Off-the-shelf software and custom software
Iryna KravchenkoIryna KravchenkoChief Editor

Off-the-shelf software and custom software – What is the main difference?

Coding gets easier every day. We hardly remember those days when engineers had to think about the codes for weeks. Nowadays programming is even taught at schools. Applications and websites have become a part of our life. There is a very small chance that you can meet an entrepreneur who does not want software for their business. It makes all processes easier and makes the company grow. Still, many start-ups do not know which solution to choose. Is it better to buy an off the shelf one or save money and order a custom product? Let’s find out!  

Custom software vs off the shelf solution: Main difference

The main question that arises when a company decides they need special software is whether to order an off the shelf program or a custom one. That’s why every entrepreneur should understand the advantages and most important features of both options. Pay special attention to the cost, the developer, the security, and the business processes you need to perform.  

Custom software works for a specific company, its target audience, and its needs. Off the shelf software is less functional but available at any time. Still, it often has many unnecessary functions. That’s why the majority of companies prefer to order individual solutions that meet all their requirements and don’t include functions they don’t need.  

In other words, custom software adapts to the business while ready-made solutions make the business adapt. Now let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two developments.  

What is off the shelf software? 

Off-the-shelf software meaning is a lot more simple than you think. There is a high possibility that you are using off the shelf software right now. It is because Microsoft is one of the most popular and huge representatives. In other words, COTS (or Commercial Off The Shelf) software is a ready-made software that you can download, set up, and use. This is also its main advantage, since many companies do not have the time to develop an individual solution. This kind of product is available for the mass market and tries to meet the needs of as many users as possible. That’s why off the shelf software has many more functions than a custom solution.  

Now that we have sorted out the off the shelf software definition, let’s move on to its benefits.   

pros and cons of off-the-shelf software

Pros and cons of off-the-shelf Ssoftware 

Any developer will tell you that such software is cheap and simple. Still, it has quite a few cons. Let’s take a closer look at both sides of it. 

Advantages of off the shelf software:  

  1. Here and now. This is one of the biggest benefits that you can get when buying off the shelf software. Such a solution is easy to install and ready for use. Still, you will need to set it up first, since too many functions make it difficult to quickly enjoy the software.   
  2. Cheap. The majority of ready-made solutions are cheap because of their mass production. Their aim is to embrace as many users as possible, which makes them less expensive than custom products. You are not the only one who pays for the product. Still, sometimes it can end up costing a fortune because of the subscription cost and maintenance. Some companies may find this ineffective, which is why it is better to consult a specialist beforehand. 
  3. Real people support. Because of the mass usage of COTS, you can find many reviews, opinions, and experience stories by real customers. Besides, if you have any questions, there is a high probability you will find the answer on the net. Don’t know which button to click? At least one person in the world has already shared the solution online.  
  4. Reliability. An off the shelf application is safe and trustworthy unless you download it from suspicious websites. It had been thoroughly tested by a huge team before going to the market, because such software is developed by enterprises that do not want to risk their reputation.   

COTS disadvantages: 

  1. Little satisfaction for business requirements. Buying an off the shelf solution, you have to understand the downsides. There is no guarantee that it will fit your company and help your business processes. Eventually, it can turn out useless or only half as functional as a custom one would be. You may still have to order individual software in the end.  
  2. Hardly modified. The majority of COTS cannot provide changes and updates as your business grows or enlarges. Unless you convince the owner company that your needs are more important or have more potential than their plan, there is no other chance to modify it. 
  3. Available to competitors. COTS has a mass audience, that’s why your competitors can use it as freely as you do. It can lead to an unpleasant situation such as when your brand-new ideas will be stolen. With the same toolset, other companies can easily make your product look like theirs.  
  4. High cost of setting up. Ironically, the cost of setting it up can be higher than the cost of the actual product. As we already mentioned, it is because off the shelf software needs to be somehow adapted to your business. Otherwise, it can bring you losses. 

Too many functions. At first, you can consider it an advantage but in reality, a bunch of unnecessary features will just confuse and annoy the employees. It is better to optimize the work and minimize the number of clicks needed to perform a particular task. 

Difference between custom software and off-the-shelf software

What is custom software? 

With any services, we ideally want an individual approach, since all companies are different and require special treatment. Despite the diversity of options, the software market cannot meet the needs of every business. That’s why entrepreneurs want their solutions to be unique. It makes them turn to specialists such as DICEUS to adapt solutions or create new ones. 

Custom software is a personified product developed according to the customer’s wishes. Its features and interface depend on the business processes, target audience, available budget, and many other aspects. Although it is difficult to create, it is worth your money. With custom software, you will get many specific and useful functions. Still, it requires a lot of time and money, which can become an issue for small companies or start-ups. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of such a product. 

pros and cons of custom software

Pros and cons of custom software 

Custom software advantages: 

  1. Toolset. It’s no surprise that ready-made software cannot meet the needs of your company in full, since all businesses are different. That’s why a custom solution has a big edge over its competitor. By hiring a professional company such as DICEUS you can ensure that all the functions included will be useful and effective. Consult with the developers in advance and discuss all the features you need. Such an approach ensures that you will become the owner of software that meets your specific requirements.   
  2. Business growth. While discussing the functions that you want the custom software to perform, consider how you can optimize your business. You can provide the developer with a list of issues that your employees have to face every day, and they may suggest a solution. Thus, the final product will not only take care of the necessary tasks but also make your coworkers’ life easier.     
  3. Support service. If you encounter problems with the software, you can refer to qualified support. The majority of companies provide clients with maintenance, update the product regularly, and help in case of unexpected errors arising.  
  4. Safety measures. With an off the shelf solution there is always a possibility of hacker attacks. Since each development company is focused on long-term relationships with clients, the safety of their business becomes the top priority. That’s why they pay special attention to security and data safety.   
  5. Flexibility and scalability. This is an important benefit for those who are still not sure which functions to implement. The developer can provide a product with a set of main functions. After testing the basic version of the software, you can always add or delete something. Thus, you will get a final product without unnecessary functions. 

Custom software disadvantages: 

  1. High cost. No one likes to overpay. That’s why our instinct is to save money and find cheaper solutions. Custom software requires the newest technologies and the work of a professional team. Your project will need experienced developers, designers, and quality engineers, which will increase the costs. Still, the initial cost is not that high compared to the profit it will bring.  
  2. Time expenses. Such a project can take a long time. It takes a lot of work even before coding, since you need to start with deciding which features will be useful for your business. For those who don’t have experience in software development, it may be difficult to come up with specific requirements for the final product. That’s why it is better to refer to professionals who will help you identify problems and offer solutions. With an accurate list of functions, the development will take a lot less time.  
  3. The wrong developer. While choosing the engineers, you have to keep in mind that the wrong team can cost you time and money. It is important to choose a trusted company that provides quality services. This is the only way you can be sure of the result. That’s why it is better not to rush. Take some time to research the offers to protect yourself from losses. It is better to overpay than end up with a bad product. 

Weighing all the pros and cons of both software, it is clear that off the shelf option is preferable if you do not have any specific requirements and can manage with the generic toolset. If you need a special approach and want to provide creative solutions for customers, take a closer look at customization.    

Off the shelf vs. bespoke software development approaches

What is bespoke software? Do not worry: this is just another name for custom software. Now that it’s clear, let’s move on to the topic. It is already obvious that custom software and COTS are complete opposites. Neither solution is perfect, but your choice can become decisive in your business success.  

Difference Between Off the Shelf Software & Custom Software 

Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of both software types, it is time to take a closer look at the difference between bespoke and off the shelf software.  


COTS is a ready-made application for the mass market. You do not need any special skills to download and install it. Anyone can buy it and start using it immediately. Such software aims to satisfy as many consumers as possible and has many unnecessary functions. This makes it difficult to find something important that you really need.  

Custom solution, on the other hand, works for an exact business process. There is no need to select the features because they are all tailored for your company.  


Whether it’s an off the shelf solution or a custom one, you should start with studying its UX, ease of use, functions, and other factors. It is better to make sure beforehand that the product is high-quality and up to date. The custom option will comply with the newest technologies, but COTS can cause problems. Although the engineers focus on software development itself and use modern technologies, there are many outdated solutions on the net. That’s why it is better to choose new projects. 

Support and maintenance 

It is a common practice that developers do not provide support if you are using an outdated version of their product. Thus, you will have to buy a huge software update, including backup of any data. Are you sure that you want to overpay for the support service? With an off the shelf solution you can learn from others’ mistakes and avoid many issues, but it is more profitable to pay more up front in the long term. Besides, the majority of engineers offer free support for their customers for a period of time or even forever. They help with the upgrades, check for errors, and help the clients with any issues. 

Time Expenses 

Many consumers think that an OTS solution does not require time since the only thing you need to do is install the product. Still, there is also the setting up of the software, which can take a lot of time. Such a solution isn’t made according to your business’ requirements, that’s why it is not that easy to make it convenient to use.   

Custom software will meet all your needs, but there is no doubt that you will have to wait for a while. Since such projects are made from scratch, it can take a couple of months. But the final product will be easier to use, and it will save your employees’ time. 

Money Expenses 

A ready-made product is reasonably priced because the costs of the finished software are shared by a large number of users. An off the shelf solution is initially cheaper, but its maintenance may cost you as much as the custom option in the long run. Besides, most COTS have monthly subscription fees to keep the costs down. Because of the endless payments, it can eventually run up to quite a sum.  

But do not underestimate the number of resources required for creating a bespoke solution. A professional team will design, test, build, and implement your application. An individual project is developed specifically for your business, that’s why your company will have to fully cover the expenses. A custom software is an expensive product, but it is more likely to last longer and make you feel unique.

Examples of custom and off the shelf application software

As in any other niche, it is difficult to understand theory without examples. That’s why we have compiled some examples of both software solution types.  

Tailor-made software 

Tailor-made software means exactly the same as custom or bespoke applications. There are many examples of custom solutions, since more and more entrepreneurs are realizing how important it is to have an individual approach. For example, all content management systems (CMS), customer relationship management services (CRM), e-commerce software solutions, or business process automation systems are customized.    

Let’s see some other examples: 

Off the shelf software examples 

COTS are popular products that you must have used at some point. The best-known examples are: 

Prosn and cons of custom software VS packaged software


Now you just need to decide which type of software to choose. Regardless of your doubts, we advise consulting professionals who will lend you a helping hand. DICEUS is a company that is ready to listen to all your wishes and put forward suggestions. Besides, we do not only develop custom software but also provide support. If your business is related to banking, healthcare, insurance, retail, logistics, or any other niches, do not hesitate to reach out to us! Our experienced team will do our best to satisfy your requirements. We also provide automated testing, software audit, system integration services, and many more. For more information, visit website.  

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