Any MSP owner or IT director knows the pain of losing valuable institutional knowledge. While often overlooked, strong IT documentation can be the difference between hours, potentially days, of downtime and a smooth operation. To avoid these costly missteps, IT pros are increasingly turning to IT documentation software to help document, standardize, and use contextual information about their IT environments.
In this blog post, we’ll go into more detail about the ways that IT documentation can help streamline operations and solve end-user issues faster. But first, let’s clarify between IT documentation and IT documentation software.
IT documentation is a centralized accounting of all of the devices, software, directory structures, user profiles, data, and frameworks used to manage and organize an IT environment. This documentation can be distilled into many forms but should tell you what something is, how something is done, why it’s done that way, and when something is supposed to happen.
IT documentation software refers to the actual tools used to conduct the documentation or automate some steps. Tools range in complexity from relatively simple and free solutions like Google Docs or OneNote to more specialized solutions like Ninja Documentation or IT Glue. Open source solutions like Bookstack are also options.
IT Documentation Software is a No-Brainer
Across every industry, we’re seeing a rapid increase in new devices coming online, new software being used, and new security issues that need to be managed. With such complex environments to manage, poor documentation can translate to poor IT. But modern problems require modern tools, and many IT documentation tools available today are easy to use, accessible for stakeholders, and much more actionable.
Some of the key benefits of IT documentation software include:
- Cost Savings: Whether it’s savings from time spent on new employee onboarding or efficiencies due to a standard operating procedure, IT documentation has a direct impact on an organization’s bottom line.
- Improved Support Operations: When a technician can access a record of past actions taken on a device or view what a normal state should look like, their job is made easier and the end-user’s experience is improved. Many IT documentation software providers offer an API to extract data which can then be used by support teams and other platforms. Others have natively integrated IT documentation into support operations, such as Ninja Ticketing.
- Integrated Security: Proper IT documentation can be a valuable tool towards improving an organization’s security hygiene by documenting patching schedules and instructions, storing passwords and admin credentials, and setting up security checks throughout a process, among other things.
Common IT Documentation Challenges
The benefits of IT documentation can’t be understated. The time and efficiency savings of good documentation can easily pay for itself but getting it right requires overcoming some common challenges.
First among those is simply having complete documentation for a task, device configuration, server set-up, or any other IT responsibility. There’s nothing more frustrating than referencing a piece of documentation and then finding out only half of the steps were documented. Even worse, not having any documentation in the first place. In either case, technicians end up spending their time creating new documentation and recreating the wheel to find a workable solution.
In a similar vein, another documentation challenge that IT pros will run into is out-of-date documentation. This occurs when teams fail to periodically review and edit documentation to reflect new standards such as patching schedules, approved software, or configurations for setting up a new user.
Both of these challenges can contribute to a negative feedback loop of low trust in the documentation and therefore less active management and creation of documentation.
Popular IT Documentation Software
There are multiple IT documentation software vendors in the market today, each with its own strengths that will appeal to different organizations. However, some of the qualities that rise among top vendors are ease-of-use, customizability, and accessibility. Here are some popular IT documentation software vendors to consider:
Built into NinjaOne’s core platform, Ninja Documentation is a full fledged IT documentation solution that provides a seamless documentation experience. Ninja allows users to document everything within their IT environment in a standardized, structured form to easily collect and use data. To make it easier for users to starting documenting critical information, Ninja provides out-of-the-box documentation templates for active directory, security, and vendor management. Documentation data is accessible via scripts and the NinjaOne API.
IT Glue is a dedicated IT documentation software solution that integrates into many popular RMM and PSA platforms*. IT Glue helps users find, track, and manage all knowledge within an IT environment. The company is owned by Kaseya.
Another IT documentation tool commonly used by IT pros and MSPs, IT Boost is owned by ConnectWise and integrates into leading RMM and PSA platform*. IT Boost also offers multiple avenues for documenting and tracking IT environment, and offers additional features like asset discovery and VoIP integrations to help document support operations.
*NinjaOne has integrations with both IT Glue and IT Boost.
Free & Open Source Documentation Software Alternatives
For those just starting their IT documentation journey or looking for a lower cost alternative, there are many options. While free and open source documentation software may not have the specialized templates and features of IT documentation software, they can still offer immense value for creating a repository of company knowledge. Here are two popular alternatives:
DokuWiki is a simple to use and highly versatile Open Source wiki software that doesn't require a database. The ease of maintenance, backup and integration makes it an administrator's favorite. Built in access controls and authentication connectors make DokuWiki especially useful in the enterprise context and the large number of plugins contributed by its vibrant community allow for a broad range of use cases beyond a traditional wiki.
BookStack is a simple, self-hosted, easy-to-use platform for organising and storing information. The platform divides documentation into three categories: Books, Chapters, and Pages. All documentation is fully searchable and easily interconnected.
IT documentation can’t be ignored if your goal is to increase IT efficiency and productivity. Without documentation, patching schedules could be missed, important server configurations could be lost, and it can take new hires more time to get up and running.
In today’s modern IT environment, good documentation is the backbone of any organizations and a key requisite for growth. To continue meeting the needs of today’s businesses, specialized IT documentation software has emerged to streamline and automate important parts of the documentation process while making the data more usable.
Ready to start documenting your IT environment? Sign up for a free trial of NinjaOne and start using Ninja Documentation today.