Incident and Problem: What is the Difference?


·      Incident: unplanned disruption or degradation of service.

·      Problem: can be the cause of one or more incidents.

What is an Incident? 

An incident is something that needs to be resolved immediately. This can either be through a permanent fix, a workaround or a temporary fix. An example of an incident is a server crash which causes a disruption in the business process. If a server is used only during office hours, a crash after office hours is, strictly speaking based on the definition, not yet an incident since the no service was affected. It becomes an incident only when the outage extends to the hours of use.

What is a Problem? 

A server crash which does not cause a business disruption is only a problem.  In the case of a server crash after office hours, the crash is a problem. This is a high priority problem because if this problem is not resolved, during the next business hours this will become an incident.  Problems however are not incidents unless they interrupt service according to a service level agreement (SLA).

Questions to Help Identify Incident and Problem 

There is only one question to ask: Should this be fixed now. Of course, when you talk to some people, they will always say yes. So to help me further, I ask the following questions:

  1. Is the service unusable?
  2. Is there a degradation of the service?
  3. Is the business process affected greatly?
  4. Are service levels affected?

If you answer yes to one of these questions, it is probably an incident