Custom Software Apps & SharePoint Consulting

Custom Software vs Off-the-Shelf Software: How to Choose Best For You

In today’s digitized business environment, applications and software are integral to any organization. The right software makes processes easier, more efficient, and cost-effective. One of the biggest questions that arise when a company is looking for special software is whether to order a custom program or an off shelf-one.

At Entrance Consulting, we recommend that you understand both options and their advantages, weaknesses, and most essential features, so you pick the right software. This blog sheds some light on the differences between custom and off-the-shelf software and the factors that can help you make the right choice. 

What Is Off-the-Shelf Software?

Off-the-Shelf software is a ready-made solution that is mass-produced and introduced to a wide variety of businesses and individual consumers. Since it is a product developed for the mass market, it offers more features than a custom solution to respond to the needs of as many users as possible. However, it doesn’t usually meet the unique needs of a business.

What Is Custom Software?

Custom software is a tailored-cut software design to meet the unique needs of an organization. During the development of this software, your business requirements, demands, needs, and future growth are considered. It comes with features that perfectly fit your business’s personality to ensure you and your team can benefit from using all of the tools.

Custom Software vs. Off-the-Shelf Software: Pros and Cons

Now that you understand the primary differences between the two types of software, it is crucial to highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each, so you choose your perfect fit:

Off-the-Shelf Software Pros 

  • Cheaper: Off the shelf software is moderately priced and more affordable than custom-built software due to their mass production
  • Quick installation and use: A ready-made software is designed for quick installation and use 
  • Reference point: It comes with a broad range of users and guides that you can reference before buying one. This helps you determine its suitability for your business.
  • Community support: Since several other businesses use the software, you can Google or ask others for help when dealing with a problematic bug. With custom software, you must get in touch with the maintenance team to help you solve issues.
  • Lower training costs: To maximize the benefits of software, you must train the staff on the ins and outs of the software. Ready-to-use products often come with training materials that enable each team member to get familiar with the software on their own. This helps save a lot of learning time and costs.

Off-the-Shelf Software Cons

  • Will not meet all business needs: Although off-the-shelf software is a bit cheaper than a custom solution, it often offers half the capabilities and efficiency to meet unique business needs.
  • Rigid and challenging to modify: As your business grows, you need to make critical changes and upgrades to accommodate the changes. Unfortunately, an off the shelf solution is rigid and difficult to modify
  • Compatibility issues: There is a high chance that at some point, your business operating systems, devices, and other existing software will clash with a packaged solution at the base level. This makes it unusable or inefficient and therefore useless.
  • Lack of competitive edge: By choosing off-the-shelf software, you go with a solution that is widely available for all your competitors. This means you won’t get a chance to implement innovative business ideas that give you a competitive advantage over your rivals.

Custom Software Pros

  • Perfect solution for your business: Since it is built specifically for the unique challenges of your situation, a custom solution provides the ideal solution for your problem
  • Wider usage: A custom product can be designed to meet each requirement that you outline in the evaluation phase 
  • Easily modified and expanded: Custom software can be modified and expanded easily to keep pace with changing business needs. The software offers a wide range of possibilities and options to modify and customize it so you get what your business truly wants.
  • No license fees: Custom product provides ownership, meaning you don’t pay extra for a license fee.
  • Scalability: A custom solution offers scalability to accommodate current demands and requirements while anticipating a company’s future needs. 
  • Offers competitive advantage: Since it is something that your rivals don’t have, your custom solution is well designed for you, thus helping you get ahead of your competition.

Custom Software Cons

  • Costlier: Although it offers more advantages, a custom solution will definitely cost you more than an off-the-shelf product
  • Longer development time: A custom software solution may take several months to develop. If you need a quick fix, a custom software solution may not be for you.
  • Overdependence on custom software providers: A custom solution could leave you at the mercy of the custom software provider. If they were to shut down their business or become unavailable for some reason, your business would be significantly inconvenienced.

Custom Software vs. Off-the-Shelf Software: Factors to Consider

The following are some of the factors to consider when choosing software:


Your business could be small now, but it will likely grow in a few years. When reviewing software, a critical thing to consider is whether or not the software has the functionality and bandwidth to increase in size. Great software solutions should offer long-term benefits rather than just quick solutions.


Each business is unique with special needs and requirements. It is crucial that you find software that can be customized to suit your company’s needs. The ideal product should be flexible enough to add features you need and remove those you don’t.


With a rising wave of cybersecurity breaches, security is one of the most significant considerations to keep in mind when reviewing software. Go for a product that offers the best possible security to ensure both your data and that of your customers is safe.

Customer support

No software is free from bugs. That is why you need to choose a company that offers real-time ongoing tech support. Customer support is needed when learning about the new product and when recovering business data should anything be lost.

Ongoing maintenance requirements

Another critical thing to consider is the ongoing maintenance of the software. Software isn’t static, and the product you purchase will likely require ongoing maintenance and fees with each new version that is being released.

Custom or Off-the-Shelf Software?

The choice between custom software and an off-the-shelf solution requires a lot of thought. When choosing between the two options, you must look at long-term gains over quick wins. At Entrance Consulting, we believe custom software offers more benefits in the long run than an off-the-shelf solution. 

If you need a custom software solution built to care for your current and future business needs, don’t hesitate to contact us today. The highly experienced software developer from Entrance Consulting provides tailor-made software to take your business to the next level. Contact us today to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What factors should be considered when deciding between off-the-shelf software and custom software?

When deciding between off-the-shelf software and custom software, important factors to consider include:

  • Business needs and requirements
  • Budget and cost considerations
  • Time constraints and urgency of implementation
  • Scalability and future growth potential
  • Customization options
  • Competitive advantage
  • Support and maintenance requirements

How does off-the-shelf software compare to custom software in terms of scalability and future business growth?

Off-the-shelf software may have limitations in scalability and adapting to future business growth, as it is designed for a broader market. Custom software, on the other hand, can be tailored to accommodate specific scalability requirements and future business needs.

What are the potential risks associated with off-the-shelf software in terms of compatibility with existing systems and devices?

Off-the-shelf software may pose compatibility risks if it clashes with existing operating systems, devices, or other software used in the business. This can result in usability issues or inefficiencies.

How does custom software provide a more secure solution compared to off-the-shelf software?

Custom software can be developed with specific security measures to address the unique needs of a business, reducing the risk of vulnerabilities or breaches. Off-the-shelf software may not offer the same level of tailored security features.

Can off-the-shelf software be customized to some extent, or is it limited to its predefined features?

Off-the-shelf software can often be customized to a certain extent through configurations and settings. However, customization is limited to the predefined features and functionalities offered by the software, and significant modifications may not be possible.

What level of customer support can be expected when using off-the-shelf software versus custom software?

Off-the-shelf software typically provides general customer support through documentation, user guides, and community forums. Custom software development often includes dedicated customer support from the development team to address specific issues and requirements.

How does the total cost of ownership compare between off-the-shelf software and custom software in the long term?

The total cost of ownership for off-the-shelf software tends to be lower initially due to the absence of custom development costs. However, custom software can offer long-term cost savings as there are no recurring license fees, and it can be tailored to fit the business’s specific needs, potentially reducing maintenance and training costs.

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