How to Automate Ongoing Network Discovery and Documentation

Back to Blog

How to Automate Ongoing Network Discovery and Documentation

The proliferation of connected devices has made it nearly impossible to manually keep track of all the computers, servers, printers and mobile devices on a corporate network. Whether it’s new hires, upgraded equipment or employees embracing BYOD policies, there might be dozens of new connections created every week. Even if after performing a comprehensive audit, it will be outdated almost as soon as it’s finished.

But just because something is hard to do doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. Without a solid understanding of which devices are on the network, MSPs don’t stand a chance of assessing an IT network’s health or managing the various assets utilizing it. That’s why any modern IT organization requires continual, ongoing network discovery that automatically detects every device and consistently documents its vital statistics in a central location.

Send out your scouts

With a set of admin credentials from the customer or prospect, MSPs can initiate a network assessment, which runs in the background for less than an hour. Once the data collectors are let loose, they crawl across the entire network. Within an hour, network discovery will find every device on the network, from laptops to printers to smartphones. Not only will it capture each device’s IP address, it also identifies what type of device it is and get a complete picture of what’s running on each one, outputting everything into an encrypted file.

This automated data collection can be augmented with on-site visits to interview staff, observe physical configurations and locate stand-alone devices that may not actually be on the company network. These “unplugged” devices can also be scanned using an application housed on a USB drive, however; so you’ll have a complete picture when the assessment is finished.

Get organized

Collected information should then be stored in a consolidated register of all company assets on the network. Using a common format and categorization system, MSPs can get a complete picture of every device and its status.

With all this data now available, reports can be generated for a number of purposes, from basic inventory to upgrade priorities to security threats to network diagrams for compliance purposes. The reports can combine visual observations along with the results of the automated network discovery activity for a comprehensive picture view of a company’s environment.

Act quickly and leave no trace

Trying to do this manually could take weeks and there’s a high risk of missing things. And if a client has multiple locations, the cost of site visits can really take a chunk out of profits. With an automated solution like Network Detective, this exercise will take less than an hour.

Some network discovery solutions require agents to be installed on devices. While agents might provide a bit more information about the devices they reside on, there are a number of drawbacks to relying on an agent-based solution.

First, MSPs must already know about every asset to ensure an agent is installed on each one. Once agents are installed, they must be upgraded to stay current, plus there’s also a risk of vendor lock-in. And in general, installing and managing agents is an unnecessarily time-consuming endeavor when there are viable agentless alternatives.

Close deals faster by offering free IT risk assessments

Not only does a tool like Network Detective help MSPs manage their existing client portfolio more effectively, it can also be used as a powerful sales tool. Running an automated network discovery and using that data to generate reports showing potential issues can be a major eye opener for prospects, who will then be even more inclined to do business. A branded, customized report with slick, polished formatting and presentation makes MSPs look more professional and capable.

This information also helps MSPs create more accurate proposals and pricing since they know exactly what they’re getting into before they seal the deal. Underquoting plagues the MSP industry, but with a full assessment of a prospect’s environment, MSPs have the necessary information to create a fair and attractive proposal that ensures profitability while remaining competitive.

Deliver value out of the gate

And once the contract is signed, MSPs can be 100% prepared to launch into action and upgrade, update and replace out-of-date assets. Plus, PSA integration will shorten onboarding time and get MSP employees working on critical tasks as soon as the ink is dry.

For clients with compliance requirements, the reports generated by tools like Network Detector are invaluable for both submitting to regulators as well as identifying any shortcomings that must be addressed to stay in compliance.

One size doesn’t fit all

The level of detail and scope for these assessments should match the business needs of each client. For example, not every customer even has an Exchange or SQL Server to be scanned, and only a small subset of companies requires the extra rigor and detail of inspecting the network for PCI and/or HIPAA compliance issues.

Selecting a vendor that offers a variety of options means MSPs won’t be buying more functionality than they’ll really need.

RapidFire Tools’ Network Detective is a completely agentless solution with eight individual products that can be assembled to create the ideal network discovery stack for the target market. To learn more about how MSPs can accelerate growth and provide these additional services to their customer base, take advantage of RapidFire Tools’ 30-day money-back guarantee and get started today.