Visio does a good job at two types of network
diagrams: logical network diagrams and rack equipment elevation
drawings. Let’s look at a few tips for both kinds.
Logical Network Diagrams
Visio’s logical network
shapes, such as those found on stencils like Computers and Monitors,
Detailed Network Diagram, Network and Peripherals, Servers, and so on,
have a 3D or isometric style.
If you connect them with
straight connectors, diagrams look okay. But if you use right-angled
connectors, diagrams don’t quite look right. The middle example in Figure 1 shows this awkwardness.
Figure 1. A simple network diagram using Visio’s Straight and Right Angle connectors and Visio Guy’s Oblique connector.
The connectors in the right-most example of Figure 8.5
do look correct, however. If you want to create network diagrams that
look like this, go to my website, where you can download “Oblique
Connectors for Your 3D Diagrams” for free. Here’s the address:
If you are a Pro or
Premium user, you can really enhance your logical network diagrams. You
can use Link Data and Data graphics,Data Graphics to really enhance your drawings by
highlighting details without obscuring the landscape of the network.
Rack diagrams (available in
Pro and Premium) depict scaled elevation views of actual closet racks
and equipment. The shapes used in these diagrams are accurately drawn,
and they snap into racks in a manner similar to real world hardware.
Placing and Attaching Rack Shapes
The equipment shapes for
Visio rack diagrams are 1D shapes. Normally, 1D behavior is reserved for
lines, arrows and connectors where “begin” and “end” are defining
characteristics of the shape.
A rack equipment shape,
therefore, seems an unlikely candidate for 1D-ness. However, the ends of
1D shapes glue nicely to connection points. And shapes for the racks
themselves can be built with lots of connection points located exactly
where the screw holes in real racks are. For this reason, Visio rack
equipment shapes evolved as 1D shapes.
shows a rack with several pieces of equipment glued to it. If the rack
is moved, all the equipment moves with it, thanks to the glued 1D
Figure 2. A Patch
Panel being glued to a rack. Note the connection points located at
standard rack units along both rails. Some joker has glued the Power
Strip crooked by regluing one end.
You might think that
Containers could do this job rather well, and you might well be right.
But rack equipment diagrams have existed since the very early versions
of Visio when 1D shapes and connection points were the best option.
Containers are new in Visio 2010, so it remains to be seen whether rack
solutions get updated and improved. Since there is a huge volume of
existing third-party network equipment shapes, it might be more trouble
than it’s worth.
In Figure 2,
the “2U,”“3U,”“1U,” and so on text denotes how tall each piece of
equipment is in “rack units.” Rack guys think in terms of rack units
because they mount everything to rack chasses, which are drilled with
standard-spaced holes. You can turn off this text by right-clicking any
If you’d rather label rack
units using a dimension line, you may be interested in the “Rack Unit
Dimension Line” shape, available for free from Visio Guy at
Finding Rack Equipment Shapes
With rack diagrams, the name of
the game is realistic-looking shapes. With folks who make rack diagrams,
it seems the more accurate and more beautiful the shape, the better!
Visio comes with a
smattering of general-purpose shapes. But many sources of
manufacturer-specific shapes exist out on the Web. Some even sell a
subscription service so you get the latest shapes when new products are
are a few places to look. There are free stencils, for-sale products,
and free samples to get you interested in the commercial offerings.
Another tip is to look at
network equipment manufacturers’websites. Many firms commission Visio
shapes to represent their product lines and then give the shapes away
free—or at least to their customers for free.