What is Reliability?

What is Reliability?

What is Reliability? Jonathan Poland

Reliability is a measure of the ability of a product or service to perform consistently and predictably over time. It is an important quality attribute that customers consider when making a purchase decision, as it directly impacts their satisfaction and trust in a brand.

There are several ways in which a product or service can demonstrate reliability. One is through its ability to operate without failure or breakdown for a specified period of time. Another is by providing consistent performance across different operating conditions and environments.

In order to improve reliability, businesses should focus on design and manufacturing processes that minimize defects and errors. This can involve implementing quality control measures, testing products and services under different conditions, and using robust materials and components.

In addition, providing strong customer support and maintenance services can also improve reliability, as it allows customers to quickly resolve any issues that may arise. This can include offering warranties, repair services, and technical support. Overall, reliability is a key factor in customer satisfaction and loyalty, and businesses that prioritize it can build a strong reputation and competitive advantage. The following are illustrative examples.


A bicycle tire with an usually long lifespan, even when used at high speed on bumpy roads.

Fault Tolerance

A mobile device that can play media files that contain data errors.


A site that is up 99.99% percent of the time.

Human Error

Work procedures and systems on a high speed train that reduce severe human error to zero.


A stock trading system with page load times faster than 1 second for 99.99% of requests.


A telecom company that makes less than one billing error per million bills.

A credit rating agency that excludes data from questionable sources with programs to audit accuracy across all accounts on a monthly basis.


A data storage device with an error rate of less than 0.0001%.


A bank that backups up data in real time such that failure of a storage device can be recovered without loss of transactions.


A media outlet that fact-checks stories and doesn’t publish news from questionable sources.


An aircraft with redundant systems such that it can continue to operate safely when a system or component fails.

Fail Safe

An elevator that requires power to keep brakes off. When power fails, brakes come on.


An electric car that tells you it requires servicing based on diagnostic tests before it breaks down.

Disaster Resilience

A building is designed to absorb the energy of reasonably large earthquakes without collapsing.

Weather Resilience

Solar panels that are designed to endure extreme weather conditions such as high winds.

Service Levels

A delivery service that is on time for 99.9% of deliveries.

Quality Control

A mobile device manufacturer that completely tests each unit such that less then 0.005% of customers experience an out of the box failure.

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