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Custom Software and Offshore the Shelf Software

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Websites and applications have become valuable tools in every aspect of our lives, including business operations. It is now almost impossible to find a business owner who does not require software in their business. Software solutions make all processes in your organization easier and your company to achieve growth. However, most software companies find it challenging to decide between building an off-the-shelf or customized software solution. The answer to deciding between the two options lies in what your business needs to gain from the software and also the cost of ownership in both cases.

Here we look at the difference between custom software and off-the-shelf software to help companies and startups make informed decisions on what to build.

What is custom software?

When it comes to the services offered, all companies are unique, requiring special treatment. Custom software development companies allow businesses to adopt an individual approach. The software development market cannot address all business needs, even with the availability of diverse options. Thus, many entrepreneurs want to create unique solutions or adopt new ones. As the name suggests, custom software development involves creating a product according to the customer’s wishes.

The interface and features of the software depend on a number of factors. These include available budget, target audience, business processes, among other aspects. Custom software is relatively more difficult to develop, but it offers great value for money. It provides many useful and user-specific functions. Unfortunately, it requires a lot of money and time, which could be a burden for startups and small companies.

Custom Software Pros

  • Business growth: Custom software allows you to optimize your business effectively as it gives you the chance to consider all the needs while discussing its functions. 

Besides, you can also share the challenges and issues that your team of employees has to contend with in their daily activities and suggest a practical solution. With custom software development, the product makes your employees’ life and ensures that the necessary tasks are handled properly.

  • Toolset: Custom software offers better value for money, although it takes more time to create than the off-the-shelf option. It can meet the needs of a specific company and address its unique issues as it is built with the consideration of a particular organization in mind. 

However, it is advisable to discuss with the developers the features you wish the software to have and the task they should help handle before the software development process begins. Consulting developers in advance ensures that you can get a product that meets your company’s specific requirements.

  • Scalability and flexibility: With custom software, you can get a product that supports multiple functions. This makes it an ideal option for clients who have not figured out the functions that they would like to implement. Additionally, developers can delete or add something after carrying out tests on the basic version of the product.
  • Support service: In case of any issues with custom software, you can refer problems to reliable and qualified support. Most software development companies offer clients maintenance, help in case of emerging errors, and update the software regularly. 
  • Safety measures: Off-the-shelf software is more vulnerable to hacker attacks. Custom software solutions are designed to help a business establish long-term relationships with customers. Thus, safety is a top priority in their development.

Custom Software Cons

  • Time-consuming: A custom software project usually takes a long time to complete. The custom development process involves a lot of work, even in the early stages before coding. First, you need to begin by deciding the features that you consider useful in your business. Choosing the specific requirements for a software product can be a daunting task, especially for individuals without any experience in software development.

Therefore, it is advisable to consider involving professionals that can help identify problems in time and provide solutions. In addition, starting the development process with a list of the specific functions ensures that it takes less time.

  • High cost: When investing money, every business owner will try to save as much as possible while also getting a quality product. However, custom software development requires the latest technologies and a team of highly skilled professionals. Such projects will need experienced designers, developers, and quality engineers. This leads to an increase in the costs, but the cost of developing custom software is minimal compared to the benefits and profit it will provide to your business.
  • The wrong developer: Choosing the engineers for your software development projects can affect the project in terms of both money and time. This is even riskier in custom software development as the team of engineers is required to create a product with specific functions. Thus, it is important to work with a trusted firm that offers quality services to guarantee the result.

When looking for a software development partner, it is important to take time and conduct thorough research to avoid losses. In this case, it is better to pay more than get a poorly developed product.

Off the Shelf Software

Many developers will tell you that off-the-shelf software offers a simple and cheap option as compared to custom software. However, offshore custom software has some cons too. Here we look at some of the key advantages and disadvantages associated with this option.

Off shelf Software Pros

  • Relatively cheap: Offshore software development involves ready-made solutions, which means that most of them allow mass production. This makes these solutions cheaper and less time-consuming. Furthermore, ready-made IT solutions focus on meeting the needs of as many end-users as possible, making their development less expensive and time-consuming. In addition, unlike custom products, you are not the only one paying for the product.

However, it is good to mention that this option can still cost high due to maintenance and subscription costs. With this in mind, it is advisable to consult an expert beforehand to determine the right option for your business.

  • Available on demand: This is one main advantage of choosing an off-the-shelf software over custom products. These solutions are ready to use on-demand and are also easy to install. But, most of the ready-made solutions include too many functions that still require you to set up before using the product.
  • Reliability: Most of these applications are reliable because they are trustworthy and safe unless you acquire them from suspicious or unsecured websites. Therefore, it is important to download an off-the-shelf application from secure and trusted websites. Furthermore, such products are thoroughly tested before they are released to the market since they come from enterprises that are after maintaining their reputation.
  • Real people support: COTS are designed for many users, which means that you can find experience stories, reviews, and opinions from real people. Thus, it is much easier to find answers on the internet to any questions that you might have.

Off shelf Software Cons

  • Rarely modified: Most COTs do not offer updates or allow changes as your business enlarges or grows. The only way the software can be modified is when you manage to convince the parent company that your needs have more potential or are more important than their plan. Unfortunately, this is not an easy thing to do.

Offers little satisfaction of your requirements: Off-the-shelf solutions are designed for many users, which means that there is no guarantee that they will satisfy your business needs. In some cases, COTs may turn out to be half functional as compared to custom solutions or even useless. This means having to spend more money and time before you acquire the ideal solutions.

  • Too many functions: Usually, off-the-shelf software includes several features that might not be necessary to your business. Some of these features may end up annoying or confusing employees. Custom products allow you to optimize your functions and minimize the number of clicks that the end-user needs to make to perform a given task.
  • Expensive to set up: Off-the-shelf software may be cheaper, but the cost of setting them up may be higher than developing the product. Remember, COTs have to fit most of your business requirements, which means you have to spend a high cost setting up. Using these solutions without proper setup can lead to huge losses.


Choosing the right approach between custom software and off-the-shelf software may seem straightforward, but a slight mistake could lead to losses. Thus, it is important to consult professionals and ask them to guide you on the option that satisfies your business’s requirements. It is also advisable to choose a reliable development partner or company that offers the best IT solutions and the necessary support.

Thanh (Bruce) Pham
Saigon Technology Solutions
A Member of Forbes Technology Council
Skype: tienthanh.pham (Thanh Bruce Pham). “