Tis the season to be cranky, so I'm going to ask about Microsoft Visio and such.
Do any of you use some kind of tool like this to manage and display information about your network connections?
At the Kellogg Biological Station, we have 14 buildings with ethernet LANS. There are 7 routers, 10 bridges (all wireless) and about 28 managed switches. I don't have a count of the number of RJ 45 wall outlets, but we're working on it. There is also a small handful of wireless APs. In other words, it's not a big operation, but it's not so small that it isn't possible to get confused, especially for a new person.
I was hoping that Microsoft Visio might be the thing to help organize this information. But so far I haven't figured out how to use it as anything other than a glorified PowerPoint. That's not my term for it -- that's a term someone in a newsgroup used when he, too, was looking for examples of how to use it to organize information so that one can drill down with mouse clicks from a street map to building layouts to relay racks, and also show how the network fits together.
It looks like a lot can be done if one uses it with VBA, but it's not clear to me what "a lot" is. There aren't any examples to be found. And it's not clear to me what kind of effort it takes to do whatever it is that it can do, much less whether it would be appropriate for an operation of our size. And I'm a bit leery of a tool that would lock me into a VBA spaghetti bowl, but I wouldn't rule it out if I knew just what I could hope to accomplish with it.
A side rant: There is an autodiscovery tool that one can get as part of a $200 resource kit for this, which will presumably sniff your network and put the information together for you. But I can't find information on-line about what you have when it's done, and what the prerequisites are for it to work. That seems to be the case with a lot of Microsoft products these days, (Well, not just Microsoft.) Instead of reading, you're supposed to install and try it. But even if whatever happens with this autodiscovery tool is wonderful, it isn't going to autodiscover the emergency replacement plans in my mind and make diagrams about what to do in case of equipment failure.
Maybe some of my complaining is premature. I haven't spent a lot of time on this yet, and it is possible that some of my gripes are misplaced. But I thought this would be a good point at which to ask the MSUNAG people what, if anything, they are using to document and manage their network connections.
Computer Services Manager
W.K. Kellogg Biological Station