Browse Definitions:
Definition

rule of thumb

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

A rule of thumb is an informal principle that is intended to provide general guidance rather than precise direction. 

People once used the phrase rule of thumb in reference to a rough physical measurement, but the term has evolved to apply to any kind of  broadly applicable and imprecise rule. It's not expected that a rule of thumb will always provide the correct answer. 

For example, see below three rules of thumb for dealing with Internet problems:

1. If you get a message saying the domain name server (DNS) can't find your page and you're sure you've typed it in correctly or clicked on a valid link, try it again -- twice. Sometimes packets don't get where they're supposed to.

2. If you get a 404 error (page not found) message, the page may be temporarily missing because of some issue at the target site. Try it again later or send an email informing the webmaster of the problem and asking them to restore the page. 

3. Be aware that sometimes a page you've visited recently may be coming from your cache or the cache on a proxy server within your company. To get the "fresh" version of the page, click on reload in the menu.

Rules of thumb often yield best practices. For example, in intrusion detection, a rule of thumb is that records and profiles should have unique identifiers, insofar as possible. That rule of thumb yields the best practice of including full path names for files and following a user identification scheme that binds a user ID to the system on which it resides.

The origin of the phrase rule of thumb is somewhat contentious. Many claim that the original "rule of thumb" was legislation that at one time made it legal for a man to beat his wife, although not with any implement thicker than his thumb. References to such a law exist; however, no documentation of the actual law has ever been located.

The reference to a rough measurement for carpentry and agricultural applications is a more likely source of the phrase. The earliest documented use is in this sense is in J. Durham’s Heaven upon Earth (1685): "Many profest [professed] Christians are like to foolish builders, who build by guess, and by rule of thumb."

This was last updated in June 2014

Continue Reading About rule of thumb

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

SearchCompliance

  • PCAOB (Public Company Accounting Oversight Board)

    The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) is a Congressionally-established nonprofit that assesses audits of public ...

  • cyborg anthropologist

    A cyborg anthropologist is an individual who studies the interaction between humans and technology, observing how technology can ...

  • RegTech

    RegTech, or regulatory technology, is a term used to describe technology that is used to help streamline the process of ...

SearchSecurity

  • email spam

    Email spam, or junk email, is unsolicited bulk messages sent through email with commercial, fraudulent or malicious intent.

  • distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack

    A distributed denial-of-service attack occurs when an attack originates from multiple computers or devices, usually from multiple...

  • application whitelisting

    Application whitelisting is the practice of identifying applications that have been deemed safe for execution and restricting all...

SearchHealthIT

  • national provider identifier (NPI)

    A national provider identifier (NPI) is a unique ten-digit identification number required by HIPAA for covered healthcare ...

  • athenahealth Inc.

    Based in Watertown, Mass., athenahealth Inc. is a leading vendor of cloud-based EHRs for small to medium-sized physician ...

  • Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare)

    The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is legislation passed in 2010 that changed how uninsured Americans enroll in and receive healthcare...

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)

    One approach to a strong disaster recovery plan is DRaaS, where companies offload data replication and restoration ...

  • data recovery

    Data recovery restores data that has been lost, accidentally deleted, corrupted or made inaccessible. Learn how data recovery ...

  • disaster recovery plan (DRP)

    A company's disaster recovery policy is enhanced with a documented DR plan that formulates strategies, and outlines preparation ...

SearchStorage

  • GlusterFS (Gluster File System)

    GlusterFS (Gluster File System) is an open source distributed file system that can scale out in building-block fashion to store ...

  • virtual memory

    Virtual memory is a memory management capability of an OS that allows a computer to compensate for physical memory shortages by ...

  • yottabyte (YB)

    A yottabyte is a measure of theoretical storage capacity and is 2 to the 80th power bytes, or, in decimal, approximately 1,000 ...

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • PCIe SSD (PCIe solid-state drive)

    A PCIe SSD (PCIe solid-state drive) is a high-speed expansion card that attaches a computer to its peripherals.

  • SSD caching

    SSD caching, also known as flash caching, is the temporary storage of data on NAND flash memory chips in a solid-state drive so ...

  • NVDIMM (Non-Volatile Dual In-line Memory Module)

    An NVDIMM (non-volatile dual in-line memory module) is hybrid computer memory that retains data during a service outage.

SearchCloudStorage

  • RESTful API

    A RESTful application program interface breaks down a transaction to create a series of small modules, each of which addresses an...

  • cloud storage infrastructure

    Cloud storage infrastructure is the hardware and software framework that supports the computing requirements of a private or ...

  • Zadara VPSA and ZIOS

    Zadara Storage provides block, file or object storage with varying levels of compute and capacity through its ZIOS and VPSA ...

Close