How Does Network Mapping Help Your Organization?

Network mapping is a strategy designed to help you better visualize and understand the coordination between your various network elements. It’s an intriguing process for anyone interested in better understanding how technology works or how the components of their network interact.

But how exactly does this practice improve your organization?

The Basics of Network Mapping

Let’s start with the basics of network mapping.

Network mapping is, in some ways, comparable to geographical mapping. Imagine there are a few hundred houses in each city in a given area. There are about 100 cities in this area. These houses need to connect to each other in different ways, and these cities need to connect to each other in different ways to facilitate sending and receiving information (in this example, let’s say it’s just “mail”).

Geographical mapping would allow you to understand the physical relationships between different houses and cities, so you can coordinate better routes, pinpoint potential issues, and resolve those issues before they present massive problems. With a more intricate map in place, you’ll have a much better understanding of positional relationships.

Network mapping does something similar, but as you might imagine, the virtual world doesn’t have strict positional relationships. Instead of estimating things like physical proximity or distance, you might study network traffic patterns. Instead of assigning resources or creating routes based on physical distance, you’ll create groups and routes while assigning resources based on needs and various groupings, Mapping houses and cities, you’ll be mapping things like switches, routers, firewalls, ethernet hubs, and access points.

There are many different ways to approach network mapping, utilizing different protocols and different tools. One of the most common monitoring protocols is SNMP, which relies on management information bases (MIB) that are provided by vendors. This protocol also allows you to gather information from the Link Layer Discovery Protocol (LLDP), which is an industry standard for discovering connected network devices. There’s also the Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP), which despite the name, isn’t exclusively used for the discovery or mapping of Cisco devices.

The easiest way to practice network mapping is to use a sophisticated network mapping tool. Modern network mapping tools are designed to be as simple and intuitive as possible, allowing anyone with IT network management experience to quickly and easily create dynamic maps of how their network resources are connected.

The Benefits of Network Mapping

Why should you go through this process? It costs money to acquire the network mapping tools you need to do this work, and it’s going to cost you time to leverage those tools for the sake of mapping. So why make the investment?

·       Asset discovery. One of the perks of network mapping is asset discovery, enabling you to discover the assets on your network and see how they connect to each other in real-time. If the scope of your IT assets has spiraled out of control, this is a great way to rein it in and maintain transparency.

·       Real-time monitoring. This is also an excellent practice for real-time monitoring. In other words, once your map is in place, you’ll be able to see how your network is performing in any given moment. If and when there are issues, you’ll be able to see them clearly – and take action when needed.

·       Issue diagnostics. Sometimes, it’s hard to track down or diagnose specific problems with your network. But with a better network map in place, issue diagnostics become trivially easy. You’ll be able to see exactly where the issue originates, what the issue is, and potentially, the best way to fix it. For example, you might be able to spot a traffic bottleneck and resolve it before it does any more damage.

·       Capacity planning. IT experts often use network mapping as a way to streamline capacity planning. In other words, you can use it to understand the resources your organization needs, the resources you’re currently using, and how to get from one point to the other.

·       Transparency and control. Network mapping is one of the best ways to maintain transparency and control over your network. If you better understand the nodes of your network, and how those nodes connect with each other, you’ll be able to make much better decisions for orchestrating network performance and choosing appropriate settings.

·       Scalability. Network mapping also lends itself to greater scalability; with proactive planning and a better understanding of your current setup, you can make your organization much more scalable and agile.

As you can see, there are many benefits of network mapping, such that it’s a practical necessity for businesses that meet a certain threshold of size or complexity. Only through network mapping are you able to fully understand how the devices and nodes on your network connect with each other – and only with network mapping do you have the opportunity to streamline the efficiency of your network.