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10 Important Network Documents your IT Company Should Maintain

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It never ceases to amaze us how many clients that we take on whose previous IT Managed Services Provider failed to maintain even a basic level of documentation on their networks. I would ask how their support team were able to provide adequate support, however based on the fact their client is leaving them I can make the assumption that they were not providing adequate support.

Usually with our initial ‘on-boarding survey’ we are able to gather most of the information we need to build our enterprise level documentation pack but often passwords to routers, SANs, access points etc are nowhere to be found, leaving us with no option but completing a factory reset on these devices and starting from scratch. This is usually a good indication that no maintenance was being carried out. (e.g. routine firmware upgrades/security patches).

Here is a list of some of the most important network documents that either your internal IT department should be creating and maintaining, or your IT company should be creating and maintaining. Regardless of how big or small you are, these documents are vital. These documents are particularly crucial if you are an IT Managed Services Provider supporting and maintaining many different networks.

It is important to implement some sort of procedure or system for updating these documents and handling change & version control.
In no particular order:
  1. Logical Network Diagram – This should show the IP addresses associated with different segments of your network. This is particularly important if you have different VLANs in use or a DMZ. Without this, it may be difficult to determine which IP schemes are in use and where.
  2. Physical Network Diagram – This should illustrate the physical layout of your network such as servers, routers, firewalls, printers, computers and phones. All key devices should be listed. You do not need to list every single client computer, but the diagram should give a good idea of how they are connected to your Network.
  3. Static IP Address Allocation – You should maintain documentation detailing all static IP addresses assigned to avoid creating an IP address conflict.
  4. Key Credentials Database  – You should maintain a secure database of credentials for key system accounts/devices such as routers, firewalls, servers.
  5. Change Control Register – Without keeping track of all significant network changes, it may be very difficult for your colleagues to determine what has recently changed that could be contributing to a problem in the network. You should either use a change management system like JIRA, or retain a spreadsheet detailing all changes from static IP address assignments to installing new servers.
  6. Software Asset Register – Several years ago I took over as IT Manager at a large financial services firm with many servers and around 100 computers/laptops. Within a week of taking over this role and realising the daunting task I had ahead of me to pick up the pieces from the almost non-existent network documentation left by my predecessor; I received a letter from Microsoft advising me they were to be carrying out a SAM (Software Asset Management) Engagement. My heart sunk. I had a month to pull together evidence and product keys of every single Microsoft license in use within the company. It is extremely important to retain product keys, evidence of licenses and details of where licenses are assigned. I can’t tell you the amount of time I have wasted trying to find old licenses to reinstall products or migrate clients onto new computers.
  7. IT Hardware Asset Register – This should be maintained by either accounts or IT. You should keep a record of all IT assets, where they are located and when warranty is due to expire. If you are a Managed Services Provider and do not provide hardware repair/replacement costs as part of your agreement, you should advise your clients when warranty is due to expire and ensure they are aware of options for extending warranty.
  8. Network Overview – Whether you create individual documents, or one super document; it is important to document key information such as backup configuration, email configuration, VoIP configuration. Any future member of your support team should be able to pick up this documentation and get a good understanding of how everything is set up and contact details for any 3rd party suppliers.
  9. Secure Configuration Documents – There should be a documented standard for creating user accounts, building servers and building computers defining applications to be installed, services to be disabled, ports to be blocked etc. If you are an MSP you should pre-agree this with your clients.
  10. IT Risk Register – An IT Risk Register detailing all known risks, current controls and suggested controls should be created and reviewed regularly. Risks and suggested controls should be reported to your clients (or senior management team if you are an internal IT department).
These are all standard documents that we create and maintain for our clients and can produce at any time. Without them, we would have no chance of providing a high standard of maintenance & support.

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