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leaky bucket

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

The leaky bucket is an analogy for describing how inputs and outputs work in a wide variety of business and technology systems.

The analogy is to a physical bucket with a hole in it: The bucket can hold water up to its maximum capacity and it loses water at a rate determined by the size of the hole.

Here are some examples of the leaky bucket analogy in various contexts:

Employee security awareness training investments can yield an immediate and dramatic improvement in security practices. However, the bucket doesn’t stay full – over time, awareness dissipates (leaks). The lesson is that security awareness training must be ongoing to keep up with the rate of loss.

In customer relationship management (CRM), the leaky bucket is used to describe the churn rate: customer acquisition numbers compared to the numbers for customer attrition. The analogy is used in a similar way to model employee retention vs. employee attrition.

The leaky bucket algorithm is a method of temporarily storing a variable number of requests and organizing them into a set-rate output of packets in an asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) network.

This was last updated in April 2015

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