The Complete Advantages and Disadvantages of Off the Shelf Software

Software Development | 0 comments | by Erin Quilliam

Previously, I investigated the advantages and disadvantages of bespoke software in as much honesty and detail as possible.

Today, I’ll be giving commercial software solutions the same treatment and breaking down the advantages and disadvantages of off the shelf software.

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of off the shelf software and comparing it to bespoke software will help you understand which software solution is right for you and your business.

This comparison is vital, as the software you use is often the backbone of your business. Without it, you simply couldn’t function. Which means it is vital to find the solution that meets your needs.

What is Off the Shelf Software-minWhat is Off the Shelf Software?

Off the Shelf Software, also called commercial software, is any kind of software solution that has been developed for the mass market.

It is a ready-made product that you can purchase.

This is in direct contrast to bespoke software, which is where the solution is custom-made for you.

Click here to find out more about how bespoke and off the shelf software compares.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Off the Shelf Software-minThe Advantages and Disadvantages of Off the Shelf Software

The Advantages of Off the Shelf SoftwareThe Disadvantages of Off the Shelf Software
  • Initially the cheaper option
  • Quick to implement
  • Can access reviews and advice from existing users 
  • There are pre-existing solutions
  • Updates usually included
  • Can offer you more functionality than you need 
  • Some have support included (but not all so remember to check)
  • Owned by someone else, so they foot the development/upgrade costs
  • Can be more expensive over time
  • Can be impossible or inflexible to change should you need it
  • You have no control 
  • May not be supported after time 
  • Upgrades can cost extra 
  • Too many features and functions 
  • Too few features and functions
  • May have integration issues 
  • Might not fit your work process

The Advantages of Off the Shelf Software-minThe Advantages of Off the Shelf Software

Initially the Cheaper Option

An off the shelf product is usually the cheapest way to purchase a new software solution.

This is because it is a pre-made product created for the mass-market. As it has already been developed and is purchased multiple times, the cost is therefore reduced as it is spread over many users.

Whereas bespoke software costs significantly more as the product is developed for the individual customer. It must be built from scratch, so the cost is high to cover the time and expertise taken in the development of the product.

Quick to Implement

Much like the above, this advantage comes from the fact the solution has already been developed. Because it is a pre-existing product, all you have to do is buy it and install it. You don’t have to wait for it to be created as you would with a bespoke solution.

In fact, the biggest wait time you will have is probably the time spent searching for the right solution that fulfils all of your requirements.

You Can Access Reviews and Advice from Existing Users

Because the product already exists, so do users.

And while the software is being used by other people, it means that you can get an understanding of how they are using the product and how they are finding it.

If there are common bugs these will be mentioned, and usually, a solution will exist in a forum. This means that if you encounter a problem you might find that it is easy to resolve yourself.

Additionally, the product being in use means that you can read the reviews from other users, giving you an insight into what it’s like to be working with the product day-to-day and if people find the product to be reliable, and good value for the money.

You Can Try Before You Buy

Again, this advantage stems from the fact that commercial software is pre-developed. This means that there is (usually) the ability to try before you buy.

Most solutions offer some form of trial, either free or discounted, making it easy to test the product for yourself and see how it fits in with your work process.

There are Pre-Existing Solutions

In most cases, you will find that there is pre-existing support available for software products. This could be anything from an FAQ list on their site, a user forum, or just a Q&A thread on Reddit.

As people are already using the solution, they and the vendor will be aware of some bugs or common issues and would have provided the solution. In this case, you can go into working with the software already informed about what to do in certain situations and the reassurance that you can find help when you need it.

Updates are Included

Due to the demands on off the shelf software, regular updates will need to be carried out.

These can range from general maintenance of the product to bug fixes, and even implementing new features.

Because the product is owned by a vendor, it’s their job to manage and carry out these updates. And as a user, you get to reap the rewards of these updates without lifting a finger or paying extra. It’s all part and parcel of the product you bought and it’s lifecycle.

Could Offer You More Features

As commercial software is made for the mass market, it has to be created with the functionality in place to please as many people as possible.

This means that when you take on an off the shelf solution, you could find that the product can do everything you need it to and more.

You can have too much of a good thing though, and equally, the software has every chance it might be missing features you want. This makes it important to do your research and make sure the solution is capable of meeting your needs.

Some Sort of Support will be Available

When you buy any software solution, be it commercial or bespoke, you should be offered some sort of support. With commercial software, this could be anywhere from online live chat, to email, or telephone communications.

Some products may limit support depending on the package you have purchased. For example, a basic product offers email and live chat, whereas the more expensive options include 24/7 calls and a