How Much Does It Cost To Maintain Custom Software?

The average software development cost in the U.S. ranges from as little as $3,000 to as much as $120,000.

The expenses don’t stop there, though. You also need to think about the cost of maintaining your software.

Have you been confused about the cost of maintaining your business’s custom-built software? If so, keep reading. This guide breaks down everything you need to know.

Why Regular Maintenance Matters

You’ve dedicated time and money to creating custom-built software for your business. Why wouldn’t you want to make sure it continues to function properly after it’s launched?

Regular software maintenance is a must if you want to set your business up for long-term success. Listed below are some of the top reasons why maintenance matters:

Save Money

When you first learn about the cost of maintaining custom software, you might question the validity of this benefit. How is it possible to save money when you have to invest a certain amount each month or year in software maintenance?

Think about it this way. Which is likely to be more expensive: The cost of maintenance or the cost of repairs?

In most cases, repairs are going to be more expensive.

You can save more money in the long run if you make regular maintenance a priority, rather than waiting until something goes wrong with your software. 

Save Time

You can also save a lot of time (and money, for that matter, because time equals money in all types of businesses) by investing in regular software maintenance.

Again, let’s use the repair analogy. Which is likely to take more time: Regularly scheduled maintenance, or a major repair that needs to be fixed because you put off maintaining your product?

In most cases, the repair is going to take more time to complete.

This means your software will be inaccessible to your team and/or customers for a longer period of time, which eats into the productivity and/or satisfaction with your business.   

Prepare for Crises

As a business owner, you know that when you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.

If you haven’t factored regular software maintenance into your company’s calendar — and if you haven’t included it in your budget — you’re potentially creating a lot of problems for yourself, your team, and your clients should a crisis take place.

Imagine a security breach occurred, for example, because you didn’t make it a priority to maintain your software.

Would you be able to handle the financial and PR-related repercussions of that event? Wouldn’t it be better to prepare for the worst and do everything you can to prevent a crisis from happening?   

Maintain Continuity

Regular software maintenance ensures the continuity of your product. If you’ve invested a lot of time and money into creating custom software, you likely want to do everything you can to ensure it survives.

It doesn’t matter if your server goes down or you have a security breach. You want your software to last, don’t you?

One of the best ways to do this is to make sure your software and all of your company’s IT systems are functioning properly. If you don’t do this, you may lose previous work or valuable data and compromise your product’s security.

Peace of Mind

Finally, speaking of security, we can’t emphasize enough the value of peace of mind.

Busy professionals like you almost always have a ton of different plates in the air at once. Because of this, you don’t have time to be worrying about whether or not your software is secure, functioning properly, etc. 

When you invest in and schedule regular software maintenance, you can rest easy knowing your product is taken care of. This, in turn, frees you up to focus on other important aspects of running your business, managing your team, and making sure your company is set up for long-term growth.

Types of Software Maintenance

Keep in mind that you’ll need to invest in multiple types of software maintenance to keep your software working properly, including these 4: 

Corrective Maintenance

Corrective maintenance involves fixing issues that are presenting themselves in your software. 

Of course, the testing phase of software development is meant to catch as many issues as possible. Sometimes, things slip through the cracks, though, and don’t present themselves until people start using the product.

Corrective maintenance is meant to address error and bug reports submitted by users. It’s the most common and frequently conducted form of software maintenance.

This type of maintenance shouldn’t be put off, either, no matter how busy you are or how tight your budget is. The sooner you address bugs and error reports, the less likely they are to escalate and the better off your software and your company will be.

Adaptive Maintenance

Adaptive maintenance involves updating your software so that it meets the current technological standards.

It doesn’t matter how advanced your software is when you first launch it. The tech world is always evolving, and you’ll need to schedule regular adaptive maintenance to keep your product up to date. Otherwise, you’ll fall behind your competitors and risk losing customers. 

Remember, people want to use the product that offers the greatest amount of convenience and the greatest number of features. Without regular adaptive maintenance, you won’t be able to offer this product.

Enhancing Maintenance

Enhancing maintenance is similar in some ways to adaptive maintenance. However, it focuses on perfecting a software product from both a business perspective and a user perspective. 

Enhancing maintenance involves adding or removing certain features, as well as design elements, based on feedback the company receives from users and stakeholders.

This type of maintenance is more subjective than adaptive maintenance (which is based on the latest industry standards). However, it still plays a key role in making sure you’re providing the highest quality product to your customers and setting your business up for the best results.

Preventative Maintenance 

As the name suggests, preventative maintenance is all about preventing issues from occurring in the future.

The preventative maintenance process involves making changes, adaptations, and upgrades to improve software security and prevent potential challenges for users. However, it also includes changes and updates that can make it easier for your company to scale the software moving forward and manage it as your company grows.

Factors That Influence Software Maintenance Costs

In the same way that the cost of software development can fluctuate, so can the cost of software maintenance. Some businesses spend as much money on maintenance as they did on the actual app — and others spend even more.

Here are some of the factors that can influence the cost of maintaining your software:

Software Age

How old is your software? How long has it been since you first launched it? In general, the older your software is, the more expensive it will be to maintain.

One reason for this has to do with hardware. If your software was designed to work for older hardware — which is usually slower, has less memory, and has less storage capacity — your software will have a hard time keeping up as new types of hardware come along. 

Consider, too, the number of tech advancements that have taken place since your software was first launched. At a certain point, it may cost more money to continue keeping up with these advancements than it does to retire your software and start over with a new product.

Software Architecture

To a certain extent, software products can be modified and updated to meet your customers’ ever-changing needs and preferences. Eventually, though, your product won’t be able to handle certain modifications.

If your software isn’t designed to accommodate future changes and updates, it may be very expensive — or potentially impossible — to pay for anything beyond corrective maintenance.

External Dependencies

Some software programs are built to be dependent on an external environment (cloud servers, physical servers, etc.).

As is the case with software architecture, a software product’s dependencies also influence its maintenance costs. This is particularly true if you switch from one type of dependency to another — such as switching from a physical server to a cloud server.

Programming Language and Style

Your software’s programming language and style contribute to the maintenance cost, too.

If your developers used a more complex programming language or style when creating it, it will cost more money to keep it working properly. After all, complex programming requires more skill to maintain, and not all engineers will have the experience or training necessary to handle it. 

Software Engineers

You’ll also need to factor in the software engineers who are going to handle your maintenance for you.

In a perfect world, you would reach out to the same engineers who built your software to help you maintain it. Sometimes, though, this isn’t an option.

In these cases, you’ll need to hire new engineers to assist you, and you’ll need to consider their rates, reputation, and schedule.

For example, if you’re working with a very popular development team with a large client base, you may have to pay more for their services than someone who is just barely getting their business off the ground.

Keep in mind that it can be worth it to spend extra. This is especially true if it means working with a skilled developer who can help you get your software up to par and yield better long-term results.

API Subscriptions

API is short for Application Programming Interface. An API allows your software to communicate with other programs — even if you don’t know exactly how they work or how they’re implemented.

APIs simplify app and software development and can help you save time and money. However, the use of APIs can also impact the cost of software maintenance.

If you’re using an API that is not well-developed, for example, your software engineers may run into trouble when trying to update your app. On the other hand, if your software engineers are familiar with certain APIs, they may find it easier to maintain your app and handle required updates or changes.

Ongoing Development and Updates

When considering the cost of software maintenance, it’s important to note, too, that this is an ongoing process.

You can’t always predict how your industry is going to change, nor can you predict how standards in the tech world will change over time. This is why it’s important to continually make room in your budget for software maintenance and updates.

If you have a budget dedicated to maintaining your product, you’ll be better equipped to keep it going long-term and make sure it remains as functional as possible. 

How to Reduce Software Maintenance Costs

There’s no way to completely eliminate software maintenance costs — nor should you try to. However, you can take some steps to minimize these expenses, including the following:

Invest in Quality Development

If you’re still in the software development stage, take your time when choosing a development team.

Look for professionals who have a good reputation and have worked with businesses like yours in the past. Even if development costs more upfront, it will help to minimize the number of challenges you run into moving forward — and minimize the amount of money you have to spend fixing issues.  

Use Automatic Monitoring

Automatic, 24-7 monitoring tools can be very beneficial when it comes to catching errors or other issues that can impact your software maintenance costs.

If you’re not sure how to do this, talk to your development team. Find out if they have any recommendations for products that can help you keep track of your software at all times.

Similar to the point made above about investing in quality development, paying for automatic monitoring might seem expensive at first. However, it can help you save money in the long run.

Keep Track of Error Reports and Customer Complaints

Whenever you receive an error report or a customer complaint, take it seriously and work to address the problem as quickly as possible.

Don’t brush off these complaints or assume that they’re just one-offs. If you respond as soon as you can, you’ll prevent future issues from happening. You’ll also save money by warding off potentially expensive, widespread challenges.

Keep Track of Vendor Acquisitions

It’s not uncommon for one company to be acquired by another, especially in the software development world.

Keeping track of vendor acquisitions also makes it easier for you to keep track of potential price changes or package options available. This, in turn, helps you to balance your budget and avoid getting hit with surprise charges later. 

Avoid Unnecessary Updates

An important part of maintaining your software product is finding balance when it comes to updating your product.

Of course, you want your product to be up to date, and you want to keep up with your competitors. At the same time, though, if you’re looking to minimize maintenance costs as much as possible, you should do your best to avoid unnecessary updates that don’t provide value to your clients or move your business in the right direction.

Always ask yourself whether or not a change is necessary before investing in it. You’ll be surprised at how much money you can save long-term when you do this.

Signs You Need to Invest in Software Maintenace

Everyone needs to invest in software maintenance from time to time, no matter how simple their product is. At the same time, though, the need for maintenance may be more dire in some cases, including the following:

You’ve Experienced a Data Breach

Have you recently experienced a data breach at your company?

If so, you need to invest in software maintenance and get your product’s security features up to date. You also need to create a plan for future, ongoing maintenance.

Not only will you be taking care of the current issue by doing this, but you’ll also be preventing additional ones from happening later on. 

You’re Receiving Frequent Customer Complaints

Have you noticed a recent uptick in the number of complaints you receive from your customers? Are you noticing the same complaints popping up over and over again?

In either case, this is a sign that you need to start putting software maintenance and regular updates higher up on your priority list.

The sooner you do this, the easier it will be to staunch the flow of complaints and make sure your customers are satisfied — and remain loyal to your company.

You Haven’t Updated Your Software in a Long Time

Can’t remember the last time you updated your software or paid for maintenance? If it’s been a long time, or if you’ve never invested in any maintenance, now is the time to change that.

If you continue to delay maintenance, you’ll find that when you do eventually have to pay for it, your bill will be a lot higher than it would have been if you’d created a plan for regular maintenance from the start. 

How to Find a Software Engineer

As we mentioned above, it’s ideal if the same software engineers who created your original software can handle the maintenance for you. This isn’t always an option, though.

Maybe the engineer you worked with originally has moved on to a different career, or perhaps the development agency has gone out of business. Perhaps you weren’t happy with the work they did and want to work with someone who has more experience. 

If you need to find a new software engineer (or team of engineers) to handle maintenance for you for any reason, here are some tips that can help you simplify your search:

Ask for a Referral

Reach out to your colleagues in the software development sector and ask them if they know of any agencies that can assist with your software maintenance needs. There’s a good chance someone can refer you to a professional or team of professionals who are equipped to help you get your software up to date. 

Look at Their Portfolio

After you’ve built a shortlist of potential candidates, do some online research and look at each agency or developer’s portfolio.

Take a look at the projects they’ve worked on previously and consider whether or not they align with what you need. Have they worked on software products like yours before? Do they have other clients that are similar to your business? 

Schedule a Consultation

When you’ve reviewed portfolios, your next job is to reach out to the developers who seem the most promising and schedule a consultation. Most developers are happy to meet with you and talk about your needs and goals, either in person or via video chat. During the consult, be sure to ask more about their experience, as well as their approach to software maintenance and how they keep their clients’ products up to date.  

Get a Quote

Get a quote during the consultation, too. Find out, roughly, how much it will cost to maintain your software and keep it running smoothly. Then, compare quotes from each candidate and see which one offers you the most value for your money.

Don’t Rush

Avoid rushing the process as much as you can. Don’t just hire the first person who shows up in a Google search. Learn as much as you can about the developer you’re considering hiring so you can feel confident that you’ve invested in the person or people who will do the most for your business now and in the future. 

Get Help with Software Maintenance Today

Software costs and software maintenance costs can certainly be daunting — especially if you’ve never researched them before. However, regular maintenance is an essential part of keeping your software and your business running smoothly. 

Keep the information in this guide in mind and you’ll be less likely to run into unpleasant surprises when you start looking into maintenance for your product.

If you need help finding a software developer who can perform any type of maintenance for your software,  get in touch with Digital Engage today. Contact us to get a quote or learn more about our services. We’re happy to tell you about our services or provide you with a free quote.

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