Step-by-Step Guide to Diagramming Your Network with Microsoft Visio Enterprise 2000

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By Judy Lemke

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Step 1: Discovering the devices on your network
Step 2: Laying out your network diagram
Step 3: Updating your network diagram
Step 4: Generating a network report
Step 5: Sharing your network diagram and reports with others
More information About Microsoft Visio products


Microsoft Visio 2000—just another flowcharting package, right? Wrong. Information technology professionals can use Microsoft Visio Enterprise 2000 to visualize proposed or existing system architectures, so you can streamline the design, documentation, and development of your IT systems. Use Enterprise Edition to automatically discover network devices in layer 2 (data link), layer 3 (IP network), and frame relay network connections using SNMP-based AutoDiscovery technology. Then automatically generate a network diagram using manufacturer-specific Microsoft Visio Network Equipment shapes. You don't have to draw anything—Enterprise Edition does it all.

Microsoft Visio 2000 products contain solutions—a set of templates, stencils, and wizards that do all the work for you. The template contains styles and page settings for your diagram type. The stencils contain all the shapes. And the wizards automate complex tasks. For example, the AutoDiscovery and Layout solution provides a template, stencils containing network shapes, and wizards, such as the Discovery wizard that discovers all the devices on your network and stores the information in a database.

Microsoft Visio 2000 gives you the flexibility to create a diagram as simple or as complex as your network requires. Do you want a large diagram that shows all the devices on your entire network, their connectivity, and their relationships? Do you want a diagram showing only your switched devices? Or do you want several smaller diagrams that "drill down" into your network, linked together and published on your company's intranet? How many backbone networks does your company have? Do you want a separate diagram for each geographical region? Or would you like to create a data link diagram showing the interconnection of switches, routers, and other network devices? Oh, and you CAN create great-looking flowcharts as well.


This article discusses how to use the AutoDiscovery and Layout solution to create a network diagram with several hyperlinked pages that drill down to show detailed information about selected network devices. It then provides information on how to update your diagram after making network changes, reporting on your network, and saving your diagram in HTML file format to post on your company's intranet.

The first step in diagramming your network is discovering your network. To do this, open the AutoDiscovery and Layout template and run the Discovery wizard to create a database that stores information about your network. Then you can use the AutoDiscovery and Layout toolbar to help you create your drawing, or you can use the AutoLayout feature to read the database and automatically lay out your diagram. After you've laid out your diagram, you can run a report on the data in your network database. Finally, you can share the diagram with others by printing it or saving it in HTML file format and posting it on your company's intranet.

Step 1: Discovering the devices on your network

The AutoDiscovery technology used by the Discovery wizard searches your network and creates a database of the layer 2 and layer 3 devices found on the network. Information about each device is also gathered and included in the database, such as the device's network name, its IP address, its operating system, the manufacturer, the SNMP community string used by the device, and interface information. You can customize Discovery to include only specific networks or devices, or to discover every device on as many networks as you like.

How long will Discovery take? No two networks are alike, so it's difficult to specify how long it will take to discover your network. It can go as quickly as a few minutes for a small network or up to a number of hours for a large one. For example, it might take 12 hours to discover a network with 200 routers. Here are some factors to help you determine how to optimize the process:

  • Consider the number of devices the Discovery wizard needs to look for. When choosing options in the Discovery wizard, keep in mind that the more options you select (such as types of devices to be discovered and the number of networks), the longer it will take to complete the discovery.

  • Evaluate your time-out and retry settings. You can specify how long the Discovery engine should wait before timing out if a device doesn't respond to a Ping or an SNMP request, and how many times it should repeat the request. For example, if you have many devices that don't respond to SNMP requests, you can consider decreasing the SNMP time-out field.

  • Consider your link speeds. For example, if you have a remote office connected by a WAN link, the packet exchange will be slower. You might want to exclude the devices on remote subnets from the network you're discovering. Alternatively, you might want to increase the number of SNMP retries and time-outs.

To open the AutoDiscovery and Layout template:

  1. Start Microsoft Visio 2000. In the Welcome to Microsoft Visio dialog box, click OK.

    Note: If you're already running Microsoft Visio 2000, point to File, point to New, point to Network Diagram, and then click AutoDiscovery and Layout.

  2. In the Choose Drawing Type dialog box, click Network Diagram.

  3. In the Drawing Type dialog box, double-click AutoDiscovery and Layout.

    The AutoDiscovery and Layout template and stencils open, and the AutoDiscovery and Layout menu and toolbar appear. The menu and toolbar are available only when you open this template or a diagram created using this template.

To discover your network devices:

  1. Point to AutoDiscovery, point to Discovery, and then click Discovery to begin working in the Discovery wizard. Or, click Discovery on the AutoDiscovery and Layout toolbar.

  2. Answer the questions on the wizard screens.

    Different screens appear depending on your choices. You can specify the network to search, the types of devices to discover and exclude, and the type of search the wizard performs.

    For example, you can specify whether the AutoDiscovery technology uses SNMP or Ping, or searches ARP caches as the method for discovering devices. And you can specify where Discovery looks for network devices by selecting to discover the entire enterprise network, specific networks or IP addresses, or a range of IP addresses.


    Figure 1.1: On the Discovery Type screen, specify whether you want the Discovery wizard to discover only routers and SNMP devices. If Ignore Previously Discovered Devices is selected, the Discover wizard runs faster; however, changes to these devices aren't discovered either.


    Figure 1.2: On the Enter SNMP Information screen, specify SNMP information, such as time-out settings. The time-out settings tell the Discovery wizard how long to wait for a device to respond to a Ping or SNMP request before either making another attempt or timing out (terminating the search). A Ping or SNMP request is made to a specific device in an attempt to discover information about that device. If you have many devices on your network that don't respond to SNMP requests, decrease the time in the SNMP time-out field so that the Discovery wizard does not wait so long before moving on to another device. You should also add the SNMP communities you want to use in your network, and move the most common community to the top of the Community Strings list.


    Figure 1.3: On the Discover Non-Router Devices screen, specify the method for discovering non-router devices. Choosing Ping Undiscovered Devices may cause Discovery to take longer, as the Discovery engine attempts to Ping devices that may not exist. The time required to attempt contact with each undiscovered device will be the number of retries multiplied by the time-out value.


    Figure 1.4: After you have completed the last wizard screen, the Discovery Monitor opens to show you the progress of the discovery of your network.

    When the Discovery wizard is finished, the message "AutoDiscovery is Finished" is displayed and the AutoDiscovery database is created.

Step 2: Laying out your network diagram

After you discover your network, you can lay out your drawing using buttons on the AutoDiscovery and Layout toolbar, or use the AutoLayout feature to easily create hyperlinked network diagrams that drill down into your network showing several different areas. The AutoLayout feature reads the network database created by the Discovery wizard and then lays out the drawing. Although the AutoLayout feature does everything for you, using the AutoDiscovery and Layout toolbar gives you more flexibility when creating your network diagram.

To create a network diagram using the AutoDiscovery and Layout toolbar:

  1. Point to File, click Page Setup, and then click the Page Size tab to specify the size of your page for your network diagram.

  2. Click Add Networks on the AutoDiscovery and Layout toolbar.

  3. In the Add Networks dialog box, select a network, and then click OK.

    Usually you begin by adding your backbone network to the diagram. A shape representing the network is automatically added to the diagram.

  4. To connect network devices such as routers to the network, right-click the network in the diagram, and then click Connect Devices on the shortcut menu.

  5. In the Connect Devices dialog box, select those devices connected to the network that you want to place on the diagram. Check Attach Interface IP Address To Links to display the IP address of links between two devices on the diagram.

    You can continue to add networks and devices to your diagram. You can also add a hyperlinked page to this network diagram by right-clicking a network or device, and then clicking Create Hyperlinked Page on the shortcut menu.

To create a hyperlinked diagram using the AutoLayout feature:

  1. Point to AutoDiscovery, and then click AutoLayout.

  2. On the General tab, select the starting point for your network diagram and specify the number of router hops to include. The larger the number, the larger the diagram, because each device is stored on a separate page.

    Click Calculate at any time to see how many hyperlinked pages the diagram includes. To reduce the number of pages, reduce the number of hops used.


    Figure 2.1: The AutoLayout feature creates the diagram based on devices and networks connected to the starting point you set in this screen. If you plan to publish the diagram on the Web, select Adjust Page Size for HTML Display to ensure that your diagram displays properly.
  3. On the Device Types tab, specify what types of devices are used as hyperlinks, and whether to list network objects by name or by device counter.


    Figure 2.2: If you want to list all of the workstations connected to a network by name, click the Name check box. To list the total number of workstations connected to a network, click the Device Counter check box. The lists are placed next to the network to which the device is connected.
  4. On the Network Types tab, specify what kind of networks to include on the diagram.


    Figure 2.3: You can specify only those network types you want to see.
  5. Click OK. The Laying Out Document progress window opens to show you the progress of the layout.

To navigate between hyperlinked pages:

  • In Whole Page view, right-click the hyperlinked object, and then, from the shortcut menu, choose the name of the page the object is linked to.

    To specify double-click behavior in Whole Page view, right-click the hyperlinked object, point to Format, and then click Behavior on the shortcut menu. On the Double Click tab, specify the page to open in the Go To Page field. When you double-click the object, it displays the page you specified.

  • In Full Screen view, click the hyperlinked object to display the page the object is linked to.

Note: You can also add lists, such as device, device counter, and interface lists, to your network diagrams by right-clicking the network device to which you want to add a list, and then click the type of list you want to create on the shortcut menu.

Step 3: Updating your network diagram

After you make changes to your network, you can view and incorporate those changes into your diagram using the Guided Update command. First rerun the Discovery wizard to update your network database, and then use Guided Update to display a list of the components on your network that have been added, modified, or deleted since the last time you discovered the network.

The Guided Update window displays the following changes in a tree view:

  • Network Changes—Shows devices added to or deleted from the network.

  • Device Changes—Shows new or deleted interfaces.

  • New Objects—Shows new network objects.

  • Connectivity Changes—Shows new or deleted data link connections.

To update your network diagram:

  1. Click Guided Update on the AutoDiscovery and Layout toolbar.

  2. Expand the type of change you want to see: network changes, device changes, new objects, or connectivity changes.

  3. Right-click a specific device or change, and then choose Details from the shortcut menu.

    A dialog box appears with the changes relevant to the selected device. For example, if you right-click a new device under a specific network in the Network Changes list and then choose Details, the Details window shows the device(s) added to the network. The actions available for the selected entry are displayed to guide you in what you can do next.

  4. To apply a change, select the button for the action you want to perform and click Enter. The appropriate dialog box appears and you can then update the diagram with the change. If there are multiple changes, you can select as many changes as you want to implement.

    The action may remain on the diagram if you perform only part of the available changes. For example, if several devices were added to a network and you added only some of them to the diagram, the action remains on the page because there are additional devices you can add to the page. To remove the action from the drawing, deselect the item in the Guided Update window.

    If you do not want to incorporate all the changes at one time, you can save the list, open it later, and apply more changes. If you do not save the list, it will be overwritten the next time you select Guided Update, regardless of whether you rerun Discovery.

To save a list of network changes:

  • Point to AutoDiscovery, point to Guided Update, and then click Save.

To open a list of network changes:

  • Point to AutoDiscovery, point to Guided Update, click Open, and then, in the Open dialog box, navigate to the file.

Note: You can also change where the Guided Update window appears by right-clicking the window and then choosing AutoHide, Float, or Anchor Window.

Step 4: Generating a network report

You can quickly create reports on your network's status by extracting network data from the database. For example, you can inventory IP addresses, summarize frame relay data, and track changes to your network topology. Reports are generated as Microsoft Visio drawing (.vsd) files so you can easily publish them on the Web with your network diagram.

To generate a report on a device in your network diagram:

  1. Right-click the device you want to report on and choose Generate Reports from the shortcut menu.

  2. In the Report Template field, choose a report template from the list box.

  3. Choose Output Options for your report.

  4. Click OK.

Note: You can also generate multiple reports, choose which devices to report on, and view descriptions of each report template before generating the report by pointing to AutoDiscovery, pointing to Network Reporting, and then clicking Report Wizard.

Step 5: Sharing your network diagram and reports with others

Finally, you can share your network diagram and reports with anyone in your company by saving the file in HTML file format and posting it on your company's intranet. If your drawing contains multiple pages, your Microsoft Visio product creates an HTML page for each drawing page and navigation buttons that connect each page. Additionally, the links between the devices in your diagram are retained in the HTML files.

To save a diagram in HTML file format:

  1. Point to File, and then click Save As.

  2. Type a name for the HTML file using the .htm extension, such as ParisIE.htm.

  3. For Save As Type, choose HTML Files (*.htm, *.html).

  4. Choose where to save the file, and then click Save.

  5. In the Save as HTML dialog box, choose the graphics format and the drawing pages you want the HTML file to include. Take into consideration the browser that you plan to use to show the drawing.

  6. Click Filter Settings to control the on-screen image size of the saved drawing or to choose options specific to the graphics format, and then click OK twice.

  7. When you are prompted to view the HTML pages, click Yes to open your Web browser and view the first HTML page.

More information About Microsoft Visio products

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Judy Lemke is a technical writer and trainer who has seven years of experience with Microsoft Visio products.