Part 2: Creating network Diagrams

Network Diagrams Guide

Network diagram symbols

Since a network diagram is a visual representation of an actual system, it relies on symbols that represent both physical entities and kinds of relationships that exist between entities.

Here are some of the most common symbols:

Network Diagram Symbols

AWS and GCP symbols

Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform are two of the leading providers of cloud hosting services. Each have their own sets of symbols for describing networks hosted on their services.

A few examples of AWS symbols available in Cacoo are:

AWS Symbols

A few examples of GCP symbols available in Cacoo are:

GCP Symbols

More AWS and GCP icons are available in Cacoo, or you can download them here:

Network diagram terms

Like most kinds of diagrams, there are common terms people use to talk about the relationships between shapes.

Activities, which represent operations, are represented by arrows to show direction.

There are four main types of activities:

  • Predecessor activities must be completed before the start of another activity.
  • Successor activities follow another activity and cannot be initiated until the activities that come before it are complete.
  • Concurrent activities start at the same time.
  • Dummy activities do not use any resources but depict dependence.

Events, which represent the start and/or completion of one or more activities, are represented by circles called nodes.

There are three main types of events:

  • Merge events occur when one or more activities connects with an event.
  • Burst events occur when one or more activities leave an event.
  • Merge and burst events occur when one or more activities merge and burst simultaneously.

Sequencing refers to how devices or activities act in a series as information is transmitted. Sequencing is used to determine what jobs follow and proceed, what jobs run concurrently, and what controls the start and end of a transmission.

Network diagram examples

Network diagrams vary by the type of network they represent and their network topology. Since network diagrams can be used to represent basically any network, you’ll find a lot of varieties out there.

Here are just a few examples.

Network Diagram Example 1 Network Diagram Example 2 Network Diagram Example 3

How to make a network diagram

Before you start plopping down shapes and arranging them, make sure you’ve set a clear goal for your diagram. Then think about what needs to be included in order to achieve that goal. Always remember: it’s better to create multiple diagrams to capture complex ideas rather than cramming too much information into a small space.
Once you’re ready to start diagramming, log in to your Cacoo account and open up the Editor. If you don’t have an account, you can sign up for a free trial here.

Next, follow these steps:

  1. Select a template or blank canvas. The template library will pop up automatically when you open the Cacoo Editor. You can either select a relevant network diagram template to get you started, or create your work from scratch with a blank canvas.
  2. Add all your equipment. Whether you’re working with a template or blank canvas, the first thing you want to do is make sure you have all the equipment you need on your canvas. Duplicate (Command/Ctrl+D) any shapes you need more of, delete ones you don’t, and add new ones from the library of shapes. Simply drag and drop shapes from the shape library onto your Cacoo canvas. Don’t worry about connections just yet. Focus on representing every device, server, router, firewall, or other component that is a part of the network.
  3. Arrange your shapes. Looking to your stated goal and the network topology you plan to follow, begin moving your shapes around the canvas. You can click each shape and use the helpful guidelines provided in Cacoo to align your objects properly. For more on network typologies, visit our network topologies section.
  4. Label your components. Using text boxes, you can include any additional information your viewer may need to know such as names, IP addresses, device types, etc. Alternatively, you can number each component and provide this information in a separate legend.
  5. Add connections. Use lines between your components to show how they are connected by the flow of information. You can move the existing lines if you initially chose a template or select the “New line” icon in your top menu to create and style your lines. Arrows can depict whether an event is a merge event, burst event, or merge and burst event—revisit our network diagram terms section for more on these terms. And finally, adjust line styles with the inspector tool.
  6. Clean up your formatting. Once your layout is complete, you can make final adjustments to the placement, size, color, and other attributes of your diagram elements.
  7. Save your diagram & share it! Select the “Save Diagram” button at the top of the Editor to name and save your diagram. The “Export” and “Property” buttons will provide you with various options for sharing your diagram including exporting as a PDF or SVG, sharing on social media (Twitter, Google+, Facebook), or sharing with a link. You can also embed your diagram on a website.

Custom network templates and shapes

While creating network diagrams from scratch is easy with Cacoo, using templates can greatly speed up your diagramming process.

There are many different types of network diagram templates to choose from in Cacoo. Simply open the Editor, choose a template to get you started, and begin customizing it to your flow.

If you come up with a diagram you think you’ll want to replicate, save it as a new template or stencil. With custom templates and stencils, you can recreate your best work again and again.

Additional Cacoo Resources:

Ready to create your own network diagram?

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