If you’ve ever been involved in managing complex networks or troubleshooting technical issues, you’re well aware of the importance of comprehensive network diagrams. These diagrams play a central role in simplifying complex systems into an easily digestible format that anyone can understand.
A network diagram is a visual overview of how a network’s components interact. They’re invaluable tools for small tech companies and development teams, helping teams visualize system architecture, troubleshoot technical issues, optimize performance, and plan for future growth.
Network diagrams are widely used and come in a variety of different formats. Generally, these can be broken down into two categories: physical network diagrams and logical network diagrams.
A physical network diagram displays the tangible components of a network, such as servers, routers, cables, and more, mapping out the path information takes between each node.
A logical network diagram maps out the key elements of a network, showing how devices communicate with each other to route information through the network. Key elements of a logical network diagram include subnets, the devices on a network, and the routing protocols that define how information flows.
Network diagrams are indispensable for tech companies building new networks and components. Using network diagrams enables teams to build a shared understanding of how their networks are structured, driving more efficient development processes that yield superior results.
Creating and collaborating on network diagrams demands that teams have the right tools. We will demonstrate how your team can use Cacoo to create and share network diagrams.
Cacoo: network diagramming software
Cacoo is a network diagramming software platform that makes it easy for technical teams to design, share, and present network diagrams in real time. It’s a powerful yet easy-to-use tool with advanced diagramming features and an intuitive user interface.
With a selection of pre-built network diagram templates, plus dozens of other professional templates covering everything from flow charts to technology roadmaps, Cacoo is an all-in-one diagramming solution that helps teams work better together.
Cacoo comes with powerful collaboration features perfect for remote and hybrid teams. With a suite of integrations to the tools your team uses daily, Cacoo slots seamlessly into your team’s existing workflows.
Why use network diagrams in Cacoo?
Clearly, network diagrams play a vital role in project planning and management for technical teams. They help teams see the bigger picture, providing a zoomed-out view that makes it easier to identify gaps or inefficiencies in a network.
There are a variety of network diagramming tools available. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, and at Nulab, we’ve carefully considered these as we’ve built Cacoo. As a purpose-built network diagramming software, Cacoo offers a lot of benefits, including:
- Templates: Cacoo comes with pre-built network diagramming templates, from simple computer network diagrams to customizable network diagrams for popular frameworks, including AWS, Azure, GCP, and Kubernetes. Each of these templates comes with a library of shapes and connectors, making it easy for teams to quickly and efficiently build whatever type of diagram they need.
- Improved collaboration: Designed for remote and hybrid teams, Cacoo enables tech teams to work together wherever they’re based. Everyone can work together on the same diagram in real time, with live chat, video chat, comments, notifications, and more.
- Integrations: Cacoo fits right into your team’s existing workflows. Your team can easily communicate across different software platforms by connecting Cacoo to tools, including Google Drive, Slack, and AWS.
- Sharing: Export your Cacoo diagrams in various formats, from PPT to SVG, or integrate Cacoo with Google Docs or Adobe Creative Cloud to embed Cacoo network diagrams into live documents.
- User-friendly experience: With a simple drag-and-drop interface and a library of resources, it’s easy for new users to get up to speed with Cacoo and start contributing to their team’s projects.
Network diagramming is a complicated domain that demands the right tools for the job. And while there are other diagramming software platforms out there, none have the depth or specialized features of Cacoo.
By adopting Cacoo, tech teams can benefit from a tailor-made, affordable solution to network diagramming that helps them unlock increased clarity.
A guide to creating network diagrams in Cacoo
If you haven’t created a network diagram before, the process can seem daunting. You might be working with a highly complex network with a variety of components. Often, it’s difficult to know where to start.
The key to success lies in taking things one step at a time. Below, we will walk you through the process of creating a network diagram in Cacoo. If you’d like, you can set up a free Cacoo account and follow along, pausing at each stage to customize the network diagram to your own use case.
Step 1: Creating a new network diagram
Depending on the type of network diagram you need to create, you can either use one of Cacoo’s pre-built templates or start designing your own network diagram from scratch.
To use a template, click the Template icon on your Cacoo dashboard, then browse our templates to pick the best option. All templates are organized by category, and you’ll find all of Cacoo’s network diagramming templates under the Engineering & Infrastructure tab. If you’ve got something more specific in mind, you can search for it using the search box.
Keep in mind that these templates are completely customizable. Consider them a starting point, not a rigid framework you must stick to. However, if you don’t see a template that works for your use case, it’s also possible to create a network diagram from scratch. Just select + Create diagram from your Cacoo dashboard.
Step 2: Adding, editing, and formatting nodes and connections
Whether you’ve opted to use a template or create your own network diagram, you need to customize it. Every network diagram is different. It’s your role to customize the framework Cacoo provides to the specific characteristics of your network.
If you’re using a template, many of the elements you need are already in the document in the box titled Elements – you just need to drag and drop them onto your network diagram to add new nodes.
If you don’t see the node or connector you need, you can browse Cacoo’s shape library to find the right icon by selecting the Shapes icon from the toolbar on the left of your screen.
In addition to traditional shapes, you’ll find options for specific nodes and connectors used in network diagramming for systems like AWS, Azure, and Oracle Cloud. If you’re building your network diagram from scratch, this is where you’ll find all the shapes and connectors you need.
Step 3: Customizing the appearance and layout of the diagram
It’s often helpful to customize the appearance of your diagram, adding elements such as color coding or custom mages from external sources. At this stage, you can also add your business’s branding to add a layer of professionalism and prepare your network diagram for an external audience.
To change the formatting of any element on your diagram, simply select the element and then choose from the formatting options in the toolbar.
To import custom assets, click the Import button on the toolbar, then select where you’d like to import an asset from. You can upload a file from your device or a URL. Alternatively, connect Cacoo to cloud storage platforms like Google Drive or Dropbox.
Step 4: Adding notes, comments, and links to the diagram
Network diagrams provide a simple visual representation of how a network is structured, but for a wider audience to understand them, additional commentary is often necessary.
One option is to add a label, entering a short description of each element of your diagram. If you’d like to tag a teammate or open an issue up for discussion, add a comment by clicking the Comment (C) icon on the menu bar.
Alternatively, you can add a hyperlink to individual elements of your network diagram. Just select the element you want to add a link to, then tap the Link icon and enter the URL you’d like to reference.
That’s it! You’ve now created the first draft of your network diagram in Cacoo. However, you’ll probably need to collaborate with other members of your team to refine your work. When you’re ready to take that step, Cacoo’s collaboration tools are your best friend.
Collaborating on network diagrams in Cacoo
Given the complexities of most networks, you’ll likely need to seek input from several people to create network diagrams that accurately illustrate your network architecture. Cacoo is the perfect platform for this type of collaboration, enabling individuals from across your business to work seamlessly together on the same network diagram.
Adding team members to your Cacoo network diagram is simple. To get started, invite new users to join Cacoo. Anyone can set up an account, including external partners. To add new users to your network diagram, click Share and enter the colleagues’ email addresses you’d like to add. You can also share your diagram via a custom URL.
The team members you add here will receive an email inviting them to set up their own Cacoo account. You can specify the level of access you’d like each person to have, from view-only to administrator access.
Once your teammates join your network diagram, there are plenty of ways for you to work together. Exchange ideas in comments, tagging team members when you want their input. For more immediate issues, start a live chat or hop on a video call, all without leaving Cacoo. It’s an intuitive experience that breaks down barriers to collaboration, making it easy for teams to exchange feedback and share innovative ideas.
As you host different working sessions and add to your network diagram, you might want to look back at how the diagram has evolved over time. Good news: With Cacoo’s revision history and version control features, you can see who made changes and when they made them. That’s important when it comes to tracking changes and identifying who to ask follow-up questions to.
To view a diagram’s version history and restore the diagram to a previous version, click the History icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. As you update the diagram, you can add notes explaining what was changed to each version.
As your network diagram nears completion, you’ll want to export your work. Perhaps you need to explain how your network is organized to a new team member or show leadership a network gap that needs to be addressed.
When you’re ready to share your diagram, you can do so right from your Cacoo account. Click the Play icon to enter full-screen presentation mode or send out a view-only link to key stakeholders to ensure they can always access the latest version of your diagram.
How small tech companies and tech team leads can use network diagrams in Cacoo
It might seem like a network diagram is only used to map out a computer network’s various components and relationships, but that’s not the case. Depending on the nature of the project, you might use network diagrams to map out assets, including virtual private networks, server racks, and telecommunications network connections.
Different types of networks can be displayed in a network diagram, but in addition to that, network diagrams can be used for a variety of use cases, including:
- Troubleshooting problems: By mapping out the components of a network and their interactions with each other, technical teams can identify the areas where problems exist and take steps to remedy them.
- Optimizing performance: Few networks are designed perfectly the first time around. As your team grows more familiar with the structure of a network, you can take steps to improve the performance of that network. Examples include improvements to important performance drivers such as bandwidth, latency, load balancing, redundancy, etc.
- Planning for growth: Tech startups need to build scalable networks that can grow in line with the demands of their fast-paced business. Network diagramming can be used to forecast the network’s future needs and identify the investments needed to add additional capacity.
As a broader field, diagramming has many other use cases outside of this. Cacoo can be used in all kinds of ways, from managing mind maps to creating product wireframes. The only real limit here is your imagination. If you need some inspiration, just browse the Cacoo Template Library.
Integrating Cacoo network diagrams with other tools
Whenever a team adopts a new software solution, certain behaviors must change. When a tool is difficult to use and doesn’t gel with a team’s existing processes, adoption is always an uphill battle. However, teams are much more likely to embrace the change when a tool integrates seamlessly with existing workflows and software platforms.
Cacoo offers a suite of integrations to some of the world’s most popular enterprise applications, serving as the perfect complement to existing systems and processes. Popular integrations include:
- Communication tools: Cacoo connects to messaging apps like Typetalk, Slack, and Microsoft Teams, delivering updates to team members every time a colleague tags them in a comment in a Cacoo diagram.
- Cloud storage platforms: Two-way integrations to platforms including Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive make it easy for teams to insert images from shared drives into their Cacoo diagrams and export finished diagrams to team folders.
- Network operating platforms: Cacoo’s AWS integration allows teams to import their existing AWS architecture into Cacoo, taking pre-built network diagramming templates to the next level.
- Others: Using Cacoo’s Zapier integration, tech teams can connect Cacoo to a wide range of third-party applications.
Get started with network diagramming in Cacoo today
Network diagramming is an essential practice for tech companies at every stage of their growth. Your business’s networks are one of your company’s most fundamental building blocks, supporting reliable communication between teams and providing the connectivity employees need to get their work done.
Understanding how your business’s networks are structured, the relationships between different components, and how existing architecture can be improved is central to your continued success. Without the right tools and approach, it’s difficult to effectively visualize your business’s networks, leading to all kinds of challenges.
A comprehensive network diagramming platform like Cacoo is a vital partner in helping technical teams and developers understand the composition of their business’s networks. Cacoo pairs advanced features with an intuitive user experience, delivering an unparalleled network diagramming solution that helps teams better understand their business’s technical infrastructure.