If you’ve been in the business world long enough, you’ve experienced this scenario. An excellent employee has been delivering results for years. They do such a great job that they’re kept far too busy to sit around and document all of the ways they keep their team meeting or exceeding company goals. Suddenly, one day, they don’t work for the company anymore, and that’s when everyone discovers they have no idea how they kept everything operating smoothly. Chaos ensues.
Everyone knows that, when teams or employees aren’t performing well you have to document what they’re doing each day in order to understand what needs to be changed. But it’s even more important to document team activities and processes when they’re performing well. That information needs to be recorded to maintain continuity even when the team members aren’t with you anymore.
Documentation is especially important within the IT and network administration professions. Among other things, documentation ensures:
- ● Recurring problems don’t require constant research and “re-solving”
- ● Consistency across your network (as everyone follows the same processes)
- ● Reduced risk when a knowledgeable employee leaves (including an employee at an outsourced provider!)
Whether you have an internal team or a Managed Service Provider, they’ve spent years building an internal network that they should understand quite well. You’ve paid for the time those professionals needed to understand how to make your network perform at its best. Make sure your company retains that knowledge through proper network documentation!
Here are things your IT team should have documented and available for reference.
Network Topology – This is a physical map of your network, so it can easily be determined where a piece of hardware sits within the network and what might be impacted by any problems or changes.
Hardware Directory – While the network topology is designed mainly to understand how hardware is connected, this directory contains more information, including descriptions of the hardware and serial numbers. This makes it easy to locate and service any hardware troubles at your company.
Software Directory – This directory should include the names of applications, the computers on which those applications are installed, and a proof of license for those applications. In the event of a software audit, failure to have this will result in panic, long hours, and likely hefty fines.
A Recovery Plan – Different companies need to plan for different levels of risk mitigation. Business recovery plans should at least include information on how to restore lost data or failing hardware, but the most rigorous ones can include how to recover from an entire building lost to fire or water damage, or a loss of multiple key employees at once.
A Continuous Documentation Process – Up-to-date documentation is extremely valuable, but out-of-date documentation can be worse than having no documentation at all. When someone at your company or your Managed Service Provider relies on documentation to help them make an informed decision, it needs to be accurate. Make sure that documentation is being revisited and kept current!