ISO (International Organization for Standardization)

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies.

ISO is a nongovernmental organization that comprises standards bodies from more than 160 countries, with one standards body representing each member country. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for example, represents the United States.

Member organizations collaborate in the development and promotion of international standards for technology, scientific testing processes, working conditions, societal issues and more. ISO and its members then sell documents detailing these standards.

A General Assembly, which consists of representatives from ISO members and elected leaders called principal officers, acts as the decision-making body for ISO. The organization has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, where a central secretariat oversees operations.

History of ISO

ISO is the successor to the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA), which operated from 1928 to 1942.

In 1946, after World War II, ISA members and the United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee (UNSCC) held a meeting on international standards. Their work led to the formation of ISO as a nongovernmental organization the following year.

ISO published its first standard, ISO/R 1:1951 (Standard Reference Temperature for Industrial Length Measurements), in 1951. The standard is now known as ISO 1:2016. As of 2018, ISO had published more than 22,000 standards.

According to ISO, ISO is not an abbreviation. It is a word, derived from the Greek isos, meaning "equal," which is the root for the prefix iso- that occurs in a host of terms, such as isometric (of equal measure or dimensions) and isonomy (equality of laws, or of people before the law). The name ISO is used around the world to denote the organization, thus avoiding the assortment of abbreviations that would result from the translation of "International Organization for Standardization" into the different national languages of members. Whatever the country, the short form of the organization's name is always ISO.

ISO standards development process

The International Organization for Standardization's process for creating a new standard starts when industry associations or consumer groups make a request.

ISO then recruits subject matter experts and industry stakeholders who form a technical committee. The committee goes through two rounds of creating a draft standard and conducts a formal vote on the second draft, which is called the Final Draft International Standard (FDIS).

If the FDIS is approved, as certified by the central secretariat, then ISO publishes it as an official international standard.

Popular standards

Some of the most popular ISO standards for information technology include:

Open Systems Interconnection (OSI): Computer manufacturers and telecommunications providers developed this universal reference model for communication protocols in 1983, and ISO later adopted it as a standard.

ISO 27001: This ISO standard provides a six-step process for developing and implementing information security policies and processes.

ISO 17799: This security management standard specifies more than 100 best practices regarding business continuity, access control, asset management and more.

ISO 20000: This ISO standard creates a technical specification and codifies best practices for IT service management.

ISO 31000: This risk management framework standardizes the definition of risk and associated terms and offers guidelines for any person, business or agency.

ISO 12207: This ISO standard creates a consistent lifecycle management process for all software.

This was last updated in February 2018

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