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Network mapping is a process used to discover and visualize physical and virtual network connectivity via a group of interrelated tasks that facilitate the creation of a network map, including flow charts, network diagrams, topology detection and device inventories. It is geared toward the creation of visual aids and materials that can be used for a broad array of purposes, especially network maintenance.
Because it has evolved into a study in the broader field of computer science, network mapping continues to increase in importance with the rise of complex, dynamic networks, globalization and cloud computing.
Network mapping systems use an active probing method to gather network data by sending probe packets that hop from node to node, which return information to the mapping system with the IP address and other technical details. In large networks like the Internet and its smaller constituents, this probe may be limited to gathering publicly available, non-confidential and general node information.
Network mapping allows network administrators (NA) to visualize and break down complex networks into smaller portions, allowing the NA to analyze and view the network, check for connection errors and pull up details that facilitate an issue's root cause analysis. By using a mapping system's active monitoring module, administrators can track network changes in real time. This is useful for network providers and Internet service providers (ISP), as well as anyone that operates a large, complex network.