What is Commercial-Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Software

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Commercial-Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Software

Nowadays, there are a plethora of cutting-edge softwares available. Businesses utilize them to improve the efficiency of their processes by streamlining them. COTS Software is one such software that is ready to use. COTS stands for Commercial-Off-the-Shelf, and it refers to software targeted to a certain, specially defined range of business based on predetermined specifications. This also means they are ready for softwares that can be used without any additions.

The government sectors are currently more receptive to this software. They’re utilizing it to replace proprietary systems with COTS Software. The prospect of increased functioning and lower overall ownership cost motivates this reliability. It also alleviates concerns about the challenges of developing and sustaining private IT solutions compared to Commercial-Off-the-Shelf available IT applications.

COTS (Commercial-Off-the-Shelf) is easy to use and gets acquainted with the system without any complications. COTS software can be a good option for companies wanting to up their digital presence game. In this blog article, we’ll go into the fundamentals of COTS, including the differences between ready-made apps (COTS) and custom-made applications, as well as their benefits and real-world applications.

What is COTS Software?

Commonly known as Commercial-Off-the-Shelf softwares are mass-produced and do not limit to a particular group of people. This software is made in bulk and produced for the general public. As mentioned above, they are simple to use and come with easy instructions, making installation as simple and smooth as possible for the user. COTS software support is often provided to clients to handle and assist users with any difficulties or queries they may have.

Producing software for the general public entails making it as affordable as feasible, which means low price points. COTS is substantially less expensive than custom-made software because it is mass-produced. COTS has also been put through a variety of test situations and complexity, making it extremely dependable. In order to stay in the competition, software vendors must provide constant updates. 

COTS softwares can be easily implemented in the existing systems. Most software purchases fall under the COTS category, be it operating systems, processors, various programs, etc. There are similar terms to COTS, such as:

MOTS: The other type of software is the MOTS which is modifiable, and its source code can be changed. These are majorly utilized for meeting specific military requirements. MOTS products may be purchased and utilized right away because they are customized for specific applications. On the other hand, government agencies may employ this product because they are afraid of future product modifications. After all, the MOTS software requirements come from outside sources.

GOTS: Government Products developed by third parties. Because firms have complete control over all elements of GOTS products, they are frequently chosen for government use.  

NOTS: NC3A created a niche off-the-shelf application designed to fulfill niche market demands in general. More specifically, this type of softwares is for niche markets compared to COTS, which is for a broader market.

What is the Difference Between COTS and Custom Software

We have tried to list different factors that will help you make the correct decisions for your business. Whenever two technology aspects are compared, we look at their features and how they will benefit your business needs. Let’s look at parameter comparison on which one is better than the other. Companies choose to work with custom software since it provides the necessary benefits while keeping the process stress-free.

COTS Custom Software
Firstly, COTS caters to a larger group of businesses.Custom software, as the name implies, is designed exclusively for specific company needs.
COTS costing depends on the technology that has been chosen and implemented.Costing of Custom Software completely depends on the predefined features a business needs from the software.
COTS is always commercially accessible, and one can start using it anytime.Custom software takes longer to plan, build, and deploy than other types of software.
The software development firm retains all rights to this ready-to-use public app as it is made for a large group of people. We also need to construct one in the case of licensing.Upon using Custom software, as you will be the only owner, you have all rights reserved to yourself.
Free trials for COTS are available; hence one can try and see if it works for their business.Business is involved from the beginning, so no additional free trials are required.

Advantages of using COTS Software

By now, you might have made the decision to go for COTS Software or Custom Software development. Further, to clarify your doubts, let’s know and understand the advantages COTS software offers.

Full-time technical support

As COTS have been in the market for a long time, there are used cases available from which you can learn the problems other businesses face and how they overcome them. A large number of audience members are there to provide customer support and assistance. On top of this, a special community provides technical support and resolves all your doubts.


The cost of COTS is a one-time expenditure. It is less expensive than others since it has no hidden expenses or needs you to pay separately for hardware and software to gain faster results. All costs are paid just once, at the time of purchase.

Flexible system

Failures occur, and when a COTS system fails, it can be quickly replaced. There is no need for professional help; you may effectively replace it on short notice using a variety of sources. Additions to systems can be made at any moment because COTS is not tied to a particular vendor. Any manufacturer can assist you with the addition or replacement of hardware.

Easy Implementation

It has no additional steps once it is installed. Installing the program or managing the operating systems may need particular abilities, but once it’s ready, you may not need to deploy it. COTS is a ready-to-use public application that requires just installation.


Regular upgrades are essential to keep up with the latest technological advancements. Frequent updates are accessible from the company that built the program and may be easily controlled and maintained.

Reliable software

COTS softwares is reliable and trustworthy. The developed softwares is thoroughly tested by a support team before it is introduced to the market. It is also advisable to not download such softwares from any fishy website because a software failure can also damage reputation. 

Steps to implement COTS

For COTS installation, there is a six-step process that emphasizes the critical tasks that should occur throughout the process. Following these steps throughout the software development life cycle will guarantee that important actions are not overlooked, and COTS software is successfully planned, executed, and deployed.

Know software requirements

The most critical part of COTS software is analyzing the software requirements. Knowing software requirements is necessary for determining the software’s functionality that will meet the end user’s needs. Two types of requirements need to be analyzed first, the technical requirements and the user requirements. Once you gather both the requirements, one must try and understand the establishment between the two. Whether the technical features are able to serve the client’s needs or not.

Evaluate and choose COTS Solutions

When you’ve decided that COTS solutions are the way to go, it’s time to go through the various possibilities to discover which one can provide the functionality you need. Assess if non-functional system requirements such as flexibility, dependability, security, and performance are according to your needs. When doing a COTS review, obtaining references from COTS providers is beneficial in order to interact with developers and end-users who have worked with a certain COTS solution. This way, you get an expert view of the software before its selection.  

Negotiation with manufacturers

Who does not like to acquire the best deal possible. Vendor forthrightness and collaboration are among the most often mentioned obstacles among those developing software solutions using COTS components. Understanding the influence of these talks and their timing on the project’s final success or failure is even more critical. Also, discussing a development plan with the vendor is essential so that the maintenance takes place smoothly.


Once the requirements are known, evaluation and negotiation are done, and it’s time to begin the implementation. The system must be integrated and tested to guarantee that all functional and non-functional criteria are satisfied. 

Maintenance and upgrades 

Following the deployment of the software, the following two continuing tasks are necessary to maintain its working and check if it meets end-users needs. Maintenance is essential to maintain the quality of software. If any bugs are developed, the system will definitely need upgrades. Updates of COTS software components are likely to be required in order to maintain a software system that fulfills market expectations in terms of performance, appearance, operating platforms, and other factors.

Licenses and subscriptions

This step is also regarding the maintenance of the software. License or maintenance expenses must be paid so that the software updates and support are received for COTS components. Also, while negotiating with vendors, the license should be a major topic of discussion. As it will contain all of the requirements pertaining to COTS software, it will be possible to assess if the vendor is adhering to the upgrade and maintenance agreements.

Examples of COTS Software

We have known almost everything about COTS software. COTS are the trending type of software, and almost everyone might have used one such software in their day-to-day life. The best-known examples are: 

  • The Microsoft Office 
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Adobe Photoshop 
  • Windows 10 Operating System 
  • Norton Antivirus 
  • TurboTax 
  • SAP 
  • Oracle 
  • Intergraph SmartPlant 
  • OmniPlan 
  • OmniOutliner 


Selecting efficient software can be a tricky task. As we have discussed COTS software, its advantages, and its process, it will be easier to choose which one will be suitable for your business. Also, a well-thought-out and well-executed software project that combines one or more COTS solutions can be completed more rapidly and at a lower cost than custom software built entirely from scratch. One can choose any software depending on their requirement.

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Bluein Christian

Content Writer with experience of 6+ years. Have experience writing content for different industries, such as travel, education, fashion, and more. A creative person by birth and by profession. She loves learning new concepts and creating useful content about them. She loves traveling and is always up for new challenges.


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