Looking for advice documenting my network

Discussion in 'Computer Science & Culture' started by Kittamaru, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

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    Okay, so, two weeks ago I started my new job as an Infrastructure Specialist... yay, I'm in the field I really want to be! It's a relatively new site, still small (under 50 total people), and a great chance for me to hone my skills and grow with the company.

    Here's the killer:

    The previous IT guy didn't document anything... literally.

    So, what I'm trying to do, and unsure of where to even start, is this: We have a switch box on the production floor from which all of our wires run. There are five patch panels and two 48 port switches, giving us 96 total runs. IN essence, each patch panel is connected to a front end patch panel in the grid, giving us five locations (one at each corner, and one in the middle) that we can run network cable from.

    Now, each table is organized into a "quad", with one network cable for each desk and one extra for a printer, giving us 5 network cables per quartet of desks/people.

    What I want to do is layout and document what ports on the switch run to what ports on the patch panels, and where those network cables run... because none of this has been done yet. To make matters more interesting, everything is zip-tied (TIGHT) to the scaffolding framework this is built around, and then to the desks, conveyor line, etc... if it wasn't for the fact that everything was zip tied down, I'd almost consider just coming in over the weekend and pulling all the cabling out and re-running it myself so I can document this... and to remove some of the "rats nests" we currently have... seriously, in spots our cable management looks so bad a plate of spaghetti looks more organized!

    Any suggestions on how to lay this out and where to begin? We're planning on expanding to have more desks/workers soon, and part of why I want to do this is, well, like I said, we have a pair of 48 port switches... and all but a half dozen of those ports are populated... but I know we aren't actually making use of that many lines. We have a bunch of places where spare cable is just looped and waiting, but no indication of which spares are live or not.

    Spluh.
     
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  3. Stryder Keeper of "good" ideas. Valued Senior Member

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    Never a fun situation (unless of course you like challenges and puzzles), You are likely going to require the help of an accomplice to "trial and error" what connections are bundled and where they are connected. You'll likely either need to use mobile phones to text or post messages to each other over what the results are, or use a Walktalkie system if it doesn't interfere with any Wifi connections. (Might be best to do that on a Weekend if that's too much noise)

    I'd suggest if you haven't already invest in a Labeller (if not two for an accomplice), the sort that prints off a sticky ticker tape that you can then "tag" things with. You can use that to physically map your cable ends and of course ports if need be (You can purchase a small specialised device to test for live signals, or you can possibly use a Laptop). Labels don't just help you know where things are but potentially users of computers if they are making any form of adjustments, if you don't want them plugging things in the wrong socket make sure it's states what it is in a way they can understand it (not just a UIN for your diagram)

    I'd also suggest creating an "Entity Table" through a spreadsheet program, while later you might want to create a diagram of your layout, the Entity table will allow you to place the information of which connections, what tables and what placement on your patch panel for your setup which you can then refer to to make a pictorial diagram.

    If you can't find an Accomplice to help you, then the only other suggestion is to place Webcamera's that view your Patchpanel's that you can then access through a phone or laptop. This way you can watch the other end of the cables while you are testing for live connections. (Incidentally if you are going to use a laptop, you might want to use Wireless to connect to the Cameras, since the cables your going to be testing might or might not be plugged in) Make sure to note what you can down from the webcam display, or of course Screen capture it to check later.

    I hope that gives you some ideas

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  5. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

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    Sounds like so far I'm on the right track! Most of (but not all, go figure) the cables are already labeled, so I'm working to verify they lead to where they say they do. I have a composite diagram now... it's weird, we have a stage-lighting scaffold setup that everything is run through, which is nice because otherwise it'd be run along the ceiling 40 some foot up (it's a big warehouse that they are setup in lol) but whoever ran the cables used zip ties and pulled them super tight, so some of the cables are damaged... I'm hoping to replace the zip ties with velcro tape ASAP.

    Good to know I'm at least headed in the right direction with what I was doing though!
     
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  7. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

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    Figured I'd provide an update:

    So far, I've started off by going around with a notepad and making a composite diagram of everything. I've split the production line into four sections and have several sheets detailing what quartets of desks get what wires run to them, where printers are, what desks are filled, spare lines, and what satellite patch panel they route to... it's slow going, but it's progress at least! I still need to do a software/license audit soon so I know what licenses we have free/in use

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    On the plus side, I put in almost 60 hours last week... and while I don't get paid Overtime (salaried, whoo!) it was FUN! I actually ENJOY what I'm doing!
     
  8. Stryder Keeper of "good" ideas. Valued Senior Member

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    It's a good thing you are enjoying it, I know at one point it was suggested that IT engineers are a higher risk for suffering depression, it might be because not everybody understands what they do or actually how much they do and take things for granted "when they work", should a network error occur (due to non-compatible updates etc) people are happy to gripe about things not working they way they should. So it's important to make sure you document what you are doing (Even when being paid a salary) just so if anyone asks, they can actually see by a log what you've done.
     
  9. Idle Mind What the hell, man? Valued Senior Member

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    Are the switches attached to a router?

    Could you get NIC hardware information from each PC (ipconfig /all), and compare it to the MAC address table that is stored in the switch? You know where the PC is connected to the wall, and matching the MAC address to switchport, you can find where the switch connects to the patch panels in the comms room. Then start labelling, I guess.

    If you have a router and have a standard PC naming system (so that they can be managed by DNS name for each device), you can use the ARP table on the router to find the MAC address of each hostname.

    Ping the PC name to get the IP, search IP in ARP table, get MAC. Then search MAC on the switch to get switchport. Not sure if your setup is conducive to this approach.
     
  10. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

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    That's just it - we have a "standard" PC naming system, but the previous IT guy I guess decided he didn't need to follow it... he also didn't use the standards for the Administrator and Local User accounts either. Blargh. And it isn't a wall-plug system - it's literally a giant scaffold with wires run across it, heh. 2x 48 port switches, 5x 24 port patch panels, and more wires than really seem necessary
     
  11. Idle Mind What the hell, man? Valued Senior Member

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    Ew. That sounds like a nightmare.

    I still think the PC MAC address and the switch MAC table can be leveraged. You have my sympathy, haha.
     
  12. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

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    Lol, yeah, pretty much. To top it all off, our CEO, several high ranking company leaders, my direct boss (the corporate Director of IT), and several mid level local and state officials were here yesterday for our "grand opening"... thankfully I'd gotten all the wire management done and it looked presentable. Now I finally have time to get some documenting, organizing, and general auditing done lol...
     
  13. Stryder Keeper of "good" ideas. Valued Senior Member

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    While gaining a MAC addresses through the ARP table is one way of doing it, there are potentially instances where it doesn't work the way it should, it's really dependant on how tightened the network is in regards to security. Ping's can be dropped through various security devices or software settings, It could mean a ping doesn't even get the chance to reach it's destination and times-out.

    It can be said that you never have too much information to work with, at least you can chop and choose what information is worth working with as opposed to working in the dark.
     

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