How to Make a Network Topology Diagram or Map

5 min

Creating a Network Topology Diagram: A Step-by-Step Guide

Need to make a network topology diagram? This article is for you! We’ll explain how easy it is to automatically 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. Moreover, there are all kinds of accessible and affordable automated network monitoring tools to help you with that. Read more about the best automatic network mapping tools.

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

How to make a network topology diagram image of network map from Domotz exported for further editing in Visio.

What is a network topology diagram? 

A network topology diagram is a little picture that shows how devices connect to a network and each other.

Most service providers need a network topology diagram or map for each client network. 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 perfect picture of the network and everything on it. In other words, it shows you what you will be dealing with. 

Why is this important? Knowing what you’re dealing with helps you price things efficiently and know how to approach a network for maintenance, security, and troubleshooting.

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.

Choose a tool 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: 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.
  • Use a combination of automatic and diagramming tools: Our software now includes export for Visio, so you can use both automatic and diagramming tools to tweak the final output the way you need to. Learn more about exporting network topology maps for editing in Visio.

Exact steps for making a network topology diagram

For those of you that want to make a network topology diagram manually, here are the steps you can easily follow.

  • Firstly, gather all the information you need. Jot down all network devices and consider those which have wired and wireless connections. Secondly, consider all possible network nodes, devices, and equipment, and note any unique configurations you are implementing.
  • Pick a tool to draw the diagram. A prevalent one is Visio for this.
  • Draw out all your nodes and use lines to connect them. Write down the device type too.
  • If needed, add extra information to the diagram, such as IP addresses and device names.
  • Double-check the diagram to make sure all the information is accurate and up-to-date.
  • When you are done with the above steps, you can save your image, print it, send it to a customer, or even frame it!

Asset types in diagrams and maps

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 central 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
automated network topology diagram

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, 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 with unique 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, enabling you to see the following.

  • See how devices are connected to each other.
  • View MAC addresses.
  • Observe 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 can topology mapping help with PCI compliance?

Firstly, when it comes to PCI compliance, a network topology map is a must. Moreover, 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. Finally, a network topology mapping for PCI compliance is a must for any business accepting any form of payment online.

An automated network topology map can help PCI compliance in several ways. They can offer the following benefits:

  • Automated diagrams provide real-time updates. They enable complete visibility of a network and stay updated in real time. A hand-drawn diagram quickly becomes outdated if a new device joins a network. You will need to update it manually regularly, which is time-consuming. 
  • Automatic topology diagrams provide a 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. 
  • They also remove the hassle. Furthermore, network diagramming is most likely not your favorite task (or anyone’s, for that matter). This means you should use a program (like Domotz) to help remove the hassle of documenting your network’s topology. 

The Final Word on Network Topology Diagrams

This article explains how to make a network topology diagram. Here are the main takeaways from the article. Firstly, there is no need to forgo this process by hand. Secondly, automatic topology diagrams are little pictures of what is on a network and how devices interconnect. Thirdly, you can use tools like Visio or Domotz to help with the process or draw your map by hand instead. Finally, take the time to learn about the best network mapping tools.

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