Software Maintenance Costs: Estimation and Optimization

Posted by Snehasish Hansda · 13 Sep, 2023 · 9 Min read
Software Maintenance Costs: Estimation and Optimization

Maintaining software is as crucial as developing the software. However, many young entrepreneurs often don’t understand the gravity of software maintenance. In the long run, they have to bear hefty software maintenance costs.

Without proper financial planning for handling software maintenance costs, you will have to deal with financial stress, system bugs and errors as well as negative customers.

In this blog, we will address everything about software maintenance costs. Without further ado, let’s start by understanding what software maintenance means.

What is Software Maintenance?

Let’s understand the concept of “software maintenance” using a metaphor. Imagine, you are on your way to buy your dream car - you will check about the build quality, engine reliability, comfort, cost, etc. But in the long run, the service cost and timely service satisfaction are what retain an automobile enthusiast.

The same is applicable to software. Undoubtedly, developing feature-packed software is important to gain enough traction. However, without proper maintenance, end users will have to face UX issues. Without proper maintenance, your existing software can face both performance as well as adaptability issues with changing business environments.

Why is Software Maintenance Important?

Every software has some quality metrics that it needs to adhere to in order to offer satisfactory performance. Failing to do so, can lead to gruesome consequences.
In order to stick with these software quality metrics, ​ one must take software maintenance seriously. As stated above, without proper maintenance, your software can face gruesome consequences. Some of those can jeopardize your brand’s reputation.

Software maintenance needs to be done for multiple reasons. Here are some of them -

Bug Removal:

During software maintenance, it's important to quickly find and fix bugs or issues. This ensures that the software works properly and doesn't have problems like errors, crashes, or unreliable results.

Lookout for New Opportunities:

Maintenance provides a chance to adapt to new trends and technologies. By improving the software with new features, you can stay competitive in the changing market.

Remove Obsolete Functionality:

It's a good practice to check for outdated parts of the software. Software becomes more efficient by getting rid of unnecessary features and making the code simpler.

Performance Improvement:

Maintenance also involves making the software run better. This includes improving the code, how the data is stored, and how calculations are done.

Ignoring software maintenance is like inviting hosts of problems. Organizations that have made this mistake, paid dearly. For example -

Case #1 - National Health Service (NHS)

As per sources, In 2016 the National Health Service found a problem with their clinical computer system known as SystmOne. Over 300,000 heart patients received incorrect medication or guidance because of this software mistake. This software error had been wrongly calculating heart attack risks for patients since 2009. Consequently, a lot of patients experienced heart attacks or strokes because they were wrongly told they had a low risk.

Case #2 - ATC in LA airport

On 14th September 2004 at around 5 P.M., as per report LA airport's air traffic control lost contact with about 400 planes in the southwest of the U.S. Many of these planes were headed on a collision course. This happened because the main voice system failed. On top of it, the backup system also failed shortly after being activated. The problem arose because the communication system had a timer that counted in milliseconds. Once it hit zero, it couldn't keep track of time and shut down. As a result, 800 flights across the country were affected.

Case #3 - Toyota

During the mid-2000s, numerous Toyota drivers faced a concerning issue where their cars started speeding up on their own. This problem led to accidents and investigations. Eventually, investigators found that software mistakes were responsible for this unintended acceleration. The software had multiple issues: memory problems, incorrect handling of memory, disabling safety features, systems that could fail easily, and many global variables. In response, Toyota had to recall millions of vehicles. Consequently, their stock price dropped by 20% within a month after discovering the root of the problem.

Types of Software Maintenance

There are four types of Software Maintenance.

Corrective Maintenance:

This type of software maintenance service is used to find and fix errors in the current solution. The corrective maintenance is further enhanced for seamless software performance. Instead of doing it at once, the maintenance task is carried out in smaller chunks.

Perfective Maintenance:

Leveraging perfective maintenance service, we can aim to improve the performance and how the system works. It focuses on usability and responsiveness. During this process, they change the software by adding new features or fixing errors.

Adaptive Maintenance:

This type of software maintenance revolves around changing the software to fit new business needs and environments. It helps the software stay useful for a long time. Custom software development experts say it also improves software frameworks.

Preventive Maintenance:

As the name suggests, preventive software maintenance helps in stopping vulnerabilities in the system. It's done mainly to avoid any changes to the product. Moreover, preventive maintenance also helps with code management and secure handling of the old system.

Difference between Development and Maintenance costs

Software development costs and software maintenance costs are two distinct categories of expenses. Here's a breakdown of the cost of software development vs maintenance:

Difference between software development and maintenance costs

Factors Contributing to Maintenance Costs

In most organizations, software maintenance uses a huge bandwidth of financial resources. Software maintenance cost factors can be bifurcated into two major categories namely, technical factors and non-technical factors.

Technical Factors

Programming Language:

In general, softwares written with high-level programming languages is easier to understand and maintain. Low-level programming languages aka machine languages are hard to interpret. They also have their fair deal of problems to deal with while maintaining.

Module Independence:

Maintaining one module should be fairly simple. Modules shouldn’t exist in co-dependent scenarios. Maintaining independent modules is much simpler and cost-efficient.

Programming Style:

Way in which the underneath codes are written also have its own significance. Following proper coding principles like - D.R.Y or S.O.L.I.D saves a lot of time in figuring out how a particular module works.

Validation and Testing:

When a program has fewer bugs, the costs of fixing those bugs during maintenance become lower. This is because dealing with bugs in software can be quite costly due to the significant design changes usually required.

Non-technical Factors

Application Domain:

A well-defined application will consume definite requirements. This in turn is proportional to the average cost of software maintenance.

Staff Stability:

When the same team that creates a system also handles its maintenance, the costs for maintenance go down. It's easier for the person who originally wrote the program to understand and make changes to it, compared to someone else who needs to study the reports and code.

Program Lifetime:

When the program becomes outdated or when you replace the old hardware, the costs of converting it are higher than the costs of rewriting it.

How to Estimate Software Maintenance Costs

When your business is implementing new software, it's crucial to think beyond the initial deployment. You need to estimate the recurring software maintenance costs. This includes more than just fixing bugs. It involves improving and evolving the software, which can be challenging to estimate.

Without accurate software maintenance cost estimation, you won't be able to assess the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and rely on projected ROI effectively.

When you're making a cost estimate plan, you need to think about several factors. These considerations help you plan for various expenses in your project. Check out a few of the crucial factors -

Hosting and Software Expenses: This includes fees for hosting services. Buying and renewal of software licenses, or any SaaS subscriptions.

Mobile App Costs: If you're creating a mobile app, consider platform fees for iOS and Android accounts.

Bug Fixes: Calculate the cost of fixing bugs in your code.

Design Changes: Prepare beforehand for any potential updates to the design.

Plugin and Software Updates: Take into account plugin update costs and third-party software updates.

Code Improvement: Factor in expenses for code refactoring, if needed.

Hidden Costs of Neglecting Maintenance

Let’s suppose you decide to ignore the warnings and think of turning your eye from software maintenance. What could possibly go wrong? Is neglecting software maintenance risky? Let’s find out!

Increased Risk of Security Breaches

Failure to address software maintenance can render businesses susceptible to security vulnerabilities. Irregular software maintenance may generate security gaps that could be leveraged by cyber-criminals. Consequently, this can result in data breaches and other security breaches.

According to Astra Security, it is estimated that in 2023 will face around 33 billion breaches. On average, there is a hacking attack every 39 seconds.

Accumulation of Technical Debt

Realistically speaking, most of the software development teams based on agile methodologies are tolerant of some sort of technical debt. However, it is not advisable to always prioritize speedy delivery over perfect code. In the long run, you are sure to shed expenses in the form of code refactoring.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance Issues

Neglecting software maintenance can have serious consequences in terms of legal compliance. Numerous industries, including healthcare governed by HIPAA, operate under stringent regulatory mandates.

Non-compliance to regulatory standards can expose organizations to significant legal and financial liabilities. Implementing routine software maintenance, which encompasses compliance monitoring and audits, guarantees adherence to all legal and regulatory obligations.

Also, Read: How Modernizing Legacy Apps Reduces Technical Debt?

Why Choose SoluteLabs for Software Development & Maintenance

In the realm of IT services, SoluteLabs have over 10+ years of professional experience. We offer a complete package by combining expertise, quality and client satisfaction. Giving equal priority to both pre-production and post-production of the application, we at SoluteLabs market ourselves as end-to-end software solution providers.
Whether you have a ground-breaking idea or facing challenges in handling your legacy software, we got you covered. Our team of experienced professionals excel at understanding your business goals and deliver tailored solutions based on your requirements.

Wrapping Up

The purpose of this blog is to create awareness regarding software maintenance and its associated costs. From importance to risks, we tried our best to address all the underlying queries associated with software maintenance. Still got something that’s bothering you? Get in touch with our subject matter experts to discuss further.

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