Need software tools for network diagrams

IT stuff – skip below if this is not your thing.

This last week we got another volunteer in the IT department, its great to get some help, and also pool together ideas on we I can make IT support easier and plan for changes and improvements.

One of the projects for the future is re-do some documentation for our network.

The typical software application to do flow charts and diagrams is Microsoft’s Visio in places I have worked before.

Visio is quite expensive though and has a propriety file format, so all members of a team (and clients) need to have Visio to read the file.

I am thinking of what else I could use to do the job.   As well as cost, and there could be some free tools to do the job, there is the need for extreme simplicity, to making designing and altering diagrams easy and be able to hand over this role to future staff who will eventually replacement me.

I would like to ask my fellow IT peers, in systems admin, and those who do web design and programming, what their views are there on this.

When consulting, do you sketch out things on paper, then on chart modeling software of some kind?   Does complex projects need two or more people to work on a model before coding commences?   Or does a sketch of what’s needed get shown to the client, to check hes happy with the solution that is to be built?

I have largely ditched Microsoft’s Word and Excel in favour of Google Documents, as I like being able to get documentation on any computer, inside my network or indeed anywhere in the world with a web connection.   Plus documentation to rebuilt a server is no good, if it was saved on the one that went down due to a failed disk!!   This is an example of a cloud makes perfect sense here.

A lot of web designers are likely to be using Macs, so an app that’s on Mac and Windows, or a web based app that’s transparently usable on any darn OS/browser is good.

Now, if remember correctly Google now do a vector graphics as part of the Google Documents suite.  Having something cloud based is a huge plus, especially if there becomes a problem with a server that contains documentation.

This isn’t about knocking Microsoft or Adobe, but there is a wealth of free and open source apps, so please feel free to tell us what is the best tool for the job, and responses from fellow IT pros on your preference for ways to do this would be great. 🙂

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9 comments on “Need software tools for network diagrams

  1. the chap who wrote on this thread and one below with Verizon IP address, please check your mail, will explain why I deleted this. Thanks.

    • Never got your note, nor did I invite you to correspond with me via email.

      If you have something to tell me, please do so publicly as I have messaged you (before you deleted my comments).

      • ok, you didn’t invite me to email, yes, this is because you are a troll and like the other blogs you have written on, you hide behind no name, just want to cause trouble. As I suspected the email address is fake or never checked, for that reason like Jospeh Weisman and other bloggers who got fed up with your comments, I no longer wish to debate on my blog here. You are of course welcome to email me on the contact form.

        enjoy Sukkot

        Jon

  2. Depends what type of diagrams you need and for what purpose, I would imagine that software types might need different functions/features to website types.

    So I can give you an idea of me as a website type.

    You can never beat pen and paper for speed at which you can communicate an idea. Doesn’t normally need to be neat and it conveys an idea faster than firing up any software and don’t even need to be near a screen which is sometimes common when meeting with clients.

    So rapid wireframing for sites is helpful on pen and paper but for modeling website structures, sitemaps and more concrete/precise wireframes (all before actuall desigining and then building the site) we’ve been testing out http://cacoo.com/ which is great because it’s my favourite price — free (for now).

    Beyond those stages we’re using the industry staple for common design and development work, the Adobe Creative Suite.

  3. @Ed, cheers for that, will look at the Visio alternative

    @Matthew, thanks for this, the Cacoo web based app does look very interesting, as my colleague has more background than me designing networks, I will see how he thinks of it first I think.

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