Custom vs. Off-the-Shelf Software


In our fast-paced business world, time is of the essence, and it shouldn’t be wasted manually performing menial tasks that software can accomplish. Businesses and entrepreneurs need to focus on what they do best and use time efficiently. Utilizing software to enhance and optimize your business performance is a no-brainer, but deciding whether to use commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) or build custom software requires careful consideration.

Custom software is designed specifically to suit your business needs, whereas COTS is more generic so it can accommodate the needs of many businesses. There are advantages and disadvantages to both:


Custom Software 


  • You own the rights to the software, adding value to your company and giving you a competitive advantage
  • Able to grow and change with your company’s needs
  • You don’t have to pay additional fees to add users
  • No redundant or unnecessary features
  • Higher quality of support as developers work directly with you
  • Can be customized to integrate with current systems
  • Easier to use, as it has been designed to reflect and build upon your business processes
  • The long-term cost may be equal to that of COTS due to improved efficiency, with the added bonus of flexibility
  • In some circumstances the software may be resalable and result in profits



  • Higher initial cost
  • Changes and new features can incur additional costs
  • Ongoing maintenance/hosting fees


Off-the-Shelf Software 


  • Lower initial cost
  • Free trial periods and money-back guarantees
  • Immediate deployment
  • Free or reduced cost upgrades
  • Often includes support and there is sometimes a user community



  • Could have high customization fees
  • May become outdated and unable to meet your industry needs
  • There is a risk of the software being discontinued. 
  • May require multiple COTS products to accommodate business needs
  • Staff may need training in order to use software
  • You may have to adapt business operations to the software


Questions to ask when weighing custom vs. off-the-shelf software: 

Is there currently any commercial software that meets all or most of your business needs?

How much additional work does off-the-shelf software create and at what cost?

What long-term business goals will the software need to accommodate? 

What technology needs will increase as your company grows?

What level of technical support will you require following software implementation?


Many small to mid-sized businesses find custom software is better able to meet their needs as many COTS products are designed for enterprises, have too many unnecessary features and lack adequate customization options.

Finding a Balance 

If COTS forces your company to modify its way of doing business, you're better off with a custom solution. However, you may not have an in-house developer nor the budget to hire one, and your technology demands don’t require a full-time development team. This is when hiring a custom software development team like Gravit-e makes sense as a cost-effective solution to your custom software needs. There is a middle ground between building software from scratch and commercial software.  At Gravit-e we leverage a series of our own customizable products to allow for quicker, more affordable development while maintaining high quality.  In some cases it is even possible to integrate COTS into a custom software solution.

Rest assured you can find the right fit for your business whether it's building from the ground up, customizing, integrating, or adapting to commercial software.

Thanks for reading!