted access to server rooms).
- Software to protect against malware and intruders ( anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, etc.).
- Planning of the updates (which software when, how and by whom).
- Rules for backups (also: recovery process and contact details of those responsible) Documentation of standard processes such as setting up a new workstation, installing third-party software, etc.
2. Why it pays to create a network plan against netpocalypse
There is no information above that doesn’t exist (or should REALLY exist) one way or the other. Why not structure this information clearly and keep it up to date? The benefit should not be underestimated! Here is an overview of the most important advantages.
Poorly documented systems are more prone to catastrophic failure. Problems are inevitably viewed in isolation and often bombarded with improvised solutions via trial and error until what has to work works – which often creates new problems elsewhere. Compatibility problems, security gaps, and functional failures are inevitable.
The system becomes opaque and fragile. No matter how well the company is doing economically, there is a risk of total infrastructure failure in the background and thus the impairment or even endangerment of the company. Drawing up a network map might seem like a Heraclian feat, but it puts system administrators and management back to sleep.
Fewer failures. Lower support costs. More productive employees. These benefits alone far outweigh the effort involved in creating and maintaining a network plan in most organizations.
More security with faster troubleshooting
If you don’t know how your own system is structured, you can’t protect it either. What if the printer on the third floor still uses a driver that allows the admin passwords of all connected devices to be read and sent to a server with an unknown location?
A network plan helps employees to work together to diagnose problems and is therefore part of any serious attempt to establish a secure infrastructure.
flexibility and innovation
“Every time a new system is implemented in the company, everything goes wrong for a long time. So, if possible, nothing new will be introduced.” If you think like that, you probably don’t have a network plan.
Well-documented systems are easier and less disruptive to update. In addition, obsolete components and another potential for optimization can be identified more easily. Overall, the system remains more flexible, more up-to-date, and more open to innovations.
Compliance & Certifications
From the GDPR to ISO certification – most companies have to comply with legal requirements and certification guidelines in one way or another. The network plan provides a strong basis here, which greatly simplifies compliance.
3. Create a network plan – and how?
In many companies, the first important step is to just get started. This can be done with a pad and a pen. Simply draw the floor plan of your own building and enter the important devices. And on the next page let’s start with the outlines of the user documentation. (ATTENTION: Do not collect passwords on scraps of paper and just throw them away!).
Such first visualizations and notes will probably not make it into the final plan, but suddenly you have taken the first step – and very quickly come across the first information that needs research. If the project is approached seriously, the use of network plan software is usually recommended, especially for larger/more complex networks and companies.
Are there Cons to Having an IT network plan against Netpocalypse?
Creating an IT network plan is only worthwhile if you can keep it up to date. After the initial heave, it is, therefore, necessary to establish processes that ensure that changes to the infrastructure are also entered. Otherwise, all the trouble was for nothing. And if you want to avoid such support situations, create a network plan and establish the necessary workflows to keep it up to date.