This is a dilemma that most innovative software companies and business owners face at some point. It is a decision between two choices in most cases – either to invest in custom software development or go with one of the off-the-shelf software products.

The dilemma can also be summed up in the following question – Build or buy software? It is an important decision and it will have an impact on your business and the development of your company. There’s no one-answer-fits-all in this case, which option you end up choosing depends on your needs and your budget.

If you’re trying to decide which would be the best option for your business, you should first answer the following set questions:

  • Is there a commercial solution on the market that fits my needs? - Is this even an option?

  • If yes, then does it meet all my business goals? Is scalability going to be an issue later on?

  • What will be the licensing cost of the off-the-shelf (OTS) software vs. the cost to develop and maintain a custom software solution.

Definition and benefits of custom software development

Custom software development is hiring someone to build a software solution that fits your business needs, can be easily incorporated in your business processes. It should fulfill a predefined set of requirements and be designed for a specific user audience, i.e. the company’s employees and/or contractors, collaborators, etc. 

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While custom software development is expensive and takes more time, it can have a higher ROI that can make it well worth.  Also, if you choose a good software development company to build your software, it is possible to find it even more beneficial: you own the system and you can modify it, there are no license costs, you can make technical updates, and the custom software can be scaled as your business demands increase or change.

The custom software is not limited by anything. So, if you have a big growth plan for the business, you get the software with scaling capabilities. 

You won’t need to pay for new users or new additional modules. You can get a friendly UI/UX with an intuitive design that will help you reach your business goals.

If you choose a reliable software development company that uses a top-notch technology stack, you can get a complete, lightweight and easy-to-use software product, tailored for your company’s needs, and you’ll also get premier support and maintenance.

It’s flexible! As we already said above, you can modify it, make technical updates, and add new features. Using it can be a piece of cake.

You can get data security as well. Not all users need to have access to all information in the system, particularly sensitive client data. The software development company can add security features depending on your needs and the specifics of your work.

It takes time to build custom software and it can be expensive – that are the largest potential drawbacks of this option.

Like everything that is customized, a custom software solution will cost more than a commercial OTS software product. But, as we already said - the ROI can be well worth it. Remember, you get what you pay for. 

Launching a fully-loaded custom software that has all of the features you need and meets your business goals takes time.

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In what cases you should consider getting an off-the-shelf software solution?

If you have a smaller business and you need software for a set of secondary tasks, but it doesn’t have to do with the core of your business activities, it might be better to choose a software solution that’s already on the market. For, example, you need to improve your accounting system, or you have a business where the key product/services aren’t delivered through a software (e.g. restaurant), you can easily find a ready solution that already has proven to be effective for the specific business purpose.

If the budget is a big concern, canned software solution may be the best solution since it’s cheaper to buy and implement. But you should keep in mind the long-term costs.

Its implementation is faster since it is already built. However, it might not be a plug-and-go type of solution, it takes some time and technical expertise. Still, much faster than developing software from scratch.

As you may already know, there are a lot of limitations of the off-the-shelf software.

Commercial software solutions can be pretty rigid when it comes to functionalities and capabilities. The limitations of this type of software can stifle the productivity of your team and the growth of your business.

You may have to pay periodical license fees (usually monthly or annual) and there could be a limit on the number of users – i.e. the number of devices that can be connected to the software at a given time or in general.

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The changes in the platform are restricted and the owners can decide to make changes without even asking you first. Also, you always depend on a third party, as you do not have the source code.

An off-the-shelf software solution may not be compatible with other programs or products that you’re currently using or will be using in the future.

The decision isn’t easy. The most common error is to base the decision solely on the cost and the time required to get the software implemented. Often it is better to pay a higher price at the beginning that will ensure long-term results than to pay smaller fees continuously without getting scalable results and business growth potential.

At we are eager to work on crafting custom products as they are more efficient. Our process of development is goal-oriented. We analyze the business needs and goals of your company and then offer an individual and unique solution, on a case by case basis.

If you need a software solution, but you’re still wondering if a custom software solution is within your budget, we invite you to contact us and speak with one of our experts and get a clearer picture on the matter.