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Concept Draw Pro
Concept Draw is one of the more powerful network diagramming tools you will find. Concept Draw is actually more than just a network diagramming tool, it’s a full-fledged business diagramming tool. Concept Draw Pro is full drag and drop with little to no learning curve. This particular tool has every networking symbol you will need as well as the ability to customize just about everything you add. The cost of Concept Draw Pro is $249.
Dia is an open source diagramming tool that suffers from a very old-school look and feel on its symbols and UI. However, Dia is very simple to use and doesn’t distract from the task at hand. Dia works on just about any Linux desktop and is free of charge.
Diagram Designer (free)
Diagram Designer is another freeware tool that looks a bit outdated but the ease of use should make it appealing to a wide variety of users. Unlike Dia, Diagram Designer has a much larger selection of symbols and icons. The only thing I didn’t much care for with Diagram Designer is that the connector tool is a free-form tool so you actually have to manually draw your connections between machines. Outside of that little drawback, DD is a solid entry.
Outside of the industry standard, Visio, eDraw Max is one of the finest of the group. Along with a very user-friendly interface and next to no learning curve, eDraw Max has one of the more updated look and feels among all of the entries. Of course eDraw Max is also a full-blown diagramming tool that can cover all of your business diagramming needs. The cost of eDraw Max is $99.95 for one license and, as you increase numbers, the individual license cost goes down.
GoVisual Diagram Editor (free)
Some pieces of software are simply not made equal. GoVisual Diagram Editor is one such tool that shows how a very complicated tool can produce results that are less than pleasing. Although you can really take some time with GoVisual and make the results work for you, you will be missing features (such as network device object icons) that make the network diagram far easier to read. But if you’re looking for a free tool that can be used for just about any type of diagramming, GoVisual might be the tool for you. Cost? Free.
LanFlow is one of the better tools I have used for this task. It has a great user interface, plenty of network objects to play with, the ability to create LAN, telecom, Internet, and computer diagrams with little effort. LanFlow even comes with two different network diagram templates (3D and b&w). When you open up a new network diagram template you can simply start dragging around objects to fit your network, add new objects (or remove objects), group (or ungroup) objects, and much more. The cost of LanFlow for a single user license, is $89.00, making this one of the best of the low-cost alternatives to Visio.
Although you can use NetProbe as a network diagramming tool, it’s primary purpose is a real-time network device monitoring. But what makes NetProbe a possible contender for network diagramming is its ability to allow you to add, as you need them, devices that are on (or will be on) your network. But, you don’t have to do all of that manual labor as NetProbe has a built-in tool that will automatically scan your network and lay out all of the devices for you. The Standard version is free but is limited to eight hosts. The Pro version of NetProbe (allowing for up to 20 hosts) will set you back only $40.00 and the Enterprise version (allowing for 400 hosts) runs $295.
Network Notepad (free)
Network Notepad is exactly what it sounds like it would be — a notepad for network diagrams. But don’t let the term “notepad” fool you. Network Notepad is full-fledged diagramming tool that even includes interactive functionality (such as telnet, browse, ping, and more). Network Notepad has an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface and also has an autodiscover feature for Cisco devices. This tool is free of charge.
Visio is, of course, the de facto standard for diagramming in the Windows world. Not only can you create beautiful network diagrams, you can create them easily and share data-linked diagrams with others via a Web browser. Visio offers plenty of templates to add on such as data center templates, office consolidation, fault tree, help desk, HVAC, network rack equipment, network planning for enterprise/data center/home office, and much more. Visio is the king of the hill as far as network diagramming, and with the crown comes the price tag of $249.99 for the Standard version, $559.99 for the Professional version, and $999.99 for the Premium 2010 edition. For more information on what each version offers, visit the Visio product purchase page.