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Custom Software Development vs. Commercial Software
Which is Right for Your Business?
If you are in the market for new software for your business, you are exploring many different options, searching for answers to a host of questions. What software solution is best for your business? What software can evolve as your business expands and grows? What type of security does your company require? Do you have existing software or do you need web service integration? Is your current software desktop-based? Are you in the market for web or mobile applications? Which investment is right for your business—commercial off the shelf (COTS) or custom developed software?
If you have the long-term growth of your business in mind, it may be time to consider seeking a custom software development company.
The Debate Between COTS Software and Custom Developed Software
The debate between COTS software and custom developed software is like choosing a store-bought suit vs. having a suit tailor-made to your body type. Think of your business as the body and the suit as the software. A store-bought suit may fit you around the span of your chest but is tight around your shoulders. Another suit may fit you perfectly around the shoulders but is loose everywhere else. A store-bought suit is created with a nonspecific frame in mind—generalized for anybody. It will never be a perfect fit, customized to you.
Instead, you go to a tailor. You have a consultation, complete with body measurements and desired preferences. Once the tailored suit is produced, you can recognize immediately — it fits your body type perfectly. Not only do you look great, but you also have improved mobility.
This analogy is much of the debate between COTS software and custom developed software. If you buy any all-purpose software, it might work for some aspects of your company, but may perform poorly in other respects. A custom software development company will be tailor-made to fit your company’s needs, integrations, and security requirements. It will encompass every aspect of your business, conforming to every requirement.
COTS software may offer a low-cost alternative in the early stages; however, over time COTS solutions cannot grow with your business to keep up with changing software requirements and functionality is compromised and eroded. In comparison, custom software solutions are designed on a case-by-case basis and each solution is created to address a unique organizational situation. With custom software solutions you can be sure when the business grows your software will not become outdated or obsolete. As you communicate the growing needs of your business to your custom software development company, software updates are applied. Custom software can be flexible and adaptive; it can scale with your company, always meeting the demands of a growing organization.
Custom developed software can integrate and operate with pre-existing software.
If your company has COTS software in place, custom software can seamlessly integrate with desktop applications, other out-of-the-box or custom enterprise software. You may find that combining two different out of the box software systems can create integration issues, causing data loss, security issues and a range of productivity problems.
Security and Cost
For cost-efficiency, commercial software uses the weakest amount of security protection allowable. This places your company in a position to become vulnerable to hacker attempts. With generic COTS software, there are many commonly-known exploits that hackers can use to infiltrate your business. Custom developed software reduces hacker attempts because hackers will not be familiar with your software—your custom software development company will be the only person aware of your software’s specifics.
For organizations that require higher security measures (medical offices or any system requiring HIPAA compliance), a custom software development company will create software with the maximum amount of security from the start. If you own COTS software and find that you need increased security, every upgrade comes at a cost. In the end, the cost of continued security upgrades may outweigh the initial startup cost of a custom developed software solution.
The principal argument for COTS software is pricing—it offers an initial investment at a lower cost compared to custom developed software. However, the expense of COTS software will increase if it is not a perfect fit for your business, your hardware, or the potential growth of the business.
Custom Developed Software Works with your Specific Hardware
A custom software development company will ensure product integration with your hardware, cutting down on additional expenses of needing new or more powerful hardware to run new applications. When using COTS software, your business must have the exact hardware specifications for the commercial software or you may experience hardware integration issues. Once again, this saves your business money in the long run, eliminating the need for additional hardware or IT maintenance.
Your Business will have the Edge over the Competition
If many of your competitors are using the same COTS software, you do not have a competitive advantage; everyone is using the same generic system. Using custom developed software would ensure a consistent edge over your competitors—you would have a product specifically designed to maximize efficiency. Additionally, a custom software development company could optimize your commercial software with custom software integration. This hybrid of COTS and custom software, unique to your business, would guarantee an advantage over your competition.
Custom Software Updates
When it comes to custom developed software, it is up to you, the business owner, to decide when you would like to update and change your software. Working with a custom software development company to routinely update your software is vital in today’s rapidly changing technological world.
If you are to buy COTS software, you are at the mercy of a large developer to receive the latest software updates, which could leave you trailing behind your competitors.
With COTS software you are confined to work within the limitations of the software. Custom developed software allows you to adhere to an agile development methodology. A custom software development company will have your needs in mind—they will work with you through the entire process and modify as requirement changes arise. You can have detailed conversations with your custom software development company to produce exact software solutions unique to your needs.
Your business needs to be optimized for efficiency if you want to maximize profits. Creating software using a custom software development company ensures this efficiency from the beginning. If your business is concerned about tight security, high productivity, consistent maintenance, and flawless integration, it may be time to explore custom software solutions.