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The Top 3 Things You Need to Document in Your Business

By SolarWinds Passportal

To manage a customer’s complex IT infrastructure, managed services providers (MSPs) and other system technicians need to establish a clear documentation system. Your IT infrastructure is made up of many components that all have a unique user protocol. Without a clear system of IT documentation, you can easily forget what components are active in your system, how they interact, and what you need to do to keep it all operating smoothly.

To provide the best service possible, MSPs need a comprehensive way to oversee systems inventory, understand how to use each component, and keep track of licensing components like SSL certificates and software vendors. In addition to IT components, your system documents, files, Microsoft Knowledge Base articles, and password inventory all need a centralized documentation system for easy management.

When you document your system components in one manageable place, managed service becomes a whole lot easier. With a user-friendly guide and a well-organized infrastructure, both you and your customers stand to benefit.

The best documentation management software allows you to control your IT documentation with ease. But, as any MSP knows, there’s a lot to keep track of for any given customer. To make things clearer, IT documentation can be divided into three categories—system documentation, process documentation, and user documentation.  

1. System documentation

System documentation helps you manage your tech infrastructure by collecting your software assets in a single location, establishing use protocol for IT admins, and describing the architecture of your systems technology.

Software documentation is a major part of your system documentation process. You need a handy place to access configuration information for your software’s architecture, design, and potentially even source code. Documentation software can provide user-friendly templates to help establish your software’s architectural details, like dependencies and access points, as soon you make a new purchase. Documenting your IT products helps to assure you are using them correctly, fully, and in compliance with any licensing rules.

One advantage of system documentation is that it gives you the ability to keep track of your IT infrastructure by outlining the roles and responsibilities of your users and sysadmins. The aim of role management is to ensure maximum security in your system. Roles and permissions allow you to ensure that your technicians only have access to what they need to carry out their jobs, making it less likely they would intentionally or unintentionally leak sensitive information. Dictating roles and permissions will be up to your tech management team, and they can access these controls in your private documentation interface.

As part of a complete document management system, your system documentation software can also provide password management. A comprehensive network password manager allows you to access all of your user permissions with an encrypted master key. It also simplifies and secures logins by keeping access to all of your network login information in one centralized location.

2. Process documentation

Process documentation is the second major component of your document management system. Documenting your customer knowledge no longer needs to involve complicated, handwritten notes passed between team members. With process documentation software, you can record events and customer interactions using preset recording templates. Process documentation allows you to keep a running record of your schedules, deadlines, and activity history.

In addition to your activity history, process documentation is where you record your network metrics and software interactions. Process documentation can involve tracking web domain history, understanding the changes in software versions, and mapping the changing relationship between the items in your inventory. As your SSL certificates change, your process documentation software allows you to keep track of changing authentication records. As an added advantage, historical documentation of your IT processes can prove useful for security audits and can potentially save you from large compliance-related fines.

3. User documentation

User documentation is the end-user portion of your documentation management system—in other words, it’s the documentation that helps guide your customers and sysadmins through your network operations. For example, documentation that communicates product use information is considered user documentation.

User documentation comes in several varieties. Pre-installed user manuals fall under the user documentation category, since they explain how your system users can make the most out of your IT products. MSPs may also need to create user guides, since there may be quite a bit of additional information needed to effectively guide customers through their IT infrastructure.

The goal of user documentation is to explain to your users how to interact with each tool in your IT infrastructure. User documentation can take the form of written instructions, software tutorials, or even live onboarding between you and your customers. Ticketing responses, FAQ pages, and links to customer help pages can all form part of a complete user documentation setup. Your document management system might also offer templates to make it easier to write up product information for users in your network.

Making Sense of Software Documentation

As an MSP, there’s no need to get carried away by the many different types of documentation. Your documentation should be a constantly evolving process, meaning administrators must update your templates each time you acquire new information regarding your system, process, or user information. A documentation management system can help guide you through the IT documentation process, and provide easy-to-use templates that you can update and access from a central interface.

You should also remember to not get carried away with the level of detail you put into your documentation. Make sure to document the aspects of your infrastructure that are necessary for secure and efficient IT management—no need to write out every minor operation of your infrastructure. As a basic guide, you should include the aspects of your IT system that help you manage your products, maintain security, and keep track of updates and service agreements.

With SolarWinds® Passportal + Documentation Manager, you can now manage your IT infrastructure at each step of the documentation process. SolarWinds Passportal + Documentation Manager offers a complete document management system with built-in templates and central controls for easy editing.

For system documentation, Passportal also offers a secure password management system with user-friendly controls from an encrypted vault. You can keep track of network access and control passwords from an easy-to-use interface. Flexible templates allow you to document product architecture and licenses for easy reference. For process documentation, you can map relationships between your files, documents, and other system components. And for user documentation, SolarWinds templates help enable fast and effective user onboarding.

Additional Reading

SolarWinds® adds Passportal suite to its MSP product portfolio. MSP security, simplified. SolarWinds® Passportal + Documentation Manager is a SOC 2 certified, RAPID 7 tested, award winning platform.

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Grow your business faster with the world's first unified platform for true password management and secure IT documentation. More than 2,000 best-in-class MSPs around the world are leveraging our security, automation, and rapid access client knowledge to out preform the competition.Passportal-SolarWinds_1200x190


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