When is a sysadmin not a sysadmin?

I really like my job. I love connecting complex bits of hardware into a working infrastructure. Taking inanimate bits and making a living, breathing network out of them is exciting. It’s the best model train set you could ask for.

There are also parts of my job that I intensely dislike. I’m not talking about the “just sort of unpleasant” tasks like user support. I don’t actually mind helping people out. Part of my job is making sure other people can do theirs, and as such, I don’t mind lending a hand.

What I don’t like are generic administrative tasks that only take time away from the rest of my duties. Here, I’m talking about things like changing tapes, keeping track of users’ software licenses, and more to the point, dealing with billing details for network contracts.

I received a voicemail today, forwarded to me by someone in the corporate office regarding our Level3 account. When we moved out of the downtown NYC office months ago, and we cancelled our Level3 account, but from everything I can figure, they didn’t cancel our Level3 account. Now I’ve got to try to get a person on the phone from Level3 to figure out what is going on. I’m not worried that we actually owe them anything, because I’ve got the email from them with the disconnect order, but the rigamarole in making them understand that isn’t shaping up very well. Last night at 5:00pm, I sat on hold for 45 minutes before I gave up and went home. I’ll try again this morning, but I’m not anticipating a good experience.

Let me advise you this, to stay away from Level3 for your dedicated circuits, because getting any kind of help from them is next to impossible, and the service wasn’t even great to begin with. They are the only bandwidth provider I’ve ever have who gave me a hard time about trying to contact an internal engineer. I needed to ask questions about the MLPPP-bonded T1s I was going to try, and it took 2 months to get their guy to call me back. To make matters more fun, every single contact there in my contact list has fled, so I don’t even have a real person’s name or number who works there. Stay away.

  • Anonymous

    A long time ago my former company had a colo rack at a level 3 facility.

    We had a question about the type of power circuit we were on, our servers had redundant power supplies of course, but we wanted to be assured that each supply was plugged into a different power phase.

    Level3 tech support pretty much told us that they didn’t have time to check on it, but we’d find out if one of the phases happened to die.


  • Matt

    wow, that’s _outstanding_

    I take only a small amount of solace in the fact that I didn’t originally order the circuits. I wish we would have gotten rid of them much earlier.

    Thanks for sharing

  • Jared

    I have heard a lot of bad things about Level3.

    Your situation sounds a lot like what Keith over at the Mind of Root podcast has been experiencing with canceling Level3 service.

    He talks about it in episodes 45, 49, and 61.

    I love the blog. Keep up the great work!

  • Matt


    Thanks for the kind words and for the link! I’m definitely going to check out his podcasts.

    I’m glad you like the blog. I’ll keep writing as long as people are interested in what I’m saying :-)

  • Ian

    Ah Level 3. I never really knew who they were before our entire phone system got dumped in my lap.

    It seems to me that they have multiple divisions and that none of the division ever talk to each other or know what the other is doing. It took me having a network impacted support ticket open for two hours for their tech support to realize that I shouldn’t be talking to them but rather their change department. After that, I was told it would take 5 days to process our request. After my boss put pressure on them, they were able to actually do the work in probably 5-10 minutes.

    It seems to me that level 3 has no cohesion and no processes for anything. They fly by the seat of their pants basically.

  • Rob Olague

    I haven’t had the misfortune (apparently) to deal with Level 3, but I never imagined when I became a sysadmin consultant how many business contacts, quoting, and general administrative things i’d need to take care of. This is one fine example of how the phone has become more central in my life than I’d ever hoped :-/

  • Matt


    I’ve noticed that same quality. The lady on the phone from collections had no clue what was actually going on with my account, or how much they thought we owed. I still haven’t talked to anyone from the billing department.


    I couldn’t agree more. This job covers some of the most obscure tasks. We’re pretty much the last line of defense, and we’re expected to pick up the pieces that fall through the cracks. The smaller the organization, the more things we’ve got to pick up, it seems.

    Thanks for the comments!

  • ernieoporto

    Everyone must deal with changing tapes!

  • Matt


    Yep, everyone does, but at least I feel like that’s my job, even if I don’t particularly like that part of it :-)