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Keeping a comprehensive and accurate set of network documentation is essential for any business running IT systems.
Yet despite this, it's not uncommon for i-Zimbra consultants to come across customer sites where little or no network documentation exists.
This can be a major challenge as a lack of network documentation presents a number of problems to businesses.
So, if documentation is so important, why do so many companies neglect this critical area of IT management? The answer can be one of many reasons but the most common is simply that the consultancy who implemented the network initially never provided any degree of documentation and so there wasn't anything to update in the first place.
Lesser IT consultants sometimes do not appreciate the importance of documentation and in the worst cases, unscrupulous companies take the view that not providing network documentation plays to their advantage as the customer has no option but to call them as only they understand the network.
Here at i-Zimbra however, we like to do things differently to much of our competition, as every network installation we provide comes fully documented. Similarly, the network documentation for each site we support is always updated as and when we make configuration changes to the network.
It's undoubtedly bad practice not to provide network documentation but there is also a business risk to the customer which might cause financial loss through extended system downtime in the event of a hardware failure or problem.
Typical examples of the sort of problems that no documentation causes include:-
Changes in staff can exascerbate the detrimental effects of poor or no network documentation. Furthermore, poor training can also impact adversely and increase business risk.
Recently, one of i-Zimbra's IT consultants was asked to visit a new client site where the customer was being prompted to insert a second backup cartridge each morning in order to complete their daily backup. What we discovered was that they were merely pushing in the ejected tape and, in so doing, were overwriting all but a few files of their daily backup.
Had the customer in question been trained and provided with network documentation, this situation could have been avoided. Similarly, had they employed i-Zimbra sooner to provide their IT Support then as part of our procedures, we would have identified this problem sooner.
As a starting guide, it's considered best practice to include the following items in your network documentation:
NB - depending on the structure and size of an organisation, it's usually best practice to keep passwords securely protected, say in the fire safe where backup tapes are stored.
Alternatively, there are a number of software utilities such as KeyPass which can be used for the storing of passwords. Naturally, i-Zimbra will be happy to advise on which method is deemed best for your business.
Ideally, a visual network diagram should be created to demonstrate the logical structure of the network. That said, it should be borne in mind that a network diagram is no substitue for and only useful in the event of accompanying written information, plus it does present a further layer to keep up-to-date
For larger networks, products like WhatsUpGold provide a useful tool for network discovery and documentation. Alternatively, Microsoft Visio has many useful elements for constructing a detailed and meaningful network diagram..
Procedures on how to maintain the network technology, including Operating Systems, security related services, backup and disaster recovery (business continuity), and firewall technologies should exist.
Additionally, you should document and secure all Operating System and application licensing. i-Zimbra can help with auditing your entire software inventory, using the latest tools to ensure that unauthorised or unlicenced software is not being used on the network and thereby putting your business at risk of fine.
This is something that is very often overlooked and is imperative if you have to recover from a disaster situation in which the rebuild of systems is necessary.
An oft overlooked area is to document all the third party contact information necessary for providing effective IT support. Documenting this key contact information should include details for web hosting providers,the ISP providing Internet access, software support site IDs, username and telephones etc.
With regard to the web hosting, we often discover that the registrate that hosts the Domain Name Services (DNS) is not the same as the hosting company itself. Keeping a record of how to change DNS records is essential for ensuring no interuptions to email services mailflow and website availability are experienced.
Finally, as with website code itself, if bespoke software is in use then it is necessary to record contact details for the software author/developers concerned. While i-Zimbra is highly experienced in both these areas and has previously had to "rescue" customers who have lost their websites or whose bespoke software has ceased working.
Contact i-Zimbra today for more advice and information on ensuring the IT audit and documentation procedures of your business are effective.
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The migration to the new dealer management system was completely seamless and the least painful I have undertaken in my 23 years in the motor trade. This was in part due to the prompt and attentive service provided byNick Hughes
i-Zimbra. Many thanks from all at Doddington Road Service Station.