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Keeping and updating network connectivity records

I just took a new job at a large corporation. One of my duties includes mapping and keeping records of who is plugged in where on the servers (this will help troubleshooting and solving network problems down the road). However, this has proven to be problematic since the person before me did not keep accurate records, and those he does have are drawn on paper. How can I find out who is plugged in where without having to disconnect all the patchcords and seeing whose computer goes down?
First, let me congratulate you on your new position, and empathize with you on the magnitude of you responsibilities. Most of us would like to claim 100% accuracy in our connectivity records, and perhaps some people may be approaching that ideal. But for most, the story is slightly more interesting.

As you know, understanding where all of the users on your network are connected is paramount to the successful operation of every data network. The mere idea of disconnecting each patch cord and logging who calls in a trouble ticket is the IT manager's worst nightmare. The good news is that a number of companies have developed hardware and software systems that can accurately and in real-time update the connectivity records associated with your network.

Unfortunately, retrofitting an operating network with the patch panels, patch cords and active electronics necessary to execute this procedure can be expensive and quite time consuming Therefore, the most cost-effective deployment of self documenting systems is when they are integrated into new facilities. However, even when retrofitting an existing network, the time and money saved in network efficiency and reduced repair time can make the investment worthwhile.

The first step that I would take in ensuring your network's optimal use is to establish baseline company-wide infrastructure standards. A number of manufactures offer systems designed to ensure proper labeling of infrastructure. At a minimum, establishing this standard of network designation will make new installations accurate and efficient, thereby minimizing the likelihood of human error down the road.

The next step is to select asset management and network management systems. These platforms will likely include a combination of both hardware and software components. Be sure to check with the product manufacturers that your new systems are interoperable and easily integrated into your network. If you are retrofitting an existing infrastructure with these solutions, the network can be incrementally upgraded during off hours to include the systems into your network, saving downtime during company hours and streamlining the integration. You should find that the recovery of previously underutilized electronics and future ease of network upgrades and modifications will more than pay for the new systems.

This was last published in April 2001

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