Networks play a critical role in effectively managing organizational resources and seamlessly transferring information from one end to another. For this reason, the performance of your network is often tied directly to your organizational performance. To keep your networks up and running without any issues, you need complete visibility into their components and how they function. If you are wondering how to achieve that, network mapping could be the answer you’re looking for.
In this blog, we shall explore network mapping, its different aspects and how you can leverage it for the smooth functioning of your network.
What is network mapping?
Network mapping refers to the process of representing an entire network, along with its devices and interconnections, in a visual format. By discovering and visualizing all the assets in a network, you can create a network map or diagram that includes all vital components of a network.
This visualization will be useful during network maintenance when administrators must understand the entire network infrastructure to develop effective solutions.
What is the purpose of network mapping?
The primary purpose of network mapping is to gain visibility into a network. To have a network that functions seamlessly, you need to understand all its components fully. With network mapping, you can quickly identify all the bottlenecks in your network so that you can address them and keep your network up and running without any issues.
Why is network mapping important?
When you have network mapping in your IT infrastructure, your technicians don’t have to guess where an issue is happening. By allowing technicians to observe the problems occurring in real-time, network mapping helps them identify and fix the problems before they escalate.
For instance, a server malfunction can cause an unexpected downtime in your network. Without proper network mapping, your technicians would have to review various network components or the entire application stack to identify the issue. However, with automated network mapping, you can quickly check how your servers, endpoints and other networking components work. This makes network maps a critical part of your IT infrastructure.
What is a network map?
A network map refers to a document that visually represents a network. A typical network map consists of all the devices in a network, along with their interconnections and information flow. The information you find on a network map, including the network’s physical architecture and other related data, cannot be accessed through any other means.
Modern networks are complex and dynamic. To keep your network maps up to date, you need to use robust solutions that can automatically create network maps and provide the latest information on a network.
What are the different types of network maps?
Network maps can be broadly classified into two types: physical and logical. Both have their purposes when it comes to network architecture. When constructing a network for your organization, you need to weigh the features and benefits of both these network topologies and choose the ideal one that best suits your purpose.
- Physical network map: In a physical network map, the visual image is constructed based on the arrangement of various network components. If your network has components like endpoints, servers, printers and routers, a physical map will help you visualize how you can connect these devices with the help of wires, cables or wireless networks. A physical map is very helpful in identifying network issues caused by the malfunctioning of these devices or their connections.
- Logical network map: A logical network map illustrates how information flows through a network. Rather than showing how you can connect various devices, this map shows how various devices in a network communicate with each other. By analyzing the information flow in a network, you can identify potential issues that may arise with data transmission in a network.
What should a network map include?
To build a robust network map, you need to focus on various components and understand their role in your network infrastructure. A network consists of multiple components, such as hardware devices, software programs, connectors and controllers. All these components have specific purposes and are integral to keeping a network active.
Here’s a list of items you should include in your network map to gain the most value:
- Network devices: A network comprises various devices, and these devices have specific roles to play. For instance, an endpoint provides users access to the network and allows them to connect and exchange information. Similarly, we have other devices for managing resources, transmitting data, connecting data points, storing data, etc. A proper understanding of these devices will help you build efficient networks that ensure seamless communication and security.
- Network connections: Network connections bring together various devices in a network and allow them to exchange resources. These connections can be wireless or connected with the help of cables. Either way, a network map should provide clear information on how various devices are connected and exchange information.
- Network topology: Network topology focuses on the logical arrangement of multiple components in a network. Different network topologies can be used for different purposes based on the type of communication you require between nodes.
- Routing protocols: Network routing protocols provide information on how routers communicate with each other. It specifies a router’s best path to carry the data packets efficiently. A network map will help you identify the best routes for your data and the optimal way for information to reach the destination.
- Domain controllers: You can use domain controllers to authenticate users trying to access your network. These are servers that centrally manage all your user accounts and provide verification for network access.
- Traffic flow: Traffic flow influences the quality of your network. If the traffic is too high, data packets often get stuck at various nodes, affecting seamless transmission. Your network map should help you manage network traffic effectively by spreading out the traffic evenly.
How does network mapping work?
A network mapping solution uses active probing technology to update the network mapping information. In this process, probe packets will be sent to different nodes in the network to collect information like IP addresses, device configurations and other technical data. The data collected from these probes can be used to draw an object on the network map. A robust mapping tool will help you do this automatically and provide updated information about your network.
Most network mapping solutions use a mapping protocol to discover devices and automate the mapping process. Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is one of the most widely used protocols to map a network. Here, the network components are treated as variables, and the probes will constantly send information on their setup and status.
Complex networks deal with vast amounts of data that can be accessed simply by leveraging the probing mechanism in the mapping solution. Modern mapping solutions collect advanced information from the networks to provide details like CPU temperature, power status, memory level and active ports. These details often come in handy when technicians must work on specific devices to fix complex issues.
What are the uses of network mapping?
Considering the complexity of today’s IT environments, network mapping plays a huge role in the seamless performance of a network. Here’s a list of reasons why network mapping is widespread in modern IT networks.
- Complete network visibility: Network mapping helps you visualize the entire network easily. As a result, you can easily spot minor defects in your network before they become full-blown issues. Also, automated network mapping helps you identify the changes made to the network instantly.
- Monitoring and management: Maintaining your network performance requires continuous monitoring and management. It is impossible to monitor your network performance without getting complete visibility.
- Quick diagnosis of network issues: Even if your networks run into significant problems, you can easily diagnose the issue with the help of a network mapping tool. Without a network map, it will take forever to identify a specific issue in the network and even more time to resolve it.
- Security and control: With better visibility into your network, you can easily identify who can access it and for what purpose. As a result, you can exert better control over your network security and prevent unauthorized access.
- Better planning and forecasting: In today’s world, many organizations are constantly scaling up, and networks are getting bigger as a result. If you are expanding your network, you need better visibility into its current structure. Network mapping also helps you precisely formulate the best expansion strategy.
- Compliance support: Many data privacy laws have specific provisions for implementing controls at the network level. To adhere to these regulations, you need proper network mapping performed with the help of a robust tool. This helps you proactively monitor your networks and mitigate any risks as and when they arise.
Map and document networks with Network Glue
IT Glue is an award-winning IT documentation solution with powerful network mapping features. Our automation engine, Network Glue, can automate the creation of a network map, including devices, ports and connections. In addition to network mapping, Network Glue has powerful automated network documentation capabilities, including the documentation of unmanaged, hybrid and virtual devices, Active Directory and Azure users, and rotating Active Directory passwords.
IT Glue’s SOC 2-compliant documentation platform features an immutable audit trail, multifactor authentication and next-generation password management engine, all fully integrated and linked with all your network documentation.
To learn more about network mapping and documentation,