Network diagrams are an invaluable tool for project managers and information technology professionals, though each group uses them very differently. They help track and manage the progress of projects, identify problems, and help teams work more efficiently. If you’re interested in a business or IT-related career, network diagramming is a concept you’ll need to know. This guide will give you a better understanding of how they work, when they’re needed, and how to implement your own.
Network diagrams give IT professionals a bird’s eye view of an organization’s technology infrastructure, its entire network. They’re made of nodes and lines with different icons to make elements in a network easy to visualize.
There are two types of network diagrams used in IT: logical and physical. A logical diagram shows the flow of information through networks and how network devices—such as routers and firewalls—communicate with each other. A physical diagram shows all of the physical aspects and arrangement of a network, including servers, routers, ports, and cables.
To accurately diagram a network first requires an understanding of a network’s typology. Topologies are the layout of elements in a network and the connections between them. Network topologies can be categorized into different types, based on their visual layout. Some common types that apply to both physical and logical network layouts include ring topology, star topology, tree topology, bus topology, and mesh topology. No network topology is right for all networks, so understanding the different virtues of the most common types; ring topology, star topology, tree topology, bus topology, and mesh topology, and their various benefits, is important for IT professionals to understand and document in the topology diagram.
Benefits of IT Network Diagramming
- Helps troubleshoot potential network issues.
- Aids in proving compliance.
- Provides an overview of inventory.
- Makes it easier to see the scope of a network.
- Map your network by listing all the components and equipment.
- Arrange your diagram by placing related physical or logical shapes near each other.
- Add connections by placing a line between two shapes to show how those two elements are connected.
- Label shapes and include any relevant details.
- Run periodic reports checking the current network configuration versus existing network diagrams to make any necessary changes.
A project network diagram is useful for planning and tracking a project from start to finish and organizing tasks within a project. It's usually depicted as a chart with a series of boxes and arrows.
The most common method for creating network diagrams in project management is the precedence diagramming method (PDM). In the PDM, each box, or node, represents an activity—with arrows representing relationships between the different activities. This allows project managers to see how each activity connects to the next and which tasks need to be completed before others.
Network diagrams are also an important tool for project managers because they help them see the status of a project, analyze its progress, and determine if alternative routes should be taken.
Benefits of Project Management Network Diagramming
- Establishes project workflows.
- Identifies potential roadblocks.
- Tracks the process of projects.
- Aids in planning, organizing, and managing projects.
- Make a list of all your project activities and estimate their duration.
- Insert activities on the nodes of your diagram and include relevant details.
- Connect the activities with arrows.
- Add details that are relevant for scheduling.
- Create an endpoint of the diagram.
Network diagrams play an important role in helping organizations run smoothly. With the ability to see projects and systems’ “big picture,” companies can more easily identify network gaps or roadblocks and come up with faster solutions, which in turn saves time, money, and resources.
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