In reliability theory and reliability engineering, the term availability has the following meanings:

The degree to which a system, subsystem or equipment is in a specified operable and committable state at the start of a mission, when the mission is called for at an unknown, i.e. a random, time. Simply put, availability is the proportion of time a system is in a functioning condition. This is often described as a mission capable rate. Mathematically, this is expressed as 100% minus unavailability.

The ratio of (a) the total time a functional unit is capable of being used during a given interval to (b) the length of the interval.

For example, a unit that is capable of being used 100 hours per week (168 hours) would have an availability of 100/168. However, typical availability values are specified in decimal (such as 0.9998). In high availability applications, a metric known as nines, corresponding to the number of nines following the decimal point, is used. With this convention, “five nines” equals 0.99999 (or 99.999%) availability.

Availability, inherent (Ai) The probability that an item will operate satisfactorily at a given point in time when used under stated conditions in an ideal support environment. It excludes logistics time, waiting or administrative downtime, and preventive maintenance downtime. It includes corrective maintenance downtime. Inherent availability is generally derived from analysis of an engineering design and is calculated as the mean time to failure (MTTF) divided by the mean time to failure plus the mean time to repair (MTTR). It is based on quantities under control of the designer.

Availability, achieved (Aa) The probability that an item will operate satisfactorily at a given point in time when used under stated conditions in an ideal support environment (i.e., that personnel, tools, spares, etc. are instantaneously available). It excludes logistics time and waiting or administrative downtime. It includes active preventive and corrective maintenance downtime.

Availability, operational (Ao) The probability that an item will operate satisfactorily at a given point in time when used in an actual or realistic operating and support environment. It includes logistics time, ready time, and waiting or administrative downtime, and both preventive and corrective maintenance downtime. This value is equal to the mean time between failure (MTBF) divided by the mean time between failure plus the mean downtime (MDT). This measure extends the definition of availability to elements controlled by the logisticians and mission planners such as quantity and proximity of spares, tools and manpower to the hardware item.