How to make a network topology diagram or map

How to make a network topology diagram
4 min

How to make a network topology diagram or map? 

Ready to practice your drawing skills? I hope you’ve got your pen and paper handy.

Just kidding, in today’s day and age, there’s absolutely no reason to try diagramming a network’s topology using pen and paper. There are all kinds of free and affordable automated tools to help you with that

This article is going to cover how to make a network topology diagram or map to plot out the endpoints on your network. 

What is a network topology diagram? 

It’s a little picture that shows how devices are connected to a network.

In today’s world, most service providers need a network topology diagram or map for each of their client networks. Furthermore, for many, it’s the starting point for providing managed services. 

A network topology map is a good starting point for providing services for a network because it gives you a really good picture of the network and everything on it. In other words, it shows you what you’re going to be dealing with. 

Network topology diagrams provide a graphical way of understanding complex networks. Firstly, you can take actionable steps based on the information. Secondly, they help detect faults. Furthermore, they also help detect suspicious connections and thus highlight unusual activities.

How to make a network topology diagram or map? 

There are many different ways to make a network topology diagram. 

  • By hand: Draw out all your network assets and how they are interconnected, using pen and paper. 
  • Use a diagramming tool: Use a tool like Visio to draw a picture online.
  • Use an automated network mapping tool: By far the easiest way to make a network topology diagram is to use an automated network topology mapping tool. For example, Domotz network monitoring software includes automated network topology mapping features which plot out everything for you. One of the key benefits is that your topology map is automatically updated, when things get moved around for whatever reason.

Asset types usually included in a network topology diagram or map?

Now that you know the basics of how to make a network topology diagram, let’s look at the common asset types included in network topology diagrams.

  1. Network equipment: switches, routers, firewalls  -> the main nodes on your network
  2. Network endpoints: computers, printers, etc.)
  3. Layer 2 information for each node (MAC Addresses, Layer 2 protocols (STPs)
  4. Layer 3 information for each node (IP addresses, Routing protocols)
  5. Network connections: links between the nodes

Assets in automated network topology diagrams

To make your life easier when mapping out a network, you can use automated network topology mapping features. Ultimately, this will plot all the endpoints and create a beautiful and readable map for you. 

Domotz automated network topology maps include the following assets: 

  • Internet node: the global IP address and additional WAN information
  • Rhombus shapes: network devices, typically a switch
  • Round shapes: other IP devices on the network. 
  • Squared shapes: a device without an IP address. It could be an unmanaged switch or hub manually linked to a switch interface, or a dummy device connected to a Power Distribution Unit outlet
  • Direct links: automatically discovered links
  • Manual links: when a device is manually mapped on a managed switch port, typically when through that port multiple devices are reached.
  • Wi-Fi Links: created to show Wi-Fi connected devices to Access Points which have special integration with Domotz.
  • Outdated Links: show a device has been removed or moved to another location. 

Network Diagram Components from Layer 3, Layer 2, and Layer 1

When drawing a network diagram, there are elements from different layers to consider. Some like drawing each layer separately, while others like combining this information into one diagram. Our automated network diagramming tool includes components from Layer 3, Layer 2, and Layer 1 to build your network topology diagram. 

Elements from layer 3 in network diagrams include subnets, routing, and IP addresses. 

Elements from layer 2 included in network diagrams: Layer 2 is the data link layer of the network and allows you to see more enriched details about your network. Domotz network topology mapping is based on Layer 2 which enables you to see the following.

  • Firstly, how devices are connected to eachother.
  • Secondly, MAC addresses.
  • Thirdly, switch-to-switch connections.

Elements from layer 1 included in network diagrams:  This layer shows the physical links between devices. For example, the layout of cables. 

How automated network topology mapping can help with PCI compliance?

Firstly, when it comes to PCI compliance, a network topology map is a must. As part of the latest versions of PCI compliance, you need to create network infrastructure and data-flow diagrams related to the Cardholder Data Environment. This means if a business is responsible for accepting any form of payment 

This means that network topology mapping for PCI compliance is a must. 

An automated network topology map can help with PCI compliance in a couple of ways:

  • Firstly of all, automated diagrams providereal-time updates. They enable full visibility of a network and stay updated in real-time. If a new device joins a network, a hand drawn diagram quickly becomes out of date. You will need to update it manually on a recurring basis which is time-consuming. 
  • Secondly, it provides single source of truth. Hand drawn network diagrams quickly become outdated. Additionally, if hand drawn diagrams circulate via email, staff may not have the latest version. Using an automated network topology map ensures that you have an always up-to-date single source of truth and no legacy versions get passed around or used. 
  • Finally, it removes the hassle. It’s pretty clear that network diagramming is most likely not your favorite task (or anyone’s for that matter). This means that you should use a program (like Domotz) to help remove the hassle of documenting your network’s topology. 

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