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Standardize Network Documentation to Scale Efficiently

By Alex Hoff

Picture this. Your client calls and says their internet connection is slow as molasses. You can hear the frustration in their voice—so how do you proceed once you hang up the phone?

Well, depending on your network documentation processes, you’ll likely act in one of two ways. Either you’ll open up your client’s infrastructure inventory and confidently begin troubleshooting, or you’ll feel a pit in your stomach because you don’t know where to start.

The difference between these two responses isn’t rocket science. It’s network documentation standardization—and it helps you scale your MSP more efficiently while providing more effective customer service.

That’s because, with standardized documentation across all client networks, instead of ruminating on how to troubleshoot (and potentially getting the wrong answer from Google), your team can simply follow procedure and start troubleshooting. This results in massive time savings every time you and your technicians remediate client issues.

Here are three key pillars to keep in mind when developing and implementing your MSP’s network documentation standards.

1) Compile an up-to-date device inventory

You can’t begin troubleshooting a network without insight into the infrastructure. You can provide that immediate insight for your team by creating an inventory of all network devices on the client site. What do they have for firewalls, switches, routers, and Wi-Fi?

Including key biodata (such as IP addresses, passwords, credentials, and serial numbers) will allow your team to easily locate and log into devices to determine health. Then, to protect your client’s security, add an audit log.

A comprehensive audit log details basic management like when a device’s password was last rotated, or when the configurations were changed. Over time, you’ll have a history of the changes your team has made to the network. That way, if you receive the dreaded ‘my network is slow’ call from your client, you can check your audit log to see if any changes were recently made to the network, and easily identify what needs to be rectified.

Having device inventory and audit log data in one place expedites troubleshooting, and also prevents the possibility of having a client’s network live inside one technician’s head. Anyone on your team should be able to quickly understand each client’s network, so as your team grows, service standards are maintained.

2) Document all processes

In addition to an up-to-date inventory and audit log, provide your team with step-by-step processes to follow in the event of a network issue. Proper documentation extends beyond information gathering, and explains how to use the data to solve problems.

Think of documenting troubleshooting processes like creating a support execution roadmap: “Here are the standard procedures for creating users and changing passwords so you eliminate any guesswork on which commands to run.”

Another benefit to documenting processes is expediting your technicians’ training. New team members can follow guidelines and seamlessly support clients without a steep learning curve. It’s much easier to adopt your company’s tips and tricks when they’re archived.

By executing known procedures, your team mitigates risk, too—because if one tech starts doing things differently, your service becomes unstructured. When processes are ubiquitous across all clients, it’s easier to replicate service quality, which creates efficiency and scale. 

3) Record device support and commercial info

The third network documentation pillar is recording key device support and commercial information. This fills a gap that exists between various platforms, since it’s unlikely all information about clients’ network infrastructure automatically lives in one location (like in your device inventory or audit log) even if you have a PSA and RMM.

For instance, seeing the documented commercial history of network devices is beneficial in determining whether they’re replaceable, and at what cost. Did you sell the device to the client, was it provided as infrastructure as a service, or was it inherited? Is there a return merchandise authorization (RMA)?

Digging even deeper, adding information like existing case numbers, licenses, sales rep names, and phone numbers, and other relevant device support information complements your inventory and process documentation. That way, if there’s an issue, you can quickly get in touch with the right people to help you understand the context of your client’s network.

As you create your network documentation best practices, you need to be able to answer this question: If a new team member were to call a client’s firewall vendor, would the support rep think he’d been on your team for years because he knew exactly what to say and who to ask for? Or would your technician feel lost?

If you keep in mind the goal of your documentation is to enable your team to efficiently and effectively support your clients (and as a result, scale your business), both your technicians and clients will be confident, productive, and happy.


Written by:

Alex Hoff, Founder & Chief Product Officer of Auvik Networks

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