Thoughts on customer network documentation

I would like to know thoughts on network documentation. There have been may time I walk on a potential customers site and look at their network and see a rats nest of wires, switches AP’s etc… and ask to see the network documentation and they tell me that they don’t have any… or they will hand me a 3 ring binder about 2 inches thick for a setup of about 20 machine, or a single sheet with a URL and a login and password (which I am grateful to have).

We are currently working on revamping our documentation package, we have done several network setup in the previous weeks, mostly due to their current system couldn’t handle the traffic to ‘Work-from-home’. For example one client has about 50 machines all running off about 18 consumer grade switches (some connected with cat5 cable) but, I digress…

Our motto, is give the customer everything they need to go somewhere else, treat them so they won’t. the reason we do this, is should my company go out of business, or something happens, I want my customers be able to continue without a big ordeal.

If you have any templates of your documentation, I would love to see them, to get ideas and such.

Thanks, Mike

We are still using MediaWiki https://youtu.be/DiZYiBf9ECM

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There have been may time I walk on a potential customers site and look at their network and see a rats nest of wires, switches AP’s etc…

Don’t think about it too deeply. Either a client will have information or they won’t. Either way propels the need for you and your services. Don’t take it personally or make it emotional. That will keep you in a better mind frame in the long run.

Even though there is a chance you can go out of business as much as your client and other companies as well, the thought of having your data portable so that in the event someone wants to lift and shift they can relatively painless is honestly the best way to go. No one wants to be chained down when paying for something.

Honestly, you can scan the web you will find infinite templates. Even in this community as well. I always suggest you taking some paper out and writing down what is important to you. What is required to be documented? What is good to document? What is something you’d like to document? Don’t worry too much about the style of the document, the font sizes, spacing, etc those are distractions.

Once you have your own “template”, consider who will be using the document. Is it staff, onsite support, the customer etc. Then consider what would be an easy way for each party to view it. Bam you just made documentation.

Obviously Tom has made a video series about his tools and he prefers to use MediaWiki. If you think about it, it “ticks” all the points I made comfortably. My “tools” and “templates” changed over years. I started out with my iPhone Notes, Base Camp, Asana, Word templates downloaded free over the web, templates from user community in Spiceworks, finding open source templates, vendor templates, came back to my iPhone and used different apps, the actual Spiceworks app and add-ons. The list keeps going on and on. I’ve very much seen word docs, spreadsheets, or google docs and spreadsheets. At some level, they all accomplish the same things it just depends on how you want to facilitate the process. I mainly worked on a 1 man team and at my best, it’s been a 4 man team. That’s while working in the non-profit sector.

Currently I use a web and phone app called Nuclino that allows me to use the web or my phone or tablet to document. I prefer the ability to reduce the chances of me wasting time with font styling etc, and spacing of items to have full control of how each line works and if I want to export it can do all the normal ones like pdf etc. If I ever needed clients to “view” it I could do that, but most clients I deal with are old companies and unlikely to change, so emailing them and letting them print is just fine for them.

I actually liked the idea Tom had (and I sure many other IT pros did) which was use open source to kinda take the wheel. I love IT Glue and basically have mimicked some of their ideas along with my own. Accomplished the same thing minus automation.

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Thanks Krisleslie, thats exactly what we did… we now have everything in a Word document, that we can keep in our records, as well as present to the customer. in making this document, i realized that it is almost impossible to create a ‘generic’ template as no two locations are the same. sure there will be lot of the same info, such as DHCP pools etc… but when getting down to some of the granular stuff, we have to take that on a case by case, but we have a starting point. i also send a sample documentation package along with my quote, thinking the customer will say to them selves, “hey, we need a to document this stuff” thanks for all your help!!

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Not to discourage the idea of having templates, because honestly you can have templates and have uniformity. I just have a deep hate for using Microsoft Office until it is 100% needed. If you look at the basic information that all clients must need to accomplish getting setup, focus on those things and template / automate them. There are things that will fall beyond the scope or be entirely too difficult to do the one size fits all approach, for those things, yes do them on a client by client basis.

Example of scripting to work, you could use Google G-Mail there is a template add-on (free) you can add that basically has literally whatever you want in a template (within reason).

Another example, create a low-code app (some are free) which does the same thing, template driven but can be updated/adapter to individual clients. I could seen numerous ways this could be done. I’ve been panning around this idea for clients because the possibility of it is enormous but obvioulsy needs a little lifting per client.

Example, use www.glideapps.com