When selecting the best network diagram tool, it is important to have a clear understanding of what type of network you need to illustrate, the format the document should be in, and the intended use of the diagram. A network diagram tool is used to clearly show the relationship between various items and equipment within a larger system. Many people assume a network diagram is only used for computer systems, but this is not the case. This type of diagram is used for biological networks, to show connections between a network of people and to map out distribution chain networks.
There is a wide range of network diagram tool programs available for almost all operating systems. The most effective way to evaluate them is to first create a list of the actual functions that you require. It is very easy to become distracted with all the features available and lose sight of what is required. Look at the list and think about your future needs. Make sure the software you select is able to meet those needs as well.
In order to use a network diagram tool, staff will need to have basic computer skills, a firm understanding of graphical diagrams, and the ability to learn new things. Many people find it is quite easy to translate flow diagram drawing skills to a computer software program, as the tools provided mimic the manual process. When selecting a tool, allow staff to participate in the selection process. This will decrease resistance to change and help ensure the tool can meet most requirements.
Take the time to review the product brochures and materials to determine the target market for the product. While the basic functionality is the same for all network diagrams, there are often hidden advantages to using a product dedicated to a specific industry. For example, graphical images for industry-specific processes may be included, reducing the need to create custom images. Programming logic may also be used to create shortcuts or validate a diagram.
Document format options are very important, as these diagrams often need to be distributed to other users or incorporated into larger documents. Take a look at the list of file format options and make sure the standard formats for your industry are included. Network diagrams that are for internal use should include version control, author identification, and the ability to protect the document from changes. For external users, a legend or key must be included in the diagram, along with text to provide a more detailed explanation.