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What is a Network Diagram and How Does it Improve Workflows?

Written by: Joan Ang

May 05, 2022

network diagram

A network is inherently complex. In fact, when you look the word up in a thesaurus, you’ll find that its synonyms include “web,” “grid,” and “criss-cross.” 

This is especially true in a business setting, where networks pertain to the chain of systems and processes that direct important endeavors. To manage these networks effectively, heads must be able to see the full picture and monitor every last piece of the puzzle.

This is where a network diagram can be useful. This visualization tool illuminates such complex and otherwise intangible concepts and methodologies to guide teams in their operations. Keep reading to learn more about this process diagramming technique and find out how you can apply it to your own projects with Venngage’s diagram maker.


Click to jump ahead:

What is a network diagram? 

A network diagram is a visual representation of a system or process. It maps out the network of elements, tasks, and action steps required for a team to be productive or accomplish a project.

network diagram

More importantly, a network diagram highlights the logical sequence and interdependence of network components. Through it, managers can effectively track a project’s status at every phase and step as well as prevent delays and other mishaps.

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What are the types of network diagrams?

Network diagrams can be as rudimentary or complex as they need to be, depending on the scenario they’re made to illustrate. However, they are generally classified as either physical or logical. In diagramming parlance, these are called network topologies, pertaining to the spatial arrangement of the elements that make a full, functioning system.

Let’s take a closer look at these network diagram types. 

Physical network diagrams

A physical network topology is concerned with the connections between a network’s tangible attributes like cables and computers. This is visualized in a physical network diagram, like the example below, which provides an overview of the actual physical arrangement of hardware in a given space.

network diagram

Physical network diagrams can be laid out in five different ways or topologies based on the structure of elements in a system. 

  • Ring topology – Each component links to two others, the one before it and the one after, thereby connecting all elements in a circle.
  • Mesh topology – Each component contributes data to the network so all units of hardware or equipment are connected to one another. 
  • Bus topology – Otherwise known as line topology, this arrangement features several components connected to a single line or backbone with two endpoints.
  • Star topology – Several components are individually connected to a central hub.
  • Tree topology – A mix of bus and star topologies, where every component is directly or indirectly linked to a mainline.

Physical network diagrams are especially useful among information systems and technology professionals whose work involves local area network surveillance and management. Outside IT, they can be used to provide a visual representation of the key roles, responsibilities, and hierarchies within a team.

Additionally, understanding the physical network layout entails considering the performance of computers and the involved infrastructure. Investing in high-quality networking equipment and optimizing software configurations can enhance the performance of both desktop and laptop systems, mitigating bottlenecks and data transmission slowdowns. Utilizing tools such as disk cleanup utilities and system optimization software (e.g., CCleaner, AVG TuneUp) for PCs, and maintenance applications like CleanMyMac for Macs, can further improve the performance of PCs and Macs, ensuring optimal operation within the network environment.

Logical network diagrams

On the other hand, a logical network topology deals with the way information flows through a network. Hence, a logical network diagram goes a step deeper and identifies the network devices, routing protocols, and other components that enable the transmission of data between all the connected nodes of a system. Here is an example. 

network diagram

In non-IT settings, logical network diagrams can illustrate the specific programs, tools, and techniques required of every role and team player to make a process effective.

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How do you create a network diagram? 

Whether you’re illustrating an existing network or creating network diagrams from scratch, the following tips and strategies can facilitate the process.

Network diagram layout

Follow these quick steps to construct your own network diagram in no time. Tip: You can start by manually mapping out your ideas on paper for ease of editing, then finalize your sketch with network diagram tools (like Venngage!) later.

  1. Determine the elements. List down the equipment, roles, milestones, or tasks essential to your network. Manually writing them down with pen and paper will allow you to easily add or remove items, and make sure you don’t miss any important details once you format your network diagram. 
  2. Organize the components. Look for links between the elements based on the type of diagram you’re making and arrange them side by side or as close to each other as possible.
  3. Add connections. Draw connecting lines between nodes to establish the logical and functional links in your network. 
  4. Add text. Label your elements and add any other information that can provide context to your diagram. Place one beside each component or centralize everything in a legend. 
  5. Format and finalize. Verify all information and format your diagram using a program like Venngage, which offers network diagram templates that you can customize for your needs. Use the shapes and colors that work best for your subject. Make sure all elements are consistent in size and alignment, too. 

When creating your diagram layout on Venngage, you can add your company’s logo, color palette, and fonts to all your designs with a single click. This feature is called My Brand Kit, and it’s available on business accounts. 

network diagram

A business account also includes the real-time collaboration feature, so you can invite members of your team to work simultaneously on a project.

Venngage also allows you to share your network diagram online as well as download it as a PNG or PDF file. That way, your Venn diagram will always be presentation-ready.

Network diagram symbols

A basic network diagram template is comprised of shapes and figures that symbolize the interacting network components. In a computer network diagram, you will often find clip art-like images that resemble technological hardware like switches, bridges, routers, and databases. Take the example below.

network diagram

Alternatively, network diagrams can be made up of simpler symbols—generally boxes and circles, with arrows depicting the movement of data or direction of progress. 

There are two approaches to this kind of diagram. 

  • Arrow Diagramming Method (ADM) – Uses arrows to illustrate the start and end of a process, as seen in the example below. 
network diagram
  • Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM) – Uses shapes and arrows like ADM, but can illustrate processes beyond the standard sequence of “start-to-finish.” It’s sort of like a fishbone diagram, which highlights the cause-and-effect relationship of tasks and elements in a system. Here is an example. 
network diagram

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FAQs about network diagrams

How do you create a network diagram on Venngage?

To create a network diagram, all you have to do is: 

  1. Sign-up for an account. 
  2. Access our templates library through your dashboard. 
  3. Choose from our line-up or pre-made, professionally-designed templates. 
  4. Edit and customize your selected template using our drag-and-drop Smart Editor. 

When you’re done, you can export and save your diagram as a PDF or PNG file by clicking the “Download” button on the toolbar. There is also an option to share your diagram directly on your social media. 

How do you interpret a network diagram?

Network diagrams can be interpreted in a few ways, depending on their type. Generally, however, it can show a bird’s-eye view of the physical arrangement of network components and the specific interactions or kinds of data that flows between its elements. The latter are typically identified by labels on the diagram itself.

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Optimize your business strategies with network diagrams

Network diagrams are a great way to visualize the methodologies of organizations. By outlining systems or processes, they uncover all the nitty-gritty that managers need to keep a close eye on the progress of projects and the effectiveness of teams. They can also improve and maintain efficiency by exposing bottlenecks or counterproductive elements. 

Refine your business strategies with your own network diagrams. Venngage can help you create them with our library of pre-made and beginner-friendly templates. Sign-up for an account (it’s free!) to gain unlimited access to our suite of design tools and assets today!