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Open Source Vs Custom Development? The debate ends here!

Updated 21 day ago

If you're planning about getting a website or application developed, chances are you may have encountered these question yourself already -

  • Should I choose a mainstream open source platform, or should I prefer a Custom Website?
  • Should I incline towards building the website from scratch or use already existing core open source solution. Which is better? Which is flexible? Which is more cost-efficient? Which will cause less development pain?
  • Which will best transform my business ideas into software reality?
  • And, ultimately, which will generate the best ROI?

We’ll let the cat out of the bag now and inform you that there is no ultimate answer anywhere in this post.

The truth is, there are advantages and benefits associated to both of them - depending on the requirements and system needed, and thus there's no categorical answer to which is ‘best’.

Constructing a web application from scratch is a great way to achieve all the bells and whistles you need just the way you desire them. Custom built solutions are very accurate. You choose the look-and-feel, the features, the functionality, the tool-set, the work flow mechanisms, the user participation, administrative interface, the reports and the integration's with 3rd party software, such as ERP tools, marketing optimization tools and the likes. However, all that mouldability comes with a cost.

Custom Application development has been a popular choice for many companies. However with the emergence of open-source applications, software development has seen a resurgent paradigm shift. In fact, Open source is one of the best thing that ever happened to entrepreneurs and small enterprises.

Open-source solutions can be customized to meet business needs in a much faster and robust manner. Even if you have to customize open source, you’re still getting tens of thousands of hours of development for free!


So, which platform is right for you?

On the surface, it might seem appealing to say, “the FREE one.” Not so fast! Take it slow. There are pros and cons of each platform to consider. Let's analyze them, and doing so will allow you to make a decision that is right for you, your business, your market and your audience.

Pros of Open Source Applications:​

  • Open source keeps costs down: When you go open source way you save great chunk of purchase price of the software itself, the exorbitant cost of mandatory virus protection, support charges, ongoing upgrade expenses and costs associated with being locked in.
  • Extensive set of pre-built features: Open source systems comes up with standardized packages that have a wide range of core features pre-built within the application. Once installed, the system is up and running.
  • Larger Developer Base: because these platforms are generally worked after and contributed to by many developers resulting in  range of ‘out of the box’ feature-set.
  • Community Support: The applications are used by millions of users, so what ever problem you have faced, has been resolved by someone earlier and solutions are available from whole wide world.
  • Security: As the platform is contributed to by many developers and SMEs, security enhancements/updates are frequently released to ensure the platform is stable, durable and secure.
  • Customization: Business users can take a piece of open source software and tailor it to suit their needs. Since the code is open, it's simply a matter of modifying it to add the functionality they want. Don't try that with proprietary software!
  • Extensions or plugins or addons: Open Source applications allows you to explore exhaustive features and functions using plugins/add-ons provided by numerous developers who believe in sharing their wealth with world. Freedom! Glorious freedom.
  • Migration: if you made the decision to change platforms you should have no problem accessing the data and performing a migration between two systems without completely starting from a blank page.
  • Upgrades: Timely upgrades to keep in pace with bleeding-edge technological changes and increasing user demand. 
  • Hosting: as the platforms are so common, you will have diverse options in terms of where you choose to host the website.​

Cons of Open Source Applications:​

  • Installations: Though the software is available for free download, you will have to pay the developer(s) for installations and basic configurations. Ka-ching!
  • Premium Plugins:There are many free plugins, but it’s very likely that you will have to purchase some as well, Ka-ching!
  • Compatibility Issues: Sometimes the plugin doesn't work they way its intended. Worse still, it may break some key functionality. Reworking and stabilizing the system will bite you some money. Ka-ching!
  • Not All Platforms Are The Same: Not all open-source solutions are created equal, and not all are suitable solutions for each need. So you may have to break your head and tailor out that missing stuff to fulfill the need. Ka-ching!
  • Custom Builds May Cost More: Due to the customization mentioned above, extra costs may be required upfront for the efforts and development needed to meld the open-sourced package into the solution that you require. Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Ka-ching!​

Let’s now move on to the other side of picture and check how well custom development makes an offer!

Pros of Custom Development Applications:

  • Bespoke features: The main idea of a custom web application is to have easy implementation of unique tailor-made features specific to the business and process flows.
  • User friendliness: The system users or admins get a better tool-set, especially when using the back end features as they are shaped to specific needs. The developers can organize the system so that the user of the system will get a clean and simple interface to manage or use the website.
  • Clean code: Developers and architects can keep both the back-end and front-end code clean and secure. As the developers have full control of the HTML output, the page rendered is polished and loads faster on browsers.
  • Specialist Support Team: as a single company/vendor is generally responsible for the development and maintenance of a proprietary solution, the employees would be well trained and experts of their custom developed software.
  • Future additions: If the base of the application is robust, then implementing custom features in the future isn’t too difficult. Also if the system requirements are well analysed and structured, developers can even cater for future additions well in advance, whilst building the base.
  • Secure: Custom developed applications are more secure and reduce the chances of an attack. As the features developed are done so for a specific small group of clients, they are not targeted as much and not victim of viruses being embedded unintentionally in the website code. Their is possibility Of less Spam and it is less open for vulnerabilities.

Cons of Custom Development Applications:

  • Expensive initially: No ready made features, No built-in functionality. This means, custom developments cost more as it takes more time to build the basics of the application.It also means more time and cost. Any enhancements to the original specification may cost more.
  • Trusting your agency: As a custom built web application depends purely on the vendor or agency building it, the client has to keep the trust alive with the agency.
  • Scalability: With shackled and locked-in applications, the biggest problem is often when you wish to improve the functionality or add additional components to an existing website set-up, and this can often be a difficult aspect with custom developed systems.
  • Application Handcuffing & Data Portability: As we talk about a proprietary solution, a point to note is migrating data can be tricky, if not impossible, with a private custom build solution.
  • Lackluster Platforms: If you are looking for a standard solution that is durable, most likely you won’t be able to beat a product in same line from open source market as it will have a dedicated team that is consistently improving the system and enhancing features. A custom application that is worked on part-time simply won’t keep up.

Conclusion :

After considering these points, you will realize that no matter which way you go: custom or open source, building a web site is never without bumps along the way. Once you see how things behave it is very much likely you will want adjustments.

Both systems have a fit dependent on your need and scope boundaries, and thus there's no right or wrong approach of selecting which platform to choose when building a web system or application. This should be purely based on the individual project requirements. But you also will have to keep in mind factors such as cost, time, future needs, technology drift, security, maintainability and usability when choosing the appropriate platform.

If you’ve made it this far and still need help making that best optimal choice, don’t hesitate to fire us a message , we’d be happy to assist you find the right direction and make a recommendation. Without any reservations!

Reach out to us today at +1 978-223-2212 to learn more about our work standards and project approach and how to choose the best platform for your firm.