What is Off-the-Shelf Software? With Examples


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Toluwani Folayan

May 02, 2023

What is Off-the-Shelf Software? With Examples


Off-the-shelf software can be defined as a comprehensive solution that people can use instantly. They comprise ready-made software pieces designed for various users and business sectors. Numerous users have also established these tools as effective and founded on best practices.

As a business owner, deciding between ready-made software pieces (off-the-shelf software) or custom (bespoke software development) can sometimes be challenging. However, your determining factor should be your availability of resources and time. For example, custom software development may not be the best route if you want to save money. A better alternative would be off-the-shelf software.

This article will discuss extensively what off-the-shelf software is, its advantages, disadvantages, and examples to make it easy for you to understand what the solution entails. We will also clearly differentiate between off-the-shelf software and custom software.



What is off-the-shelf software?  

Advantages and Disadvantages of off-the-shelf Software  

Examples of off-the-shelf software  

What is the difference between off-the-shelf and custom software?  

What is off-the-shelf software?  

Off-the-shelf software refers to standardised programs that are mass-produced, easily accessible to the public, and ready for use immediately. They give a wide range of customers a comprehensive set of features that help operations run more smoothly.

Since they are not explicitly tailored but rather universal and made for widespread business use, they can typically be integrated with existing systems without complex configurations.

Off-the-shelf software can also be called Commercial Off-the-Shelf Software, abbreviated as COTS. This is because they often allow for basic customisation. However,  you cannot completely conform to all specifications.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Off-the-Shelf Software  

Off-the-shelf software offers users low-cost implementation, easy operation, flexibility, customisation and many other benefits. However, these shelf solutions also have disadvantages that may discourage people who want to use them.

First, we start with the advantages of commercial software.

Advantages of COTS  

1. Budget-friendly short-term solution

Off-the-shelf software is generally less expensive if we only consider the purchase price. This is because as many copies of it are sold, the expenses are divided among many customers. But over time, costs like recurring subscription fees, license and update fees, as well as the price of extra support from other vendors, tend to add up and can make the software more expensive in some instances.

In addition, COTS has flexible payment options and free trial options that make these shelf solutions cost-effective. You only pay to use the site; the number of users determines the fee.


2. Customisation

Users can adapt many commercial software products to their specific requirements. This could require merging with other software services and products or simply optimising the software's current features and capabilities. However, regardless of your customisation, the job invariably necessitates a basic comprehension of software development principles and product sector expertise.


3. Quick Setup

There is no waiting time because the product has already been created, released, and made available for purchase. So instead, you can download your file, install it, and use the software to resolve your issues.

Additionally, almost all commercial software comes with comprehensive user manuals, negating the need for workers to receive technical training.

Finally, the vendors of off-the-shelf software not only offer software that has already been tried and tested by professionals, but they also offer frequent updates to ensure the software regularly adapts to the expanding requirements of businesses. Even better, off-the-shelf software complies with privacy laws and industry norms and is well-documented, certified, and compliant. This lets you focus on using it rather than creating and maintaining the program.

4. Excellent technical support

Commercial software is designed for a broad population, so different users may experience the same problems. In other words, it will be uncommon to experience program issues that are specific to you. As a result, many great tools are available to assist you in using the product, such as a FAQ page on the developer's website or support groups. In addition, since the developer's support staff participates in conversations to influence customer opinion of their product, you can also be sure they are aware of any issues you may encounter.


5. Regular updates

Initial software versions will always contain a few bugs (errors), as they are a necessary component of the software development process. Hence,  most software development companies take the user experience carefully, frequently update the user interface and add features in response to user feedback and similar issues.

6. Feature-Packed

Off-the-shelf software is developed to appeal to as many customers as feasible. As a result, these software solutions are brimming with functions catering to a broad audience's requirements.

Therefore, if you buy software that addresses several issues, you will have a single item that can accommodate your needs regardless of their occurrence.

You can buy multipurpose, feature-rich off-the-shelf solutions because developers strive to meet the requirements of a more broad user audience.



Disadvantages of COTS   

1. Increased costs

Off-the-shelf products are initially less expensive, but as more users are connected, licenses are purchased, and service fees are continually paid, their total costs can increase over time.

Also, the software developers may issue some upgrades on a more expensive tier than you are prepared to pay for if you purchase a cheap subscription package. Therefore, you will be forced to spend more if the newly released upgrade includes a function your company needs.


2. Inability to meet specific demands

It is possible to discover suddenly that the app you selected is inappropriate for the company, particularly during rapid development. Furthermore, even though it might be less expensive than a custom solution, it may end up half as beneficial or efficient because you will likely lose the money you initially saved.

Individual demands are often overlooked to please the general public because commercial software is designed to be used by the greatest number of customers.

So your company might have a very particular need not satisfied by commercial software. Hence, you might have to use several software programs to complete the work, which is time-consuming compared to just one.

3. Complete dependency on the software provider

The vendor may update and modify the shelf solution whenever they see fit without consulting your business development initiatives. These upgrades may negatively impact your systems or business. Additionally, in the event of financial difficulties, the software developer will cease maintaining the application, in which case you will need to find a different vendor.

4. Less Control

You do not influence the software development company's modifications because you did not pay to develop the software. So, for instance, if they remove a feature or functionality that is essential to your company processes, you cannot control the software developers or tell them to add it back.


11 Examples of Off-the-Shelf Software   

Since off-the-shelf software solutions are created for a wide range of users, they are always differentiated by their exceptional usability and almost total accessibility. Some of these examples, with their exceptional ease of use (but not limited to), include:

1. Editor programs- examples include Photoshop, Lightroom, Facetune

2. Mail services- examples include Gmail, Outlook, Zohomail

3. Media players- examples are VLC, Windows Media player

4. Operating systems- examples are Windows, Mac

5. Antiviruses programs- examples are Kaspersky, Norton

6. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions- Examples are Salesforce CRM, Zoho CRM, Hubspot CRM

7. Task management software- Examples are Trello, ClickUp

8. Graphic design applications- Figma, Canva, Illustrator

9. Enterprise Resource planning (ERP) software- SAP ERP by Oracle

10. Entertainment or stress relief platforms-  FIFA, Candy Crush, Call of Duty

11. Accounting applications- Tally, Zoho


What is the difference between off-the-shelf and custom software?  

The primary difference between off-the-shelf and custom software is that Off-the-shelf software is widely accessible and not customised. In contrast, custom software is made specifically for the company and under the company's business method.



Off-the-shelf software refers to ready-made pieces that your company can quickly adapt to. It is not suitable for businesses with specific needs. Hence, it is not the best option for everyone. While it provides convenience at a low cost, flexibility and the chance to gain an edge over your competition - who will all be using the same product - it can be compromised.

However, you can avoid this by carefully considering custom development companies. Therefore, custom software is your best option if you want a solution customised to your needs and high-performing.

Wazobia Technologies is a Software Development Agency that provides intelligent solutions in most modern software technologies, such as DevOps, Cloud, Resource augmentation, and more. In addition, all our operations are scalable and sustainable, so you can continuously add features and upgrade as required.

You also do not need to worry about costs because each project is tailored to fit the specific needs of each business and meet any budget.








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