This interactive session will show different ways to reduce the work involved in creating and maintaining multiple sets of IT diagrams. David will cover techniques that can be used for data centers, offices, networks, servers, applications, cabling, power, systems, ITIL service maps, security, etc, based on your questions and concerns. No programming involved – just awareness of how standard Visio can save time and improve consistency.
Video Transcript

​Allen Edwards
All right, welcome, everybody, we’re still several minutes early. I was just the small chatting with Dave here, PowerPoints and all that was going on, feel free to at any time unmute yourself and weigh in or use the chat button. I think in most resumes, you have to actually put your cursor down over the zoom window. And you might even have the three dots for more, which is how you can find the chat option. It’s also alt h on your keyboard. There’s also a method hopefully you can see that there where you can raise your hand for questions, answer questions, ask us to go faster, that kind of thing. So feel free to ask questions now, if you want. So while we’re doing this, Dave, Where are you calling from?

Unknown Speaker
I’m actually in England at the moment in a hotel, where I’m documenting a mobile phone data center for bt, and this is we’ve been doing this about a year and a half. And we’ve done about three and a half thousand racks so far with another 3000 to do

Allen Edwards
I have to learn to speak British 3000 wrecks What does that mean? Oh,

Unknown Speaker
cabinets. cabinets,

Unknown Speaker
racks.

Unknown Speaker
I get it? Yeah, sorry. Yeah. Yeah, there’s terminology and you will spot my spelling mistakes, as Americans would see it. We did it. Although we did invent the language so that we have we have them alright. But I’ve tried to use Americanism, my American Spelling’s, but so yes, I’ve been spending the day with a colleague auditing Rex, checking what’s in them, and helping engineers find things because they don’t know where things are.

Allen Edwards
Right. Again, if anybody wants to just weigh in in the chat window with where you’re calling from. always kind of interesting to see how far flung we are. I’m actually sitting in Western Canada right now in BC, a town called Squamish, the outdoor recreation capital of Canada. And I’ll be in New York next week. And I hear you’re going to be in Las Vegas next month.

Unknown Speaker
Yep. I’m presenting a three hour workshop in Vegas at the end of September. So there’s lots of people who will come along who are existing Visio users, but actually, there’s still a lot to learn, especially if it’s part of your day job, doing designs and planning of infrastructure. Yeah, I’ll be there for three or four days.

Allen Edwards
And then hello to Gregory from Washington, DC area, and to Jerry in Dallas, Texas. I’ve family in Dallas, go there a couple times a year.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. I was in Dallas a few months ago actually doing Vizio training for General Motors. So they wanted to try and get some Vizio standards to them roll out across the whole of their it.

Allen Edwards
Exactly. I cannot wait to get to your presentation here. I hear things you’re doing in Visio I always just full time job with Vizio.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, it’s actually not the main job. It’s part of the job. There’s just no one no one else wants to do it. So it’s just good business, I suppose.

Allen Edwards
Yeah. So without further ado, then let me get the polaire preliminaries done and what David take control and show us what’s going on in the world of Visio and documentation automation. A Welcome to the it documentation users group webinar. I’m calling it 2019 dot seven because it’s the year and the

Unknown Speaker
month.

Allen Edwards
This one is titled Vizio automation tips and tricks. You can read the rest or just stay tuned for a couple minutes and you’ll get more details. I know not all of you guys came in here directly from IT guy we advertise this and it business fitness group as well as your week of process comm welcome all. The only truth of the issue with it Doug is that the information here is tuned with that audience in mind. Our members have said we want more content. So here it is. Our real quick about it, Doug. It was founded by Tracy harden because I do not see in this list for today. She formed it in May of 2018. Originally wanting to get some help trying to figure out it glue. She’s getting kind of frustrated managing the group in August of 2018 invited me to come along. And so to help Garner Garner more input and more people to share our mind. We open it up to all types of documentation so we can have presentations like today’s and Tracy is also an MSP business owner and has been since 2001. She owns next century technologies in Kentucky. I’ve been in it since 94. I have also been there the MSP route, both in ownership, leadership and as an employee. I founded my business in 2017 Doing process design and EOS facilitation, which is what I found out after talking to Tracy for several months that you know what half of what I do is documentation, either documenting stuff that we’re deciding or teaching it firms how to do documentation, which is why tracing I felt it was a good fit, that I can help out with this group. That was that was well timed. Membership has been going great. Thanks to members like you. Please do keep inviting the more people we have in the group, the more potential answers we have to the challenges that we’re having. I honestly found that before 500 members, Tracy and I were the only ones really posting very often. But now that we’ve we’ve broached that. As you can see, our membership has grown quite well. And I’ve seen a lot more of you guys asking questions and answering questions, which is super appreciated for our fellow peers. Without further ado, I do want to introduce Dave Cuthbertson. Hopefully I said that right. He founded two firms recently asset Gen and square mile, which we’ll, we’ll hear a little more about. I wrote dozens I was gonna ask him, is it actually hundreds of large scale documentation projects like the one you’re working on today? They’ve?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, probably been going 1516 years. So we’ve been around a lot places, including the US over that time. So I suppose Yeah, it’s probably hundreds, hundreds. All right,

Allen Edwards
I’ll get the slide for next time. And welcome out from Chicago. Um, I’m going to stop my screen share now and let Dave share his PowerPoint. While he’s getting that prepared. Dave only has a few slides prepared. He would love to hear interactive questions from you guys. He’s also got Visio loaded up to actually do stuff live. If you have questions, 100 repeat something. Want to point us in a different direction. Please go for it. It’ll be totally okay. I’m going to try to watch the members panel. If you have a chat. Please do so. or raise your hand or even unmute your mic and just interrupt. It’ll be okay. Welcome ash in Jacksonville. I kids live in Jacksonville. tiny tiny world. This is right, Dave. Have fun.

Unknown Speaker
Okay, good. So first thing I love is that feedback. Can you see my screen?

Allen Edwards
I can.

Unknown Speaker
William good. Welcome, everybody. My name is Dave Cuthbertson, literally Scottish in nature. I’m based in England, although I work all over the world. And as Alan said, I went to companies here in England acid jam, which is a software company and square mile systems, which is our services business. Been doing documentation as a business for many years. And probably the best way to understand is how I got to where I am and what I’m going to be covering why I built up this expertise. And I’m going to let you ask any questions you like as we go along. This is originally my first business inbound 1990 was network troubleshooting. So who do you call when Cisco and IBM and others don’t understand why the network’s not working. And so my background is really a network analyst. And as I solve people’s problems and charge a lot of money, they then started asked me to build their networks and put in their Cisco environments. And eventually, after about 12 years, I was running, effectively managed service provider running in the voice and data services for financial services companies. And one thing that I recognized that was different between us and everybody else’s, we cared about control and communication. So if there’s a problem, I want any member of my team to be able to solve it, not just me, or the person who install things. And so that history, I sold those businesses back in 2004, and then thought, What do I do for my next businesses were in this ever changing world of it? What would keep me in business forever? And where is their opportunity? And that’s when I came down looking back then actually, the biggest difference in issue was our culture. Because we cared about things. And what we did is we actually tried to adopt practices and methods that actually made it simpler for us, what was best practice. And I started to get into this, and I got into the ITIL framework, which came out originally from the UK, it’s been adopted on others for service management and service desks. But it also got involved with the British Computer Society and ended up setting the actual group up as the chairman there. And then I got involved in various other trade bodies as I searched and said, If I really want to supply something that’s of value, what’s the best you can do? What’s the best in the industry, and I come across a lot to the US for a US trade body called Bixi, which is all about building and cabling and data center design and things. And I’m on the committee of the UK bixie chapter. And that’s why I’m coming to Las Vegas in September, to actually talk at their conference about Visio automation. If you’re designing data centers, what’s the best way to document them as part of the design process? So you can manage it operationally. It just makes common sense. Just make it simple for everybody. But what it makes Was I then investigated? And then said, what were the root problems. And that was partly skills and awareness. But also people didn’t know what a good way was to name things, or to label things, or to how to manage change or between teams, how to even just capture the knowledge of an existing infrastructure in an efficient way. Because otherwise, the worst thing of doing an audit is to have to do another one because it wasn’t good enough quality. So what’s the best way to do an order? So a lot of this is all focused around how you do things. And part of this was, you can’t understand an infrastructure just by having a spreadsheet or a database. You also need schematics to explain things like diagrams. And that’s how I got onto the Visio side. And I ended up becoming an expert in applying Visio to it environments, particularly on a large scale, where we don’t have 10 diagrams, we maybe have 1000, or 10,000. So what’s the best method? And what’s the principle? Now More recently, I think I may have mentioned too, and we even got asked by Microsoft to train up their data center people around the world, because actually, they themselves need to know how to apply a tool, because it also involves conventions and methods. And that’s how we ended up with today, my day job. So I want a small team, it’s five of us, we have various contractors that come and help us out. And I mean, work is developing a database that basically swallows up all the knowledge that you would have in spreadsheets, and part of what it does is it creates Visio diagrams automatically. We give away fevzi utilities, and everybody is welcome to contact us. And we specifically designed them for doing things like networks and data centers, things that just make Vizio go faster, where I’ve got to bash out diagrams or do things faster and quicker. And I’ll show a couple of them just to give an example. But they’re free. And this is how we go to market. We give away some free stuff. And then people go, I’ve got five data centers to do. I don’t have five racks, five data centers.

Unknown Speaker
What else do you do? Because this is useful. And if this is free, what do you do for your day job. And so a lot of our work is all around documentation, working out methods, processes, and capturing knowledge. So you can then have centralized planning and design and operations. But you may then offshore, the build remotely to different countries. And over the time, last 1415 years we’ve been going, you can see we’ve accumulated a number of different customers, we’ve been to Chicago as well, somebody came in and spent a few days with BlueCross BlueShield, but also various other countries. I’ve been in there, Romania, the Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, obviously, the states quite a bit New York City have got a couple of our implementations doing both the schools but also the emergency services at the moment. And so could be military, it could be financial, everybody’s got the same problems. People in it don’t like documenting things, but also they don’t know how to. And so it’s a good business, I have no competition, people fly me from England to America, because nobody in America seems to want to do this. But actually, it’s the same the rest of the world. So hopefully, I’ll give you a few tips and tricks. And you can use them for both yourself. But if you want to build a service around it, just repeat the same process that I’m doing. Not difficult. But actually it requires focus. So to get into things, when I start with customers and explaining their problems, we’ve lost control, we had a security breach, we don’t know how everything works, we don’t know where everything is. I said well, what you’re trying to do is you try and bleed your complexity down to make it easily understandable. And we’ll often break it down into two areas. We’ll break it down into schematics, things that make it easy to understand. And this is where Visio comes in. But we could use PowerPoint, or CAD, and will often break it down into a structured form. So we’ll create a spreadsheet. But we then start finding we have one spreadsheet for things, an inventory, you may have another spreadsheet for dependencies. This is the software that runs on servers, this is the cabling between the connections, and effectively will end up starting to create quite a few datasets. And the trouble is starting to coordinate them. And this is really part of what we want to do here is to think about that. When you look a little bit further, you then realize that when you create a schematic like Visio, all you’re doing is creating a view of data that often has dependencies. I’m doing a floor plan because I want to see where things are. So there’s a space dependency, or a rack layouts, cabinet layout, or a network diagram. And what I found quite successful and explained to people is that when you start looking at any component, I’ve taken a server here as an example, you’ll find it spread across all sorts of things for project documents, you’ll be in monitoring tools that will be in your service desk will be in many different areas. And you’ll duplicate the data and of course you won’t maintain or keep it up today because often those tools used by different teams. So my view and what I found quite successful is explaining that on a commercial side, you probably want to keep data, but it doesn’t help you with any planning But it’s very useful when it comes to the finance side and warranties and support calls. From a physical side, you’ll probably want to start doing things where you want to show dependencies, this server is in this cabinet, the servers in this room, the servers connected to this cable to this power. And you start realizing you’re starting to document dependencies that are also shared by network devices, and load balancers and patch panels. And so really, there’s no natural owner for that. So you have to set up a centralized team. And when we start getting to the logical view of the server, and then what it does, where we don’t care about where it is, you just want to care what it does, without grouping it together in networks, storage networks, and which virtual machines and others, then we start creating diagrams, and spreadsheets that record all of that. And eventually, you start realizing from a risk perspective, we’ll start documenting, well, how many of these things are used? And by who? And so what’s the risk if this system doesn’t have a disaster recovery? Or do we have a production environment and a test environment? Where is our user data? And you start realizing, actually, you don’t need a lot of technical detail about the server, you just need to know there is one, but who’s the owner of it? And what does it really mean. And the easiest way to explain it is with a whiteboard, because you want to simplify it, and you maybe get to architecture diagrams. So from a perspective of, you know, looking from a high level view, a diagram is just a view of data, you can never have good diagrams if you don’t have good data.

Unknown Speaker
So as a result of that some of the features of Visio, that most people are not aware of is how you can create diagrams from data. So I can reuse a list of servers and show where they are in a rack or cabinet. But I can also use that same list of servers to also show groupings about which production and test or I can use that same list of servers as to what’s recoverable in an architecture. Now, how do we failover from one system to another? So good data equals good diagrams. And that’s a lot of what my day job is helping people get good data. Because then diagrams are easy. And there’s many different types of diagrams. I tried writing a list for somebody, how many different types of diagrams do we use in it? And I gave up at 600, after one day, 600 different types of diagrams. Yep, and all for different reasons. But actually, when you start looking at it, you then start realizing, how would you ever keep this up to date. And that’s, of course, that’s a problem with it. People don’t like documenting things, particularly if nobody’s ever going to use it, or it’s not reusable. So simple thing is less data, more diagrams, and I’ll show you those different techniques. But it could be any one of those, I want to see how something is built, which cards were in which slots, or I want to see how it links into the network, or just maybe high level views. But you’ll end up with lots? And the answer is you’ll never produce what everybody needs. But you’ll have the data that probably will help them get there quicker. So the project for New York City, and they’ve got 2000 campus locations, because there’s 2000 schools. So why not have a network diagram for every school updated every night. So I’ve got 2000 network diagrams to update. But I’ve also got 2000, wireless access diagrams to update where all the access points are. And probably there may be the security systems. So now, rather than just 2000 diagrams, I’ve got 6000 to maintain every night. So I don’t want to draw them if I can automate it. But what I do need is I need one item of data about one device. And that can be used as the basis. And this is where Visio really comes in. A lot of people aren’t aware of these features, which have been around for many is

Allen Edwards
MJ as you pop in this wanted to share a comment from the forum from Alan Miller. Yeah, he is curious or maybe put this into your stack somewhere, if you’re familiar with building information modeling and how that might integrate at the rack level?

Unknown Speaker
Yep, and the answer is doesn’t work really very well, unfortunately, because I’ve researched and talk with people in the BIM world. And often BIM is used as a tool to help with the design and build of systems. But it’s often far too complex for people to maintain and update as part of their daily job. So it’s difficult enough for facilities managers to maintain BIM systems, but nevermind the IT people who are saying it only does the physical side but doesn’t do the logical for us. And we don’t have the symbols and shapes. And if you make it difficult, they’ll just do it on the back of a packet back of an envelope, or they’ll do it in PowerPoint or Visio, because they need to get something done quickly. And so BIM is a great idea for building management, but it doesn’t support the flexibility and perspectives that you need from an IT perspective, because BIM is more around the space side where things are, but not necessarily the connectivity, we can do it. But in most cases, I find they’re just we just work in parallel worlds, particularly where new site installing LED lighting and building management systems. But I can obviously take that offline if he wants to cover that. But I do get around to talk with a lot of people. And my, my views are quite balanced, I’m always searching for a better way, and always open to be convinced. So the first thing is, which version of Visio, there’s a couple of different versions and the office 365 version, you can get two of them, you can get what’s called the standard, or, or the professional, and go for the professional version, which is also known as plan two. Because that allows you to link Visio, to spreadsheets and databases, which then allows you to take advantage of any existing data sets, you have to actually underpin some of the diagrams and things you generate, and also allows you a degree of automation, there’s more shapes, there’s a few other things. If you’re not sure, if you have the professional version, look for the Data tab. There’s also a feature called Data graphics, which most people have never heard of. But once you see it, you’ll think I wish I’d known that. But it’s been there since Visio, 2007. So these are not new features. But they are things that are really important if you want to save yourself doing an extra diagram, when actually you can reuse one for many purposes.

Allen Edwards
Speaking of old versions, out, owl mentions that back in the 90s, Vizio used to have a network discovery utility. And he’s curious if there’s third party tools that will help you discover devices by a scan and then get him into Visio.

Unknown Speaker
The answer was yes, there was quite a few third party tools that actually will create Visio diagrams as a result of the scan. And so this originally wasn’t owned by Microsoft, it had discovery capabilities. It used to come with all the symbols and shapes for all the manufacturers equipments. And when Microsoft purchased Visio, what they did is they took out a lot of that functionality, because actually, it wasn’t maintainable as a general purpose drawing tool. And they progressively hidden a lot of the features, because they were a bit too complex to use to explain, I’ll show you some of those features that they’ve hidden, that you can unlock, and just bring back as part of this. But there are lots of tools, I think fluke have got them. There’s various others, where they will do scans of networks. And they will produce a Visio diagram to start with netbrain is another one. There’s all sorts of other tools out there. solar winds, there’s all sorts of tools, which will do scanning. And to myself, I don’t see them as a problem or an issue. A scan just gives you a view of data and that time, but only one view the technical view, it doesn’t show you all the things that weren’t covered by the scan, it doesn’t show you where things are. So it will give you a logical view. But it’s a good set of data to start with. And we can always what most people will not realize is you can also export data from Visio into a spreadsheet. So if you have a diagram, you can also get an inventory of everything that’s on the diagram, maybe like a cabinet layout as an example. So let’s go through a couple of things. The first thing is realize that, while I’m talking about my experiences, it’s all hand grown. Because there are no video training courses we, to my knowledge, we are one of the few people that do a course called Vizio variety, where we just focus on the it use of Visio. There’s others that do things or maybe process mapping. But there’s very few trading courses around because most people pick up enough to keep me going. But the more books, look in the books, a lot of stuff I will cover will not be in the books. There’s LinkedIn groups, you can get shapes from different places. And I think this session is being recorded. So you can always come back and look at those. And there’s also third party organizations who supply you for subscription Visio symbols and shapes of it equipments. All tema do the zoom range. And there’s also a forum done by an zyo guy called Chris Ross, called Vizio guy, we can ask lots of questions purely around Visio. My perspective is Visio is just a tool to help me document things. So to me, it’s just one of the ways I may want to see something in a database or a spreadsheet or capacity report or diagram. But actually, I want them all to be the same. And so therefore, my focus is a little bit different. This is more documentation centric rather than Visio centric. But obviously, it helps to know what you can use Visio to do for you. So the first thing to understand is when you start using Visio Visio organizes itself with a collection with sort of hierarchy of symbols, which we know is shapes. We group the shapes into stencils. And then we can group stencils into templates so that when we do drawings we can have a specific environment for doing that is fairly easy to create all of these yourself. So that rather than keep trying to find things from different places, you can actually use create your own You can just cut an image off a website and use that as a shape. So you don’t have to draw something, you can just use the symbols already available as a picture, you can create your own stencil sets. So if you’re doing desktop support, you can have desktop support type devices. If you’re doing networks, you can have network. So you can have symbol sets, which are appropriate to the needs so that then you minimize the amount of work anybody has to do. And then you can organize it all into a template. So as a working environment, you can set page sizes, symbol sets, and everything. So when you open up, it starts off in landscape mode, scaled to do a data center, which is a very large one, where you can set up a template to open up to do a very small one, or to do an office. But you’ve got all the symbols and shapes that you have. And so the first thing is to start with the terminologies that all of these are things where if you spend the effort, read the books look online, as well as while spending the effort to make your own stencils and shapes that meet whatever your diagram requirements are. Don’t be afraid to do it, it’s very, very simple.

Unknown Speaker
Be aware that what most people do to avoid that, is they reuse people’s Visio diagrams. Okay. And so a common thing that most people are not aware of. And this is where you start to get these yoke diagrams getting bloated, is I’ll show you an example here of a couple of diagrams. And what I’ve got is I’ve got a big blank diagram here. And you can see from my file sizes is two megabytes. And if I open this up, you’ll see that there’s nothing in this diagram, it’s got one page, and there’s nothing on the diagram. And if I go, and I open up a small blank diagram, which in this case is just over 100 K, there’s nothing on this diagram. So why is one two megabyte and why is one the other. And the reason is, is whenever you drag anything onto a Visio page, does your remembers that it keeps it in what’s called a document stencil. So if I go back to the the large diagram, look at this one here. If you go to shapes, where you can select different symbol sets, which are appropriate to networks and symbols and other things, and people who’ve used Visio will recognize all of these, but the one right at the bottom called documents stencil. This is the baggage that often you carry around with you every time you drag something on. So here I’ve got all this stuff to do with you know, workstations and servers and switches and other things, which don’t appear on the diagram. But I’m actually in the file. So there are tools within Visio, where if we go to File, and we do inspect diagram, they hide it away. There’s one called reduce file size, where it will look for unused symbol sets. But what it’s doing is it’s checking your document stencil for anything that’s gone in there. So if you as most customers do, you reuse a diagram, which somebody else has done because it saves you trying to find the symbols and just reuse the same things. And they all look the same. Actually, things get bigger and bigger, because you don’t realize. And just to show you what I mean, is, if we look down at the bottom here, we can see that we’ve got various types of servers and other things. And I’ll open up a stencil because I want to say do a Cisco, or they’ll say an HP blade server. Let’s do more shapes. Let’s open up a stencil. And over here, and here, I’ve got one called switches, Cisco Nexus, Cisco Nexus switch. And here’s a range of Cisco Nexus switches. And I’m going to drag along 7009 and drop it on the page. And then I’m going to delete it. And I’m going to close this down. And therefore I’m not using it. But if I look at the nice stencil there, the now see down at the bottom, it now appears and it will be in this file forever. So a good lesson is don’t reuse diagrams, because of the convenience. Always start from one that’s designed for your purposes. And you’ll find that some of your file sizes may actually go down to be five or 10% what they currently are. So simple Visio thing. Some of you may know this already, but the vast majority of people don’t, that Visio keeps your baggage. And so always check and always reduce the file sizes. The next thing is for a lot of people, there’s an option here on my toolbar here that when you look there’s data, which is what you get with Visio professional. And one of the options you have there is to import from external data. I’ll show that in a moment. But there’s another option here called developer. And what developer is is standard features that Visio have hidden away in the more recent versions, which allow you to do macros and programming if you really want to get into that but the key one They allow you to unlock things where people have stopped you using shapes, or you want to actually change behaviors, this becomes really useful if you get frustrated. And you can’t understand why something is doing something. To unlock this developer mode, we just go into file, we go into options. Advanced. Right at the bottom of the Advanced Options, is one that says run in developer mode, you all have this is always in every version, you get a Vizio, if you tick that, you’ll suddenly have a number of things that allow you to

Unknown Speaker
lock things and protect things, but also to unlock things where you reuse shapes from other manufacturers or symbol sets. And you’re having difficulty thinking, why can’t I change the size? Or why can’t I do things. And so just an example of some of the things that you may find a common useful. If I create a rectangle, like that. And I go to developer under protection, I can stop the height, the width, the rotation, and all sorts of things, I can stop it being edited. So if you have documentation you want to give to users or customers, and you don’t want them to alter it, you can always set a lot of these protections. And they would never know how to undo it. Because this feature is hidden away to basically take off some of those protection features. There’s also many other things in here that we have, I’ll cover a couple of them as we go along. But if anybody has any questions, please indicate them or come back. And if you can check on the chat line.

Allen Edwards
Yep. Vendors be wearing Alan, I know how to change that.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. Yeah,

Allen Edwards
we did have a question a while back from Alan Miller. I just yeah. Curious about the SNMP integration. Yep. related to the scanning,

Unknown Speaker
there isn’t any man, that was all taken out ham. So if you But the thing is, if you have an SNMP tool, I used to develop SNMP management systems when I was a network troubleshooter, you can use that data to actually help you build information because an output from an SNMP discovery tool or an sp management system effectively can be a CSV, or spreadsheet type file. Okay, so let’s take you into a couple of other little things. And what we’ll do is, I’ll take out of that, and I’ll just show you a number of techniques. And so probably, if I just close this down, let’s close down Visio. And just go in here, let’s just show you just a couple of simple things that you can do. And what I’ll do is I’ll just do a LAN diagram.

Unknown Speaker
Okay.

Unknown Speaker
Okay, so. So here’s a diagram that people might do have a network of some form. And what we’ll do is we use symbols. And we’ll use links between things. And one of the features that Visio has, is that you can rather than have to type everything, because a lot of people would say, drag across a switch. And they would double click on it to give it a name, call it to switch six, and then they want to put the IP address underneath. And you can’t actually put an IP address on that, what you’d have to do is create some text, create a text box and put like that. So one of the rules of Visio is you can have one piece of text for a box. But you’ll notice that some of these actually have two pieces of text. And I didn’t do it that way. And so one of the things that Visio has is the ability to actually have multiple sets of text and color. All is part of sort of standard Visio professional. And what you would normally then have to do is I’d have to group these and set them as a group today, drag them around and do things. Okay, so they would move together. Yeah, but that’s because people don’t do it the same way. Let’s give an example of, I’ll show you what I’m going to do. So here, for instance, here’s a network diagram, which looks very similar. I’ve got symbols, and I’ve got links. The difference now is I’ve used one of visuals features where you can embed data into the shapes. And so if I click on this, and I do a right click on that switch, option here for data is I can embed data from a shape which looks Guess what, just like a spreadsheet. And I’ve got data there. And the great thing about Visio is all of this can be filled in from a spreadsheet, so that I don’t need to have separate data sets. My Visio diagram can have the embedded knowledge. But the clever thing that Visio does is you can bring this out and show it in whatever form you want. And not just for devices. So what I have for this switch is one thing, but I can also do it for links. So what car does that go to on what device what support name and the feature that brings us all out is a feature called Data graphics which Vizio introduced Visio 2007. And what data graphics allows you to do is rather than having to actually type a lot of this information to see, what we can do is we can just bring that all on in one go. And just say, well just show me consistently for every device, what its IP address and what the status is, without any typing, or maybe I want to do it in a slightly different format. So I want to have the IP address underneath and the module number and things. So actually, it’s a way of getting consistency. So if I’ve got, as with New York City, I’ve got 2000 diagrams to do you think I want to type every IP address. Now, I want to take what they get from their monitoring tools, and use that to underpin my diagrams. But I’ve also I want to use it in my rack layouts. So if I have a rack diagram, or cabinet layout, maybe I want to do the same thing. So here’s information in there, maybe just bring up the same thing. This is a standard Visio feature been available for 12 years now,

Allen Edwards
where did you get this data from the inlet,

Unknown Speaker
you get it from a spreadsheet, or you get a monitoring system. And so let me show you, let me show you how to do this. And there’s many different ways you can use this data graphics feature. But the key thing here is what it means is one diagram can serve multiple views, you may do a diagram to show a certain amount of information. I’ve got an example here with a floor plan of the small data center, where I can do one view where I can show by color, the types of the cabinets, but also I’ve put in what the cabinet names are, and also the text for the type of cabinet. So the color coding and everything all matches. But I may want to show a different way, which is I want to see how much power is going into each cabinet. What’s the circuit breaker feed? And how close are we to this? Just like you would have on a wide area link? What’s the maximum amount of bandwidth? And how close are we to it? This is a great way for showing capacity, and to show people where you’re getting close to limits. When they want another way, just show me how much space is used, which ones have got the most space. I’m not doing anything other than using standard Visio functionality to do this. The way I do this, is I embed data into the shapes. And what you can see, okay, it’s this rack, I got a set of information, which building is in location, what was the cabinet name, how much space, how much power, and all sorts of other things, all the sorts of things that you might keep about a rack? Who’s the owner of the rack? What’s the key number? When was the cabinet last checked? Why not actually show on this diagram, which cabinets haven’t been audited for the last six months. So I can see which ones are different to the others, I can see differences in status. So this Visio data graphics feature goes very much hand in hand with getting data into shapes. So let me show you how to do that. It’s very easy to me anyway. But what you’ll find is, it’s not that difficult. So what we’ll do is we’ll just start with, I’ll close this one down, we’ll start with the Visio diagram, which is got nothing on it. I’ll take you through the process.

Allen Edwards
And I’m going to throw a question at you that you can answer Yeah, I was asking if W m, I can be used for the device discovery to get it into Visio.

Unknown Speaker
Yes, in terms of provides a set of data, but then we have to link the data to the shapes. Okay. And the reason I say that is Wi Fi will give you lots of information about lots of different types of devices. But you may use different symbols for switches, and routers, and PCs, and laptops, and others. So actually, and this is one of the lessons that I learned was, there’s a great feature, but there is a limit to the automation. So I’ll show you that. So here I have a blank diagram. And I have this take a server here. And I’ve dropped the server onto there. And there’s a server and typically what we do is we double click on the server, and we’ll change the name, we’ll call it server one. Okay. And if we wanted any more information, we would embed data. If I do a right click on here and look at data, we can see that there is no data on this server. There’s nothing in there to try and enter it manually as they painful. But I’ll show you quick, you know simple ways and quick ways. So if I want to link data to this, the best thing is to start with existing information already. And the way we do that is you go to the Data tab at the top, we have a couple of options. And when you see this external data here, there’s a couple of options. I’ll go for the custom import as it’s a sort of a slow controlled way. So I go custom import. And it says what data would you like to link to excel access SQL. So effectively, anything that you can get into a CSV or XML type form is useful. We can link to databases when queries and other things as well. Depends on but the simple Just doing simple live, what you can do yourself. If we do next, it will then prompt you which Excel spreadsheet Do you want. And I’m just going to browse to a spreadsheet. Let’s go to utilities here I have an, an inventory of equipment and do the next. The next thing it says is in every spreadsheet can have multiple tabs, you might have one for switches, one for routers and servers, which one do you want. And in this case, there’s just one tab, we have all the equipment inventory, and do next. And then it gives you the ability to filter things out, because this could be a spreadsheet as the whole of the US Army. But we only want to do Andrews Air Force Base. So actually, I don’t want to bring in 2 million devices only want to bring in maybe 300 or something. So you have the ability to first of all filter out data. So show us the columns and what’s in the data. So we can see the names of the servers. And that because if we had passwords and things there, we might not want to actually bring in the passwords into the diagram, we might not want to bring in IP addresses. So you can filter out some of the data in terms of the columns. And then on the rows. Likewise, you can filter out data on the rows. So we may not want to do a network diagram. So we don’t want anything that’s not a network device as an example. I’ll leave those as they are. So it just bringing them all to a next. And then the last thing it will do is it’ll give us an option to then say, give me something that uniquely identifies things. So I can refresh my diagram, if there’s any changes, and here’s the data. So if my discovery picks, picks up a new IP address, or picks up a change in any of the parameters, or we add extra columns into the spreadsheet, how would I know which shape links to which ones give me a reference, and we’re just gonna use the name of the device, in this case, it could be a database reference, it could be anything. And I’m finished. And what that does is that exposes that spreadsheet, here in the diagram, so that then you can see it. And effectively, it takes a local copy of the spreadsheet into the diagram. So that then you have it, and it’s then not joins to the spreadsheet anymore, which is how we can reuse this data, do various things with it, and then refresh it when convenient. When we’re back on the network. We’re back in the office. And to link the two together, all I do is I do a left click and I drag across to that server. And I drop that on top, you see the little blue box there. And that is now linked all the data in that shape. If I do have I showed the shape data there, you can now see the servers now got his name, type, manufacturer, and everything’s all embedded for you.

Unknown Speaker
And if I wanted to show the other servers, I could drag them across, just drag across a couple of others. And then I can just drag each one of those. And you and so I’ve got the service. And so that’s the first thing, which is to link data to shapes. The same will also apply to connectors as well. So I could drag across a connector. And I can now link to a second spreadsheet, where I may have additional data, an Excel workbook, do Next choose one I’ve got one called connection spreadsheet, do next, I’ll just do finish, I’ve got already set up. In here I’ve got all the ports on a switch, and which ports they link to on various servers and things and what the port names and VLANs are. And so I can do exactly the same thing there. I can drag across this and drop it on top of that. And that now has all of the embedded information. And if I now looked at that, that connector has all of that I haven’t had to type anything. I’ve embedded the knowledge from those spreadsheets. So you now see why when I started, good data gives you good diagrams.

Allen Edwards
So let me catch up to where you’re at. So I think a lot of the folks that grew up I recognize about half of them are attending right now that they are they’re running it firms are outsourced it msps. Yep. So they’re going to have 10 to 100 clients each have their own network infrastructure. Yep. They’re going to probably export some data like you have into spreadsheets from automate, or auto task or tools like that. Yeah, they’re still going to have to build their Visio diagram. But once they link them, they can keep updating that same spreadsheet, correct?

Unknown Speaker
Yep, you can get with a spreadsheet on a per customer basis. And you could do a network diagram using this. You could do a floor plan that shows where things are. You could have multiple offices and drill into each office to see what equipments in there. Lots of different ways of doing it. Whatever is useful important, but you know, these are physical diagrams really sort of networks and things but there’s also many others applications and services, websites and other things.

Allen Edwards
So on a spreadsheet update. How would you notice new equipment you haven’t mapped yet?

Unknown Speaker
That’s the problem. Because what you saw there was off that spreadsheet, what I did was, if I bring up that external data window, I go back and you see there’s multiple tabs now. It hasn’t linked the switches or the routers, because I manually filtered things. Okay, I manually joined things together on LinkedIn. If you take things out of the spreadsheet, it doesn’t take you down to the diagram, if you take things out of the diagram, it doesn’t take it out of the spreadsheet. If we add new connections, it doesn’t add connections between things, you have to manually link things together. And so the level of automation you get is to save yourself a lot of effort and time. And any changes are reflected through of the existing environment. But you must bear in mind the diagram as a filtered view, if I had a list of all my customers, and all the equipment that we’re actually managing, and all the buildings and the towns that they’re in, I will filter out by customer door one, one customers diagram. Maybe there’s different offices and what’s in them. And the printers, they’ve got PCs and things. But actually, I’m not going to do all the other ones, I would manually filter others. So the level of automation is the transfer of data into the diagram and the refreshing of it. If you want to actually fully automate the process, where the diagrams are drawn for you and updated with any changes in data, like we’ve added new devices, we’ve taken some out, that’s where you have to go to commercial software, which is you know what I mean businesses, because with New York City, if you’ve got 2000 locations, I’m not going to know what’s happening in all of those, I just want the diagrams to have data. So as long as people say we’ve added in a new wireless access point, we’ve taken out five servers, take them out of the diagrams or add them in or connect them up. So I’m not here really to talk about our commercial software. I’ll show you at the end in a few minutes. What the differences but Visio, a standard is about speedily creating and updating diagrams. But you still have to manually check and filter and do things.

Allen Edwards
Right. So this is bringing in real detailed data into the diagrams you’re already making anyways. Yes. Oh, one great question, as Steven is okay, so obviously, if links change whatever else, we still have to fix the spreadsheet, the data? Yeah, yeah, let’s say, an IP range changes on a local area network, will that update automatically. Next, you connect to the spreadsheet?

Unknown Speaker
Yes, because if you’ve changed it in your spreadsheet, it will then update all of the things that are connected in the spreadsheet to this. So devices have changed the IP addresses, IP address will change.

Allen Edwards
As long as you have access to the spreadsheet, say you’re on your network, you click the Refresh All button or you open Visio. And it will pull that new data down.

Unknown Speaker
Exactly, yeah. And, and the next thing is to think we’ve got the data embedded in there. But I want to actually now see it. And this is where if I look at this device, we have this data, how do we add that data graphics, let’s say simple. And this is really where you get the functionality that then starts to then say Actually, this is worth doing. Because I’ve got three or four different views of the same device, why not use one set of data for all the different diagrams. So if you want to add a data graphic, we go to Advanced Data graphics, or major school data graphics, it’s an older version. And I’ll do a new one just to show you, you have multiple sets of graphics. So let’s do a new data graphic. And it goes to a little dialog that says What do you want to show? Well, let’s do a new item. So let’s take a bit of data. And let’s take the name of the device. How do you want to display this as text as data bars as icon sets? And just say no. So data bars would be things like this speedos, really for capacity and things you might want to show icon set. So these are red amber green type indicators, this is got this this has got that we might want to do by color. And so this will then show you that you know these are production needs a test. These are under support, these are under warranty, whatever. But if we just go to text, there’s many options of text and I’m just gonna use one called heading three, which is centered text. So let’s put text, let’s not have any fill, and let’s put the name of the device in the center and above the shape itself. So for these shapes that we’re doing, okay, and doing okay, apply this. There’s survery. And if I now take all of these others, I can apply the same demographic, the one I’ve just done, which is highlighted here and apply that to all of them. You can see we’ve got server A, B and C. And if there was some other text there, you can always just hide that and say, let’s just edit this and hide any previous shape text there. And that’s how easy it is to get consistency. Want to add more data? You just go and edit this, do a right click Edit. Add another item, let’s take the IP address. Let’s put this as text, do the same process heading three, not filled. Don’t use the default position, put it in the center, let’s put it underneath the shape. going okay, doing okay. How much typing did I do? How many mistakes Did I make cutting and pasting. And so all I need to start with is a spreadsheet. And people have lots of them. And I can use this to underpin diagrams. Now, obviously, I could start with a database, which would be a bit better, that’d be an audit trail on the database. That’d be the ability to filter things out from the database without having to manually filter things. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s just data. And so to show you different ways, you can use that demographic feature, because you can put them in the left and the right, you can stack them, you can do all sorts. I’ll just bring up the thing I had previously. And five minute waiting for you data. Yep. So just be going in a moment. So let’s just do so we want this. Yep. Okay. So I showed you the lack of layout, the diagram other ways, you might want to overlay things on background. So this is a view of where things are floor boxes, PCs, wireless access points. But of course, what we’re doing is we’re embed data. And we’re bringing some of that data out, I don’t need all of it, I just need to know things that will help with support, what to do things. Color coding is really useful for people where you want to show risks. So this is an it’ll type diagram, where what we’re showing is physical servers at the bottom virtual systems that run on them. And in this case, databases and applications. So I’m going to color code and show everything that’s out of support or going out of support from a manufacturer, this end of life, in red, Amber green, or maybe from a Dr. perspective,

Allen Edwards
icons. They’re actually conditional statements in there that says, you know, if data is so far away, change the color.

Unknown Speaker
Yep. And to then show what that is, all we’re doing is the data graphic, which is coming for those that we’re showing with all of these things, you’ll see all these icon sets. And so what so recovery planning status, this is the one edit this shows recovery planning status as an icon set, and show it as green. If we have a class tested plan, show, as amber has planned only three of its planning preparation. So you can put your own conditions and effective you create your own dashboards to explain to customers why you need to get rid of windows seven, or Windows XP, and what your vulnerabilities are, and what is really something you need to do. But visuals do help communicate risks a lot better than just lists. And that’s why we use red amber green as colors.

Allen Edwards
Owl has a tough question that I might even join, if you depending on Yeah, yes. Can you envision ways from the autotask RMM PSA to get data in a place we can access it from Visio?

Unknown Speaker
The answer that is I don’t know. If you can produce a CSV output, yes. Now you can bring in AutoCAD type files with their layers as backgrounds into Visio. And all the layers are preserved. So we often do this with data center floor plans where people give us something that’s already there. But the embedded data structures don’t work very well, because we have to match them up. Visio is much more flexible and easier to work with

Allen Edwards
an alpha my two cents, kind of Dave said, which is I can’t see us accessing that data live because it’s all hosted.

Unknown Speaker
Yes. And so that’s why Visio takes it effectively as an offline copy.

Allen Edwards
But if we can do a data dump once a week, once a month are often you need it and and have access to those. I can see that. Yep.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, and a lot of people say if the data is not up to date, it’s not accurate. But wait a minute, we’re all running with spreadsheets that are not automatic. We’re all planning things for the future, the things that don’t yet exist, you can’t automate the future. So if you’re going to try and have planning documents, that also can be used for operational support. It’s not necessary to have everything up to date. As long as people understand that, actually, this rack is full, if you actually look at it in a rack diagram, from a planning perspective, that if you went and physically looked at the rack, there’s nothing in it. Because actually, there’s overlapping projects. So a lot of people think we have to have things up to date and accurate. But the real world is actually we’re managing change. And change is about managing things where we’re managing future states, we’re allocating ports on switches. We’re actually replacing old devices. We want to know what the resilience of the path is, but maybe in cold standby. So a lot of people say why doesn’t our software, our own software, why don’t we automatically discover things as we don’t need to? So there’s lots of tools that do that and a lot of them are free. The biggest problem is bringing them all Together, we’ve what we’ve think we’ve got what we used to have, but also what we’ve planned to do, so that we can migrate a data center, or we can transition onboard a customer’s environment where he’s giving us odd bits of information. And we’re getting confused. And so he that’s why we’re doing documentation and supplying the sound of things. I’ll just finish off, because I know we’re just limited to know, what is the difference with full automation. And really, the difference is, is that filtering and that updating. And so this is our own software, just to show the difference, what we do is we try and break it down where we break a database of components. So here I have a rack with a cabinet with equipment. And there’s a layout of the rack. So you can see where we have space and where all the devices are. If you want that produces a diagram, we just click on diagram. And we effectively filter from the database match up to a Visio stencil, you see here. So what Visio shapes Do you want to use when you do this? And you just press draw? So for a lot of people, the normal point which we get involved is how long does it take to draw a cabinet layout? Is it well, two to five hours, we said, well, you can take that down to about 10 seconds. So if you’re going to do 100 racks, do you want to take you know, 1520 days? Or do you want to take 10 minutes. And so that’s how automation does work. But the difference here is this drawers, whatever the rack is at that time. So actually, you’re not having to refresh things, there are refresh type things. But we’re embedding the data. We’re using templates, we’re using symbol sets, and things which you manage yourself. So you keep the file sizes down. But that’s where you automate things a lot more than what you can just do with Visio. So we’re doing a database is doing that.

Allen Edwards
Yep. So Dave, how could we get a hold of you if we have more questions, either in the automation side, or the Visio? side?

Unknown Speaker
Yep. And so I’ll finish off very quickly, then. So first thing is always think about how you organize diagrams, what you see, but how you embed data so that you don’t have to put everything on the diagram. And that’s where embedded data comes in. Linked Visio, two data sources is a good idea. One diagram can serve multiple views without people having to redraw things. And I’ve shown you that data graphics feature there that you’ve seen, that really makes a huge difference, a lot of people, and a lot of customers and managers like it, because it gives visual changes to things. But there are limitations. It’s very good for quick diagrams. But everything you have to do in filtering and selection is manual. So don’t expect it to change the whole world. But at least it’ll save a lot of time. But if you’ve got to go to bigger ones, then look beyond them. And then that’s where you start getting into our tool sets, then there’s many, there’s other ones as well, to have some form of database linked to a graphical output, we just have to use Visio. But this is what the difference is. How long do you think it’s gonna take to draw 6000 rack diagrams? Which is what my current project is? And the answer is, man years, probably about 15 man years, on our terms, probably about two days. And so there are ways to sort of organize it, but we can’t do it without good data. So always, in most cases, get good data, and you’ll get good diagrams. Just gonna have a look, go and look at things. Now if you want to know a little bit more about this, there’s lots of stuff on our website, there’s our free Visio utilities. There’s obviously Microsoft have been adding more stuff on there. But it’s still very basic beginners, there’s not a lot of advanced stuff for ourselves, our software company acid, Jen, and we have our commercial software called asset Gen, but our Vizio utilities are great for people doing networks and various other things. And there’s videos of each one. It’s all free, just contact us. And we’ll send you the link to download them and keep you updated with them.

Allen Edwards
And then did I hear you do not use Facebook much.

Unknown Speaker
And we haven’t really used Facebook a lot. Because the types of organizations really deal with normally medium to large organizations, they’ve tended to often rely on things like LinkedIn. So we get a lot of leads coming through LinkedIn and webinars and other things. But more recently, what we’re finding is a lot of it, people are very conscious of revealing who they really are, was actually going to Facebook, and actually doing things on a personal basis outside of their business. And we never knew about the it documentation users group. But actually, anything we can do to help you guys with what we learn is good, because the more people that understand the easier life is for everyone.

Allen Edwards
Absolutely. I appreciate your presentation very much, Dave. I learned a lot. I feel like Greg probably use another 810 hours, just in the basement. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker
if anybody is interested, and I’ll post it on the documentation users group perfect. It’s a bit bit of a long way to go. But in Las Vegas at the end of September. I’m doing a three hour workshop. I think it costs $100 about visual automation techniques and we’ve got an extra is an exhibition stand where we’re talking with people who are designing networks and all sorts of other things, if anybody’s around and obviously come in, but please look at other utilities, because a lot of people I developed really for myself, but they’re really useful if you’re doing any form of networks or other things.

Allen Edwards
So from the chat windows, we do have lots of positive feedback. And thanks. So Oh, these guys were much more engaged in the past one, so I can tell they’re excited. Thank you all for attending. I’m going to share a brief second, I hope you can all give feedback about this presentation, you can either send me a message, send Dave a message, post it, if you don’t mind it being public, especially if it’s respectful, even if it’s for improvement, we want to get this content better for you guys. Our next webinar I just got scheduled about an hour and a half ago, it’s going to be Chris Schaller of Christo, it he’s been in business for about 20 years in SP he’s also the creator of inlier. Some of you have maybe have heard that I think it might be a bit connectwise focused. But we’re talking from that side of his MSP talking about death by 1000 cuts, which you’re really losing when you don’t do real time data collection, such as time entries and documentation. Guys, this is about documentation. Right? So stay tuned for updates the next week or so it like for that? Other resources to get a hold of us. That’s the it Doug Lincoln. If you’re not ever feel free to join, we just asked you answer the question. Why? Why do you want to join that helps us keep the spammers out. There are processes and documentation links, as well as video available on Eureka process calm however, I will also send you a direct email with this recording when it’s ready probably by tomorrow. And feel free to contact me. If we can’t get Dave’s contact info for some reason, I will definitely pass on the message to him if you need them.

Unknown Speaker
Yet Also, I’m obviously in the Facebook group and things as well and get in contact with us. But if there’s anything I can do for yourself, Allen or others to pass a constant experience or knowledge, just please ask. Because I believe actually this is the sort of experience should be shared. And I don’t really like traveling to the US even though I’m paid to do it and I make money when actually you guys should be doing it instead.

Allen Edwards
Sounds great. Dave, thank you so much for attending and participating. See you guys soon.

Unknown Speaker
Okay, thanks. Thanks, Alan. Thanks for the opportunity.

 

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