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Top 9 Network Mappers to draw the network diagram

Tools that can be used to ensure the proper functioning of networks

Published: November 18, 2021 By Ozair Malik

Image showing network engineer configuring network

Image source – freepik.com

According to the latest research, the United States ranks third among the largest online markets in the world, with over 313 million active internet users worldwide.

But, with this exponential increase in internet penetration rate, there is also an increase in network complexity and, thus, the need for proper network management systems.

This problem might seem impossible to tackle, but it’s really not and can be handled easily. Do you want to know how? Well, keep reading.

What are network diagrams and network maps?

Network diagrams and network maps are synonymous words used to describe a tool that acts as a lifesaver for network management.

A network diagram displays the connection between all the components present within a particular network, such as routers and firewalls, called nodes. It also provides information about the data transmission across all these components.

Thus, with the help of network diagrams, IT administrators can better understand the technical infrastructure and pinpoint network issues and troubleshoot problems, which ultimately leads to business thrive.

Types of network diagrams

Network diagrams are a visual representation of workflow in a graphical manner consisting of boxes and arrows. However, a particular network diagram can only represent one core aspect of the network.

Thus, there are two main types of network diagrams: logical network diagrams and physical network diagrams. Though in some cases, network diagrams highlight both the logical and physical elements of networks.

Moreover, certain kinds of network diagrams are used to represent only one network feature they describe, such as computer network diagrams and switch charts.

Logical network diagrams

Logical network diagrams mainly focus on analyzing data flow through a network. This means that such network diagrams include elements like subnets (i.e., VLAN IDs, addresses, and masks) and network devices like routers and firewalls.

Let’s look at an example of a logical network diagram to understand its purpose and features further.

Image showing an example of a logical network diagram

Image source - EdrawMax Online

The above image shows a Firewall logical network diagram displaying the data flow through different elements of a Firewall network like routers and internet connections. The Firewall acts as a protective shield between the internet and multiple routers in the network.

Physical network diagrams

Physical network diagrams display the interconnection of the devices within a network and thus focus on the concrete underpinnings of a network, including cables, ports, servers, etc.

Hence, physical network diagrams visually render a network in a physical space, much like a floorplan.

Let’s look at an example of a physical network diagram to understand its purpose and features further.

Image showing an example of a physical network diagram

Image source - EdrawMax Online

The above image shows a physical network diagram of an office network. The diagram displays the interconnection of the installed physical network devices of the office’s network so that the team members can better understand the resources and troubleshoot problems easily.

Why do you need network mappers?

All the networks are arranged in a different manner forming a variety of structures called network topologies. The main types of network topologies include bus, ring, tree, star, and mesh topologies.

Network mapping can be done manually by using ping and traceart, followed by a visual mapping or vector program. However, drawing all these complicated network arrangements manually would undoubtedly be a tough row to hoe.

This is where network mappers come into play. These network mappers save you a lot of time and resources by generating an automated network diagram. Still, these tools also ensure that such network diagrams are accurate and best suited for the company’s requirements.

Thus, network diagramming software must be present in the toolkit of every network administrator so that they can ensure that their network diagrams are accurate, clear, and up to date.

Best Network Mappers

Although these network mappers make your life easier by automatically detecting faults in your network and creating a network diagram according to custom settings, choosing the best software according to your company’s needs can be confusing.

Hence, I have listed the best network mappers of 2021 in this guide to help you choose the best network mapper for your company.

SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper (Editor’s choice)

Image showing SolarWinds NTM interface

Image source - solarwinds.com

SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper (NTM) is a highly recommended network mapper, and its 14-day free trial is also available for download.

Some useful features of NTM are mentioned below which make this product worth buying:

  • It is a Cisco-supported, enterprise-grade tool that can generate accurate and reliable network diagrams.
  • NTM automatically discovers network topology using SNMP, ICMP, CDP, WMI, VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, and other discovery methods.
  • This tool can scan your entire network within a few minutes and creates comprehensive and detailed maps.
  • It also allows the flexibility of manual output by manually editing node details of map objects and the connection of network devices.
  • The numerous discovery methods enable it to perform multi-level network discovery, and thus, it can produce OSI Layer 2 and Layer 3 network maps with detailed device information.
  • NTM’s network diagramming capabilities help you meet compliance requirements for HIPAA, SOX, PCI, and FIPS 140-2.
  • NTM creates detailed and comprehensive reports for tracking switch port data, VLANs, subnets, hardware inventory, and device ARP cache, which helps with the administrative aspects of network diagramming.
  • It can map out the network from different perspectives and thus, generate multiple drawings from a single scan. Hence, the need for re-scanning is eliminated, which saves a lot of time, bandwidth, and resources.
  • With NTM’s robust reporting capabilities, you can keep track of inventory and network information easily.
  • With NTM, sharing network diagrams has also become a cakewalk since it can export them to common formats, such as PNG, PDF, Orion, Network Atlas, and Microsoft Visio.
  • It ensures that your network topology is up to date by automatically scanning for new devices, alterations, and unknown systems.
  • The NTM interface is highly customizable and allows one to modify out-of-the-box industry-standard icons and change their size, position, and the surrounding text.
  • SolarWinds NTM is versatile and easy to use. Although it offers several advanced features, the user interface is dynamic and simple to navigate.

InterMapper

Image showing InterMapper interface

Image source - helpsystems.com

Similar to NTM, the Help Systems InterMapper is also a great all-in-one network mapping tool available for a 30-day free trial.

The following features will help you determine whether it is worth buying or not.

  • It is equipped with an auto-discovery mapping feature to discover and map devices on both physical and logical networks.
  • Its network monitoring capabilities allow you to create a network map and use color-coded statuses, which gives you an instant, at-a-glance insight into network events.
  • Its price is not fixed and depends on the number of devices you want to include in your network visualization. The price increases with the increase in the number of devices added.
  • This network diagramming software is designed to support customization. Thus, it enables you to customize your maps, topologies, and colors and animate your node icons so that you can create a network diagram exactly as you want.
  • In addition to enabling you to access the library of icons, InterMapper also has a graphics editor that allows you to create your icons from scratch.
  • It also allows you to create hierarchical maps and sub-maps to display certain network areas, such as the closet or floor.
  • InterMapper also makes sharing maps easier as it allows one to export maps to SVG format and Microsoft Visio.
  • It runs on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.

ManageEngine OpManager

Image showing the interface of ManageEngine OpManager

Image source - manageengine.com

ManageEngine OpManager is also a highly recommended tool and is available to download for a 30-day free trial.

It offers a variety of useful features, some of which are listed below.

  • This tool monitors networks by using Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), which provides a quick way for network management systems to discover all the interconnected devices within a network.
  • By sending out the first status request as a broadcast, OpManager compiles an equipment inventory from the response of all the device agents. A feature in its code automatically generates a network topology map from that list of devices.
  • It offers several network map layouts, and all of them are flexible to be redrawn on access by the user.
  • It checks the device inventory and updates it where necessary. Thus it can detect changes in the number of devices in a network within a minute.
  • OpManager is a one-step solution for network monitoring and is suitable for businesses of all sizes.
  • It installs on Windows Server and Linux.

ConceptDraw Pro

Image showing the ConceptDraw Pro Interface

Image source - concepdraw.com

ConceptDraw Pro, also called ConceptDraw Diagram, is an easy-to-use software available for a 21-day free trial.

Some of its useful features are listed below:

  • It is equipped with advanced features like Smart Connector and Building Plan Designer that help automate the process of creating a network diagram.
  • Its interface is simple and easy to learn and allows one to create custom node icons.
  • ConceptDraw Pro also allows its users to import and exports network maps in different formats, including Visio.
  • It integrates with different productivity software, including Google G Suite and Microsoft Office.
  • You can purchase this tool separately or as a part of a tool package called ConceptDraw Office, which has project management and planning features.
  • It can be installed on a Windows server or Mac OS.

LucidChart

Image showing LucidChart interface

Image source - lucidchart.com

LucidChart is a flowchart creation topology tool that is available to download on a 7-day free trial.

Some of the useful features of this product are listed below:

  • It offers specialized icon libraries which are suitable for several industries, including network topology.
  • It is a suitable tool for those network administrators who want to create a network from scratch.
  • This tool allows you to import and export network maps in multiple formats, including Microsoft Visio. Data can be imported from Zapier, Excel, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, etc.
  • It offers a comprehensive approach to creating network diagrams and can automatically generate a diagram from data.
  • LucidChart allows one to access more than 500 templates and provides a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface to customize diagrams.
  • By using this tool, your team can share feedback quickly because it supports real-time collaboration.
  • It can also integrate with multiple tools, including Atlassian, Slack, Microsoft Office, G Suite, and Salesforce.
  • It can be installed on Windows, Linux, Mac OS, Chrome OS, iOS, and Android.

SmartDraw

Image showing the interface of SmartDraw

Image source - workspace.google.com

SmartDraw is also a great network mapping tool, especially for small businesses, as it offers a free online version suitable for such companies.

Some of its useful features are listed as follows:

  • Since it is a web-based network diagram maker, it can run anywhere with a stable internet connection.
  • It offers a wide range of quick-start network design templates that makes network mapping easier.
  • This tool has an exhaustive network symbol library to find thousands of ready-made visuals and templates for computers, servers, hubs, switches, etc.

Microsoft Visio

Image showing the Microsoft Visio Interface

Image source - microsoft.com

Microsoft Visio is another highly recommended reliable network mapping tool available to download for a 30-day free trial.

Following are some of the useful features of this network diagram builder:

  • It helps in speeding up your topology mapping tasks by allowing access to IT icons and network design templates.
  • It is so popular that several other network diagram tools (including NTM) allow their users to export network maps to Microsoft Visio. Thus, it is useful for compiling information from multiple sources.
  • It offers the creation of difficult diagrams or data layers that can also be shared with stakeholders.
  • This tool allows one to share, edit and comment on diagram drafts and thus supports collaboration between coworkers. Sensitive information must be excluded before sharing drafts to ensure data protection.
  • It offers preloaded templates and themes which can be used to visualize a network.
  • It can also minimize the risk of data loss with loss protection and Information Rights Management (IRM).
  • Visio is simple and easy to use and saves time by combining information and importing relevant data directly into the network diagram.
  • It allows users to enhance their diagrams with graphics, thereby making them easier to understand.
  • It can be bought separately or as an add-on to Microsoft Office 365.
  • A Standard and a more expansive and expensive Pro version of Microsoft Visio are available.

LanFlow

Image showing LanFlow interface

Image source - pacestar.com

LanFlow is also a great choice for network mapping and is available to download on a 30-day free trial.

Some of its useful features are listed below:

  • It includes 2D and 3D common networking symbols, outline symbols, and some basic block diagramming symbols.
  • It is simple to use and easy to learn, making it the easiest and fastest solution for managing and documenting networks.
  • This tool has a simple user interface, and everything in it is drag and drop; thus, you can add new elements to the network diagram simply by clicking.
  • All the onboard diagrams and devices like computers and laptops are vector-free, allowing one to zoom in and out as needed.

Dia (Free)

Image showing the interface of Dia software

Image source - dia-installer.de

Dia is a completely free-of-cost network mapping tool that is suitable for smaller enterprises.

Some of its useful features include:

  • It is a cross-platform application that allows one to create a variety of network maps.
  • It allows one to save maps in XML format and export them in PNG, SVG, WMG, XFIG, or EPS format.
  • It is available for Microsoft Visio on Linux, Mac, Windows, and Unix.

Conclusion

I have put a detailed review of the top best network mappers in 2021, along with an Editor’s choice. There are 100’s other tools available for visualizing network topologies. Therefore, you can use any of the ones you find the best fit for your requirements.

Every tool has a limitation that is overcome by another tool in the market. This is how advancements happen, and we have new tools every other day.

If you explored any other network mapper besides those listed above, please share your reviews below in the comments.

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Technology
Author
Ozair Malik
A passionate Cyber Security researcher and writer with a keen interest in Digital Forensics. A community worker running a insta blog to raise cybersecurity awareness among laymen.

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