“I’ve never seen a network diagram that didn’t require a guided tour by the person who made it,” said Randy, our SOC 2 auditor, back in March 2019 during a week-long onsite visit to our offices.
And sure enough, we spent the next two hours after Randy said this going over multiple Visio diagrams as he peppered us with questions and observations.
In order to make a network like ours secure and durable, it requires some degree of complexity, which is difficult to present in pictures. As the minutes went by, Randy’s point was reinforced again and again. Our visual diagrams that were supposed to make the logic and design of our network readily accessible to a peer were full of assumptions and details that could only be addressed with our entire Network Operations Center (NOC) team in the room.
Once Randy’s questions were all answered, he leapt to the whiteboard and started sketching out the way he would have presented our network diagrams. It’s likely that part of this was Randy’s method of processing the information he had just received, but another part of this was a challenge to all of us at Net Friends to update and upgrade our network diagrams. This challenge extended beyond just our diagrams of our internal network, but Randy encouraged us to rethink our approach to our customer diagrams as well. “This could be a major differentiator for your company” he said, because the level of professionalism that it takes to create clear, clean diagrams is a rare.
We felt inspired by this challenge to push ourselves to standardize and improve our approach to diagrams.
We formed a team to draft our Visio diagram standards and to explore how to design unique shapes that we could use instead of the clunky stock shapes that come with the network diagram tools. After multiple iterations and projects with our designer, we developed over 100 unique icons and graphics that depict firewalls, servers, storage, workstations, people, hackers, and other things that might need to be shown on a network diagram.
We created a standard template and style guide that would ensure all our diagrams moving forward had a consistent look and feel. We revisited all of our drawings that we showed to Randy back in March, addressing his critiques and adapting them to our new look and feel.
Below are some examples of the before and after, just to show you what a difference a good network diagram can make. We are so appreciative of the time and attention we received from Randy and the team at Kirkpatrick Price during the SOC 2 audits, and their collaborative approach of working with us on topics that extend well beyond their core mandate. Who could have predicted when we started this ongoing audit process that we would be inspired creatively?!?