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Custom Software vs Off-the-Shelf in 2021: Advantages & Disadvantages


Custom Software vs Off-the-Shelf in 2021: Advantages & Disadvantages

You obviously love that software which is uniquely built and customized for your organization but is it really worth spending that amount of cost and time when there are plenty of standard off-the-shelf software available in the market at significant low compensations?

Also, the rise of subscription-based SaaS (Software as a service) in 2021 added more fuel to this debate making it really difficult especially for small businesses to choose their side.

The decision of building custom software or going with off-the-shelf is taken particularly after a complete analysis of the needs and goals of the business. So you need to evaluate the pros and cons of each option before cracking this hard nut and jumping to the conclusion.

Custom software vs off the shelf software usage trend graph

However, from the above analytical graph posted by Citrusbug, you can clearly see the trends as more and more businesses are investing in custom software development in 2021 and beyond. 

Here we’ve listed out all the top advantages and disadvantages of both - Custom software as well as off the shelf.

Advantages of custom software

1) Uniquely-Tailored for your Business

You’re in driving seat, custom software means customization in which you can add as many features as you want. Also, you can make it compatible across all your resources to gain maximum advantage.

2) Modifications

When growth curve of your business increases there’ll be a need of expanding and modify the existing processes which will also be reflected within software. That’s where possessing custom software is highly beneficial in which you can make changes according to your business demands.

You can also keep your custom software up-to-date with trending technologies to stay ahead in the competition and leverage the best possible experience.

3) Support

You cannot ignore the odds in this industry. Facing a problem and inability to find a quick solution is very common in using any type of software whether it is a customized or off-the-shelf one.

But since you have all the access to the software in case of customized one you can solve it on your own with the help of IT workforce or reach out to your customised software provider for a prompt solution.

4) Upper hand among Competitors

Along with technical advantages, custom software is a really powerful approach to breed apart from the cut-throat competition. Because this bespoke software is exclusively architected for your needs and not accessible to any of your competitors.

5) Long-Term solution & Ownership

If patience is the name of your game and you’re planning for a long-term solution rather than peeping out for quick cheaper options then you should definitely prefer custom software.

In the longer run, custom software always proves to be more advantageous considering the fact that you’re owner of your software and design it the way you want.

Disadvantages of Custom Software

1) Large Upfront Investment and Timeline

If you’re looking for a cheaper option and in a hurry to get started, building custom software may not be the apt solution in this case. It takes several weeks of development or even more and requires a large upfront investment as compared to off-the-shelf software.

2) Dependency on your Software Partner

If you don’t have your in-house IT team this is a huge hurdle for you to get past. Selecting the expert and trusted Software partner who can scale your business is really a hard nut to crack and also a very cautious step.

Because you need to approach them frequently in case of any difficulty or problem. And it will result into constant delays in operation if they aren’t responsive enough leaving you frustrated.

3) Communication

From initial development to final deployment, constant and transparent communication is always a key factor in creating thriving custom software. That is another hurdle you need to jump which will consume an ample amount of your time if you opt for a bespoke solution.

Advantages of Off-the-shelf Software

1) Fast Installation and Ready-to-use

This is one of the biggest advantages of ready-made standard software. You just need few clicks for installation and boom it's super-fast ready to use. So, if you’re bound by a timeline and seeking a quicker solution, this may be the right choice instead of the tedious task of building custom software.

2) Low cost

Consider this example- Building a house is always expensive than renting it. So, yes Off-the-shelf software is significantly cheaper than developing bespoke software. Now if you’re searching for the low-cost variables, purchasing off-the-shelf can be the right pick for you.

3) Test and Use

This is another great benefit of going with off-the-shelf. You can check the online reviews, feedbacks and even use these standard ready-made software for trial period. Go ahead if it suits you else look for other alternatives, as simple as that.

Disadvantages of Off-the-shelf Software

1) May not Meet all your needs

It’s true to a great extent as off-the-shelf software are developed keeping general features in mind and not specifically designed for your business. So purchasing this may not fill all the gaps and you have to compromise in some areas.

2) Inability of Modification

Let’s say you found a perfect standard ready-made software for instance. But when your business grows, you’ll obviously require modifications which shall not be offered by that software company.

3) Accessible to all of your competitors

Let that sink in for a while, you’re just another brick in the wall. All those standard off-the-shelf software are available to your competitors and it may land you in a rough patch to prevail.

4) Compatibility

This is another big disadvantage of standard software and can cause some serious trouble as it may not be compatible or supported across all your resources.


The year 2021 saw a huge rise of many emerging technologies such as Artificial intelligence, DevOps, Data Science, Blockchain, Internet of things and many more to enhance the digital journey of businesses.

So, whether you choose to develop exclusive custom software or off-the-shelf one, it is substantial for every business to perceive and plan their future processes in alliance with these compelling technologies.

Although, after knowing the advantages and disadvantages of each, you can identify the right one for your business.

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