Network Documentation 101 – The Big Red Bus theory

So – the worst happens, your IT Company/IT Manager has an unforeseeable incident (tragically hit by a big red bus in this example!) and you don’t have any network documentation to pick up where they left off. You’re scrambling to get a replacement to help but there is no documentation at all, nobody knows how anything works, what the passwords are. Your main server is down and nobody knows what to do (because you’ve tried the off and on again approach – and it hasn’t worked.) Suddenly you’ve got staff who cannot work and customers who cannot effectively communicate work with you.┬áThis in the industry is what we call the Big Red Bus theory. IT Networks are complicated beasts and if not properly maintained and documented they can quickly grow unruly and problematic.

So what should you have available to you (in paper form!)


Any network device or service should have its usernames and passwords available – most importantly :

  • Domain Administrator
  • Servers
  • Routers/Firewalls
  • Databases
  • Applications/Line of business applications
  • ADSL/Internet Login information

Contact Numbers

if X isn’t working, who can we call and whats the best number and hours of opening :

  • IT Support company
  • Internet Service Providers
  • Utilities provider
  • Web/Email filtering
  • Directors/Management (if emergency)
  • Hardware warranty (e.g server warranty with manufacturer)

Network Documentation

Any decent IT company will be able to figure out how things are hooked up, but this certainly speeds up the process. It should include :

  • What important equipment is connected to (Servers, Switches, Modems, Routers, Fibre links)
  • IP Addresses
  • Backup/DR overview/strategy
  • Important Mailboxes/Email addresses
  • Server partition sizes + hardware information

All of this information should be kept up to date regularly and within 2 copies, one stored offsite and one stored in a safe place onsite. Passwords are confidential and should only be accessed by a trusted person.

It’s also important to establish a delegation-tree – in times of disaster or major issue who is responsible for what role? Even as simple as changing backup drives if the normal person is not around, it’s often overlooked but very crucial!