According to recent ZDNet research, wireless networks are predicted to be the number one networking initiative in 2005. That means more and more IT personnel will be planning, installing, and supporting wireless networks. Those who have experience with wireless projects already know there is a plethora of configuration options and choices that must be made in each one of these stages. Fortunately, there are numerous articles and tools available to aid IT professionals to make these choices. However, what is rarely discussed is the importance of proper wireless documentation. As in any major IT project, documentation should be on the short list of items to carry out. Presented here are five top reasons why documentation of your wireless network is important.
5. It's a necessary component of a proper site survey
Site surveys are fundamental tools for those who deploy wireless networks. The ultimate goal of a wireless site survey is to provide enough information to determine the number and placement of access points that afford sufficient coverage throughout the building. Before a proper site survey can be performed however, some type of floor plan is necessary. This may come from a set of building blueprints or, if no blueprints are available, a floor plan drawing that depicts the location of walls, walkways, and other relevant information. At a minimum, the planned location of access points should be documented on the floor plan or building blueprint. By doing this, you ensure that you have completed a thorough site survey and have taken the first step to documenting your wireless configuration.
4. Core of change management
There is an old axiom that states that you must know where you are before you can know where you are going. Transferring this notion to the topic of wireless networks, it tells us that before changes are made, the current configuration should be documented. This is very important considering that change is inevitable in our field, and within the wireless arena, the field is changing even faster. Yesterday it was 802.11b, today 802.11g, and, tomorrow, who knows? If it's not the access points that are changing, it's the security level and configuration. The initial documentation you created during your wireless site survey can serve as a reference point or baseline for the changes sure to come along.
3. Aids in transfer of knowledge
How many times have you come to a new organization, as either a new IT employee or a consultant, and found that there was not sufficient documentation to get you up to speed on what you needed to know concerning the existing configuration? If you have been on the receiving end of this exchange then you understand the importance of having proper documentation. Some hesitate documenting their wireless configuration, thinking that possessing the knowledge in their head will make it harder to replace them. On the contrary, documenting your wireless network can actually make you more "promotable" by ensuring that decision-makers know an easy hand-off can be made in the event someone has to take over your old position.
2. One of your best troubleshooting tools
Probably one of the most obvious reasons to document your wireless network is to aid in troubleshooting. Having information readily accessible in the event of problems about access point types and locations, IP addresses, WEP settings, client configuration, channels, etc., can't be over emphasized. In the event that you have to get others involved to help with the real sticky problems, the benefit of an easier transfer of knowledge applies here as well. If permanent changes are made to your wireless network because of the ensuing corrective action, do not forget about change management, and document the modifications.
1. Shows you are an IT professional
The top reason to document your wireless network is not a technical one. Webster defines professionalism as "the standing, practice, or methods of a professional, as distinguished from those of an amateur." By following the practice of documenting your wireless network, you are showing that you are indeed an IT Professional.
Don't forget that, as it is in most situations, the key to documentation is to do it early, often, and precisely. Now that you have been reminded of the importance of documenting your wireless network, it is up to you to ensure that the job gets done.