Custom Application development has been a popular choice for many companies. However with the advent of open-source applications, software development has seen a paradigm shift. Open-source solutions can be customized to meet business needs in a much quicker and robust manner. This article compares the approach to do a factual comparison of both approaches. Finally it concludes the business cases where former makes more business sense and vice versa. Thus after reading this article you would be able to make informed decision on when to go for which alternative.

Evaluating Opensource applications before going for Custom Application Development

Let us look at various aspects of custom app development versus alternative to build on top of Open Source Platforms.

Reason why people opt for Custom Application Development

Your business works in a predefined manner and you would want to have an absolute control on the way the application should work and look like. In short organization went for bespoke development when they wanted a solution to 100% match their expectation from the application. Hence it was a kind of “No compromise no adjustments and 100% fit” rationale. The popular technology choices for custom application development are Java and PHP. The cost of ownership depended on the functionality, amount of flexibility that was needed and business validation to be incorporated. As it was built from scratch there was a 3-6 months period after go-live where the application would mature. In many cases the above cost summed to be less than cost of a commercial licensed solution. This led to many small and medium businesses going for custom development.

The Open source Alternative

Open source applications provided a cost effective manner in which applications were developed. Instead of building the application from scratch you can find a ready platform which you can use and tweak as per your business needs. The platform is already tested and hence you save time and money. It also leads to ongoing support from the community.You may want to hire an open source consultant in-case you want a professional help. Also read – Top 5 Open Source applications of all time.

The below image brings out the advantages of open-source over custom application development.

comparison open source versus custom development

When to go for Custom Development?

If you don’t find any open source application which can meet your requirements and you are convinced that you would not be able to adapt your business process as per the closest possible alternative, you should go for custom development. This is true for truly niche segment for which there are no available solutions.

What does it mean for Small Business Owners

Small business owners are the one who are on the tightest budgets. They want to ensure maximum profitability at reduced cost of ownership. Moreover they don’t have time and patience to get custom development done since they have to manage business as well. Bug-fixing and other typical software phases are perceived as effort consuming. For these cases open source platforms are best suited. Since the application is mature and offers customization opportunities with lesser effort and considerably lower bugs ratio.

Where and How to get started

After documenting your requirements and knowing your expectation, you can look at sourceforge, the open source application directory. You would be amazed to find solutions which already exist. You may want to limit your search to those solutions which have larger community size and are at least in 3rd version. Hence you would assure a solution which has already been tried and tested before as well as a decent support for yourself. If you find 70-80 % match, you may want to post your requirements on the associated forums and relevant developers will contact you. Take your time in shortlisting and avoid the temptation to go ahead with lowest cost bidder. Chose a developer who can communicate and understand your requirements so that you can have a smooth project implementation.