A diagram costs a thousand words. And one of the most important diagrams is a network diagram. This guide will provide you with information about how to draw it, its elements, paths, requirements, and network diagram software. You can find tools that work on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android, and web-based online platforms.
Most important sections are:
- Definition and Elements
- Software requirements
- A list of Network Diagram Software
- Free and Open-source solutions
Definition and Elements
The network diagram is a visual representation of network structure. It can be general or very detailed depending on the purpose of this diagram.
Usually, business units prefer something more general at a glance. Technical units, on the other hand, prefer more details.
Here is one example of general diagram:
In any case, network diagram has elements and connection (protocols) between them.
The most important elements are:
Cloud element – it represents a part of a network which is maintained in a cloud or it is hidden and out of visibility.
Network router – usually shows the border between networks.
Firewall – a place where security firewall is used.
Server – Servers can have different icons in case they are application servers, web, virtual, etc
Computer – there are different items for PC, laptop, terminal.
Database, storage, back-up, archive.
There are many more network diagram items but the above are enough to have some basic understanding.
Once again there is no best solution for network diagram software. But there are two main options.
Standard Diagramming Software – If you want general network diagrams in a fast and easy way you can use standard software for diagrams. The diagrams are useful for business purposes, presentations, fast and easy knowledge transfer.
Main requirements include options for general network icons, Sisco icons, Rack icons, peripheral devices and telecommunication icons, 3D icons, etc.
The main disadvantage is that you have only static network diagram and you need to change it manually. There are no network mapping features or other management options.
The Standard Diagraming tools will not be listed in this page. More explanation about them you can find in Project Management tools section.
Automate Network Mapping Software – well if you have large enterprise or support many networks you may need more than a static picture. Network mapping software offers many options to manage your network and its graphic visualization. Most important of them is automated creation of network diagrams.
Some of the most important requirements for this software are:
- Map accuracy
- View network devices
- Import data
- Scan network
- Information flows
- View current network state
- View previous states
- Export data
The next sections will provide reviews and more information for these automated network diagramming software.
Network Diagram Software
This section provides information for best tools for automated network diagramming and mapping.
One of the best network mapping software you can get. It offers a number of services for network inventory, monitoring, administration, mapping, diagramming, and etc.
10-Strike diagramming module is a powerful network topology discovery software which actually scans your network, visualizes your architecture, and exports it to Microsoft Visio or .jpg file.
10-Strike provides the following features:
- Ping over ICMP
- Scan existing TCP ports
- Convert IP address to MAC (ARP)
- Search switches, network printers, routers
- Label ports
- Manual drawing
The network diagramming software is allowed to run several parallel threads for searching for devices within a specified range.
10-Stike provides additional modules for network monitoring, an inventory module, network mapping, hardware tracking, bandwidth monitoring, etc.
One of the best thing in 10-Strike is that you can actually buy one or more modules. And you can order them according to the size of your network. This saves money and makes the software very affordable.
You can find more information on 10-Strike official site.
netTerrain Logical is one of the best network diagramming and mapping tool you can get.
It offers a wide-range of perfect features which can really help you to have clear picture of your network architecture. A part of them are:
- Hierarchical diagrams which provide different levels and views
- A wide-range of objects
- Customizable objects with many attributes
- Custom reports
- Excellent usability
- Powerful integration options
- Security roles.
netTerrain Logical is an online diagramming tool and requires no additional hardware or software.
The software provides greater network visibility, improved hardware capacity planning, reduced failures and troubleshooting, optimized documentation process and improved service levels.
The Graphical Networks company offers data center management module or enterprise software edition.
More information – on Graphical Networks official website.
Definitely, this is one of the best network diagram software.
10Scape offers a really good balance between automatical scanning and drawing and manual features.
This network software provides a wide range of network diagrams:
- Detailed cabling diagrams
- Security and compliance diagrams
- Network planning models
- LAN/WAN diagrams
10Scape offers some additional but very useful tools as port level connection, dynamic change of the layouts, a wide range of icons, device locations and grouping, export in PDF and image format, and many others.
The pricing is very flexible. You can have it for free but limited. Or you can buy different plans. And the prices are relativelly cheap.
10Scape has really good features for communication and collaboration with internal and external teams.
More information – on 10Scape official site.
Docusnap is another excellent network inventory and diagramming tool.
It offers automated diagrams for your network such as network plans, cabling diagrams, topology plans, Active Directory plans, group memberships diagram, etc.
All the diagram and plans can be drill-down to other more detailed plans or to reports. And all of them are exportable in MS Visio, PDF, images.
Docusnap provides integration features which boost the communication with other software.
There are additional modules such as Network Inventory Module, IT Documentation, and IT Analysis modules.
Docusnap offers different affordable pricing plans including a free version. So you can start for free and buy an upgrade later.
If you need more information – visit Docusnap official site.
NetBrain is another excellent network mapping and diagramming solution. It offers many useful tools for small companies and large enterprises. Most important modules include:
Automate Network Documentation – All network documents and diagrams are created for a second. Main features of this module are:
- Diagram and document complex networks
- Provide network overviews and layouts
- Analyze network design and define dependencies
- Assess networks and their documentation.
Visual Network Troubleshooting – this module saves tons of time. Discovering network issues fast can really make a huge difference in sys admins effectiveness and customer satisfaction. You can find slow applications, unstable network elements, increase security, diagnose interface issues, and many more.
Map-driven Change Management – this module increases network stability during changes and drastically improve network availability. It really improves the processes of network upgrade, merge, and data center migration.
NetBrain offers a free trial, different editions, free tools, support, and consultancy. The price is affordable and you can buy some of the modules only.
You can find more information on NetBrain official site.
When it comes to network support Solarwinds offers a huge amount of features. And their network topology mapper is just a small feature in their portfolio.
But in any case, it is a powerful one and provides the following options:
- Scan network
- Detect devices and ports
- Import them in Network map
- Automatically create connection between devices
- Manually add connections or devices
- Customize network map
- Provide device status
- Export network map, and many more.
As I said, Solarwinds offers a lot more than network diagrams. It has powerful modules as network monitoring and mapping, forecasting capacity, alerting issues, integration, multi-vendor support, etc.
More information on the official Solarwinds official site.
WhatsConnected is an automated network diagram software with many useful features.
Of course, its allows device discovery and network mapping. But WhatsConnected provides detailed information about physical connectivity, device status and type, and configuration information based on IP research.
The software automatically generates network topology, discovers issues and dependencies.
WhatsConnected offers a wide-range of useful reports (Device Connectivity, Inventory, Port Utilization, Windows Inventory, and Subnet) and exports in different formats (Visio, Excel, PDF, CSV).
WhatsConnected is just a small part of WhatsUpGold portfolio. The company offers solutions for network monitoring, application management, logs, alerts, and more.
More information about WhatsConnected you can be found on their official site.
Free and Open Source Software
Masshandra is 3D free network diagram software with many cool options for creating diagrams.
It has following features:
- Auto-discovery of the network elements using SNMP.
- Import IP information and auto-create connection
- Enhance the process of creating the diagram with XML files.
You can download Masshandra for free and install it on Windows, Linux or MAC.
Among other cool features, Masshandra provides options for network monitoring based on Ping, SNMP, and TCP.
Also, it allows you to export created network diagrams in HTTP and to upload them in different browsers. This really boosts the internal and external communication.
If you need more information – visit the Masshandra official website.
OpenNMS is a free open-source network diagramming and management tool. So it has no license, maintenance or upgrade costs.
But the company offers commercial support, development, and training also. It means that the customers are free to use the system as a pure free open-source tool, but still has options for professional support.
OpenNMS offers all major automated network diagramming features:
- Automated and directed network devices discovery
- Network provisioning
- Event and notification management
- Service assurance
- Platform management
The above options allow OpenNMS to be excellent network diagram software for both – small companies and major enterprises.
More information for OpenNMS on the official site.
This is not a full list of all automated diagramming software. If you have any suggestions, please send them to me via the contact form.