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Mean Time to Detect (MTTD) Explained

Last updated on
October 4, 2023



Mean Time to Detect (MTTD) Explained


In software development, detecting issues and resolving them quickly is crucial for the success of the product. This is where the Mean Time to Detect (MTTD) metric comes in. In this article, we will explore what MTTD is, how it can be measured, and the benefits of maintaining a low MTTD for software development teams.

What is Mean Time to Detect?

MTTD (Mean Time To Detect) is a metric that is used to measure the time it takes to detect an incident or problem in a software system. 

MTTD is typically used as part of incident management processes to help teams quickly identify issues and respond to them before they become critical.

In practice, MTTD can be used to set service level objectives (SLOs) for incident detection and response. For example, a team might aim to detect and respond to incidents within a certain timeframe, such as 5 minutes or less. This can help ensure that problems are addressed quickly and efficiently, minimizing the impact on users and the overall system.

Why to maintain low MTTD

Maintaining a low Mean Time to Detect (MTTD) is crucial for ensuring the rapid detection and resolution of software issues. By quickly detecting problems, you can avoid costly downtime, reduce customer impact, and improve overall software quality. Maintaining low MTTD also helps you to reduce the risk of security breaches as threats can be detected early and dealt with before causing any major damage.

Benefits of measuring and improving MTTD

Measuring and improving Mean Time to Detect (MTTD) is crucial for detecting and addressing software issues promptly. 

  1. Mean Time to Detect measurement helps you identify how quickly your team can detect and respond to issues in its software systems, which is critical for maintaining high availability and reliability. 
  2. Reducing MTTD leads to quicker issue resolution and a more reliable and stable system. This, on the other hand, can result in improved customer satisfaction and trust.
  3. By measuring MTTD, your team can identify areas for improvement in their detection and response processes and make data-driven decisions to optimize their performance. 
  4. Improving MTTD helps to become more efficient, effective, and competitive in the marketplace.

MTTD limitations

Mean Time to Detect (MTTD) has some limitations that need to be taken into consideration. 

  1. MTTD can be affected by the frequency and type of monitoring employed, as well as the expertise of the personnel performing the monitoring. 
  2. The metric may not always provide a complete picture of the time required to detect an issue, as it only accounts for the time from when an incident occurs until it is initially detected. 
  3. Also, MTTD alone cannot provide insight into the root cause of an issue or help to identify ways to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. 

It's important to complement MTTD with other metrics and practices that provide a more comprehensive view of software development performance.

How to calculate MTTD?

MTTD (Mean Time to Detect) is calculated by taking the total time between when an incident occurred and when it was detected. This time is then divided by the total number of incidents.

For example, let's say you have five incidents that occurred during a given period. The time between the incident and when it was detected is as follows:

Incident 1: 3 hours

Incident 2: 1 hour

Incident 3: 6 hours

Incident 4: 2 hours

Incident 5: 4 hours

To calculate MTTD, you would add up the time between each incident and its detection, which is 16 hours, and divide it by the total number of incidents, which is 5.

MTTD = 16 hours / 5 incidents = 3.2 hours

Therefore, the MTTD for this period was 3.2 hours.

High score? How to improve MTTD

  1. Focus on implementing effective monitoring and alerting systems that can quickly detect and notify them of issues. This can involve setting up automated monitoring tools that continuously check the system's health and generate alerts when issues are detected.
  2. Establish clear monitoring goals and metrics, define what needs to be monitored, and configure the tools to trigger alerts when certain thresholds are exceeded.
  3. Establish a process for responding to alerts, which includes triaging and prioritizing issues based on their severity and impact.
  4. Review the monitoring and alerting processes regularly to identify areas for improvement and ensure that the system remains effective over time.

Alternatives to MTTD

There are several alternatives to MTTD that can be used to measure software delivery performance. 

  1. Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) - measures the average time between the occurrence of two consecutive failures. 
  2. Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) - measures the average time it takes to repair a failed system. 
  3. Mean Time to Acknowledge (MTTA) - measures the average time it takes to acknowledge an incident or failure. 

Each of these metrics provides different insights into the performance of a software delivery process and can be used in conjunction with MTTD to provide a more comprehensive picture of the overall performance.


By measuring MTTD, organizations can detect and address issues more quickly, leading to improved software delivery performance. However, there are limitations to the metric, including the potential for false positives and the difficulty in accurately measuring MTTD for certain types of issues. 

Explore other software delivery performance metrics to use a set that will give you a more comprehensive understanding of your process.

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Olga Gierszal
Software Engineering Editor

Software development enthusiast with 6 years of professional experience in the tech industry.

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