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Custom Software vs Off-the-Shelf Software: What’s the Difference?

Custom Software vs Off-the-Shelf Software

One of the most common questions for the software companies is whether to build a customized software or get an off-the-shelf solution?

The answer lies in establishing a complete picture of what a business requires from the software, as well as the total cost of ownership associated with all options. Below are some points which should the organization should look into when it elect a customized or an off-the-shelf software.

• Understand the problem space
• Know the total cost of all options
• Know the product and the vendor
• Know the security needs
• The Company’s solutions are the perfect fit

Custom software is specifically for the company, according to the company’s way of doing business, while Off-the-shelf software is readily available and not customized. Off-the-shelf software often falls short of meeting according to specific needs as there will be a lot of unused features in this software. It is where we need Custom Software Development Services and to obtain such services, require a company to develop software applications that cater to the needs and requirements. Custom software is adapted to meet the business needs, whereas off-the-shelf software requires your business to adapt to its capabilities.

Here is the list of Pros and Cons of custom and off-the-shelf software.

Pros and Cons of Custom Software


• Unlimited options
• Complete ownership, though it depends upon the agreement which company do with the Software Vendor
• You can scale. Start small and on later
• Changes or maintenance can be made quickly
• Solutions will be designed to your exact business process and needs
• The very high initial cost
• It takes a long time to develop such a system, which can be mitigated if the same is undertaken in phases
• Risk of hiring the wrong developer or company
• Custom software is not tested for all the business cases and the problem had to be discovered by the user when using it

Pros and Cons of Off-the-Shelf Software


• Off-the-shelf software is much cheaper than custom software
• Off-the-shelf software is easy to use and install as many people already know how to use it
• User communities
• Off-the-shelf software is more reliable than custom software because off-the-shelf software is well tested before its been sold


• For off-the-shelf software, there is a higher customization cost
• Slow to change with industry needs
• Sometimes off-the-shelf software has too many features, most are annoying and get in the way
• This software are designed for many different types of users, which tend to be a compromise

Today’s the custom software development services are becoming more popular due to the fact that the business organization can implement their unique ideas and USPs only by creating custom software.  When companies go for off-the-shelf as the competition is also using a similar kind of product they are unable to give leverage to their clients with their unique service offerings using off-the-shelf solution.

The important difference between custom software and off-the-shelf are expenses and possible risks. Some organizations choose an off-the-shelf solution to save money because it was thought to address a sufficient number of their requirements.  Custom software includes both high costs and high risks. When a company decides to develop a custom software, it has covered all expenses related to software development process.  This risk can be mitigated by researching properly for the developer / company and looking at their past work, and if they have worked in similar industry risk of failure is very low.

Few companies also use hybrid approach for the software solutions like they buy off the shelf solutions and put custom apps in-place in a way that both off-the-shelf & custom software talk to each other.  This way they can get the integral features from off-the-shelf product whereas apply any unique services using the customized solutions, as both the apps talk to each other the cost of ownership will be same as using off-the-shelf or custom software.

Final comment is you can go for off-the-shelf products only if you have generic requirements but if you have custom requirements and want to give your clients value for their money by creative solutions you must go for custom software development.

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