Having a brilliant idea for a product is only half the battle; software development is similar. When a product is technically completed, it doesn't mean it will work as it was supposed to or meet customers' needs. There is always the need to improve, re-design, or keep it up-to-date. For this reason, software maintenance is of the utmost importance.

But very often, technical founders and engineering managers face the high costs of maintaining a product. How to not overpay for maintenance and support IT solutions at the right price? Today, Mad Devs Customer University turns to the best practices in the industry to answer this question.

What is software maintenance?

Software maintenance is the process of updating and improving software after its initial release to the public. It occurs after completing tasks related to engineering, architecture, design, implementation, testing, and software deployment.

Product maintenance is not just bug fixing or adding more lines of code. It is a comprehensive set of activities in adjusting and modifying the software. It can take up to 2 years to build a software system, while its maintenance can last for 15 to 20 years.

Software Development and Software Maintenance.

Why do you need software maintenance?

There are several reasons why your software needs to be maintained, including:

  • Correcting bugs and faults
  • Adapting the software to certain challenges and environments
  • Changing the design
  • Integrating with other systems
  • Preventing technical difficulties in advance
  • Retiring software

You can tell us about your project during a free consultation if you are trying to figure out how to maintain and transform your app. Our Delivery Managers will carefully consider your case and offer your business the most suitable and profitable solution.

Let’s discuss it further and focus on the types of software maintenance.

Types of software maintenance

According to Herb Krasner, software maintenance can be categorized into four types: corrective maintenance, adaptive maintenance, preventive maintenance, and perfective maintenance. All of them are crucial for overall maintenance, and you can't ignore either of them.

Software maintenance.

What is corrective maintenance in software development?

Corrective maintenance in software engineering is the most apparent type of maintenance and the first thing that comes to mind when someone finds out about the process. Corrective maintenance deals with fixing bugs in the existing code.

For example, let's say an app or a website allows people to authorize via their social media accounts. After you deployed it, your end-users started to notify you that they couldn't log in. There is a possibility that it’s a bug in the code that messes with the authentication process. Fixing this bug that already existed when the software was released is called corrective maintenance.

What is adaptive maintenance in software development?

Adaptive maintenance deals with adapting the software to new environments. For instance, you've released a native app for Android but then decided to add an app for iOS. Or there is a change in third-party API that stops users from authorizing properly. You don't have a bug in the existing code but need to adapt the software to the environment so that it functions properly.

What is perfective maintenance in software development?

Perfective maintenance involves changing the existing product functionality by refining, deleting, or adding features. Imagine that after the initial release, you ask for user feedback. It turns out users crave the dark mode of your website or app, and you decide to add the feature. You improve decently working software based on user experience and feedback, which is perfective maintenance.

What is preventive maintenance in software development?

Preventive maintenance deals with updating the documentation, making the software more maintainable, and foreseeing the situations when problems with software might occur. For example, if you expect a higher interest in your software product due to the changes you've made, you also understand that the servers might crash. So before they do, you check out your servers and make sure they can withstand the increased flow of visitors, and that's preventive maintenance.

Software maintenance vs. development cost

Maintenance cost.

There is the term 'total cost of ownership' when it comes to software development. It includes development, deployment, managing, and maintenance costs. What's more, it contains indirect spending such as employee training on using the software and client onboarding.

Deployment cost means the cost of software as soon as it's released to end-users or customers. It's the price you pay for the development itself: engineering, architecture, design, implementation, testing. In other words, it's the initial build cost and only a part of the total cost of ownership. 

Maintenance cost is what comes after the deployment cost. And since maintenance is up to (or even above) 90% of the total cost of ownership, this simply means that developing a software product is just a tiny fraction of the expenses one might face when maintaining the software.

How much does software maintenance cost?

Although maintenance is the last step in the software development lifecycle (SDLC), it can take up most of the time and money. The problem is that maintenance can require going back to any of the stages in the development process to improve the product.

When it comes to the costs of maintaining a product, some estimates state that their share is more than 90% of the software’s total cost. Just a couple of decades ago, this number stood at 50%. Such a sharp jump can be explained by the fact that the market is constantly evolving and requires continuous changes in products.

Example 1:

Let's say your developer's hourly rate is $50. They find a bug in your code and estimate it will take them 2 hours to fix it. If there are ten bugs per month, this means fixing the bugs will cost around $1000 monthly. And that's only corrective maintenance!

Example 2:

Let's say you decide to have some changes in the user interface after the initial release. Your UI/UX designer's hourly rate is $30, and it will take around a week to create the new design. 8 hours per day X $30 X 7 days = $1680. And that’s only the design, but you also need people to develop the changes and upgrade the app. That's the cost of one-time perfective maintenance. 

Example 3:

Preventive maintenance can also be estimated - at least partially. If your project manager's hourly rate is $60, and it will take them 5 hours to update the documentation, you'll pay $300 for just this action. Then you estimate the needed updates to the software based on developers' hourly rates.

And if your software is a mobile app, add the hosting fees to the maintenance costs as both Google Play Market and App Store take payments for having your app available for download. Be ready to pay from $70 to $320 per month.

Generally, software maintenance costs around $5000 per month or $60000 per year. Still, it can be less or more depending on the development team you're working with and other factors we'll be reviewing later in the article.

Are you tired of the slow and hard-to-maintain technology that your previous team used? Write us, and we will help you resolve this using proper optimization, updates, and code refactoring.

Factors that shape software maintenance costs

Technical Support of Software Product.

The number of software products is increasing every day. So, it becomes increasingly difficult to promote a product on the market and, above all, to maintain it without exceeding the planned budget. When it is impossible to predict the exact amount of software maintenance costs in software ebgineering, you can consider the following factors that affect them.

Technical requirements: The first thing that impacts calculating the cost of maintenance is how you want to see the product. It is the starting point that forms the further path, so choose the right direction right from the start. Even minor details determine how much time you need to spend on implementation and how many specialists you need to involve.

Team composition and required seniority level: When you look at most IT budgets, IT teams' rate costs are often the predominant expense. Some projects require a few testers and developers. Some projects need a big team featuring a project manager, developers, UI/UX designers, and other specialists. All of this will significantly affect the final software development cost.

Time: Once the requirements are set, and you have found the right people to perform tasks, the next important link in the equation is time. When planning the development timeline, you should realize that initially set deadlines may not be met due to unpredictable complications. The risk of delays can't be ignored, and you should be prepared for them.

Possible risks & improvement: This is probably the most critical factor in software maintenance. Don't think that once you create a program, you don't have to worry about it. It is necessary to evaluate the competitiveness of your application. If there are many analogs, it might be helpful to rethink the strategy and decide whether to translate your idea into practice or not.

The most common cases when software needs improvement:

  • Defect resolution
  • Perfective UI/UX updates
  • 3rd party dependency adaptive support
  • Preventative maintenance (periodic updates to plugins, security patches, etc.)
  • Code refactoring (to improve maintainability)

Taxes and fees: The following costs can be connected to taxes:

  • Hosting fees (infrastructure, storage, bandwidth, SSL, and domain renewals)
  • Perpetual software licenses
  • SaaS account fees
  • Developer account fees (iOS/Android)
  • Anticipated changes in the business logic or rules (perhaps mandated by law)

Technical vs. non-technical factors that influence the maintenance costs

There are both technical and non-technical factors in place that influence the costs of software maintenance.

Technical factors include:

  • Programming language
  • Programming style
  • Module independence
  • Software testing
  • Documentation
  • Hardware stability

Non-technical factors include:

  • Team
  • Software lifecycle
  • The external environment

Advantages of quality software maintenance

Maintaining your software is not only a boring necessity but also a way to improve it and establish better relationships with end-users. Here we break down the benefits of software maintenance.

Reduce decrease of customers

Poor maintenance leads to bugs and glitches. No user likes them; what's more, customers will likely abandon your software if there are constant bugs. Additionally, you need to constantly add new features to your software to cater to users' tastes and preferences, or there's a chance they will drop using your software.

Provide better user experience

UX design is crucial for the sustainable flow of users. Good UX design is a path for your growth. If you want to receive better feedback from your customers and users, improve their loyalty and retention, invest in regular interface updates.

Avoid revenue losses

Imagine that there has been an unfixed bug for quite some time in the software you personally use. What would you do client-wise? Any user will drop using software if it's poorly maintained. Your paid customers are no exception. If they paid once, it doesn't mean a bug that takes too long to fix won't repel them.

Make sure your software is secured from cyber threats 

Proper maintenance lets you secure your website and apps from cyber attacks. If your software isn't safe enough, hackers might find weaknesses in your system. Maintenance allows you to have the latest security protocols and ensure your data is safe.

Challenges in software maintenance

Although maintenance is a crucial part of the development process, there are challenges one might face when trying to maintain the product. Let’s take a look at some of them:

  • Aging of software: The age of a software program is 10-15 years, and maintaining the software for longer is really expensive.
  • Changes in hardware: Older software programs are developed in connection with a certain hardware, and when new software is released, it uses contemporary hardware which gives it an opportunity.
  • High price: As new software and hardware is released, it gets more and more expensive every year to maintain vintage software.
  • Problems with documentation: If the process of documentation isn’t well-established, there’s a chance that some changes might be left undocumented, which can cause a mess in the future.
  • Problems with future changes: Sometimes, some adjustments might stop future adjustments to be made or cause some problems.

Top strategies to reduce software maintenance costs

Reduce softare maintenance costs.

Sure, every software owner wants to decrease spending on maintenance, and software maintenance does not have to be too expensive. Here are some tips to avoid unnecessary steps and therefore optimize your spending.

1. Start with a transparent development process

Focus on quality right from the start. Set the right development processes. Involve all company levels in the process and ensure that everyone is moving in one direction. When you do not have a precise plan for the end product, you may end up with a mess that will require high maintenance costs.

Transparent processes mean that you can easily manage, control, estimate, and analyze the working processes to make the project more efficient, scalable, and successful. You can work with different apps and programs that let you make the processes more transparent, such as Jira. What’s more, use story mapping, standups, deploys, retrospectives, demos, and other practices for more transparent processes. Read our article on how to measure the success of your processes with the right KPIs

2. Hire capable specialists

You can choose among many models: in-house, offshoring, or outsourcing. Here, it is essential to consider the individual characteristics of your product. Cost-wise, outsourcing the development of your product is the best solution as it’s way cheaper than hiring in-house specialists.

In the US, it takes around 40 days to hire a new team member compared to 1-4 weeks for finding the right outsourcing team. Additionally, the recruitment process costs around $4000. Another argument for outsourcing is that it is way faster than hiring in-house developers. Creating your own team is time-consuming and exhausting while outsourcing teams are already working well together. So it’s a good idea to discover outsourcing companies.

3. Don’t forget about (Re)documentation

Even investing money in great specialists can't solve the problem of inadequate documentation. New specialists' understanding of a product may take around 50% of software maintenance costs. Developers with no documentation spend 21.5% longer understanding the code. Consequently, we could save 12% of the total maintenance cost if we had documentation in place. To learn more on the topic, read our article on the importance of documentation in software development

4. Don’t overdo it by adding improvements

Today, we have a whole slew of cutting-edge technologies like Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, or data science. Not to mention the large number of narrow technologies that you can use to expand your product. But don't rush into the trap of the "more technologies are better" strategy. There's beauty in simplicity, and sometimes less is actually more. 

5. Collaborate with other teams

No matter how potent your team is, there will still be gaps. Through the participation of external specialists, you can accelerate your project until it is completed. Adding new team members is always a source of new ideas and a chance to cover all the gaps within the internal team. As a bonus, you'll have more time to focus on solving priority problems. 

6. Do not accumulate technical debt

Technical debt is what will need to be fixed once the product is released. The problem is that technical debt can pile up, thus increasing risks. You can't avoid technical debt entirely, but you must repay it — by going back and addressing the tradeoffs you made to achieve a particular goal. 

Still confused? We've collected the most popular questions on the cost of maintenance in software engineering, and here are our answers.

To sum it up

It is impossible to predict the costs of software maintenance reliably. But it's possible to stick to a few rules that will help to reduce these costs: 

  1. Find a balance between investment in new functions and unexpected maintenance.
  2. Always be aware of the volatility of your product and consider its goals when planning your maintenance budget.
  3. Work with your partner/software team to create a maintenance budget tailored to your product. 

Adhering to these strategies can make it easier and safer for you to plan maintenance for your software products.

Still, got questions on software maintenance costs or want to discuss your project idea with us? Don’t hesitate to contact us!


Is maintenance of software expensive?

Yes, software maintenance might be expensive. Depending on your product, it can cost up to several times your development or deployment costs. As mentioned in the previous section, there are ways to reduce software maintenance costs, but you need to be prepared and understand that developing software is the very first step. There is no shortcut to maintain your software, or you'll eventually see zero users.

How do you estimate the maintenance of the software?

You need to consider several things trying to figure out the maintenance costs. These things are often the hourly rates of the developers you're working with, team composition, technical requirements, overall improvements, taxes, and fees. Maintaining your software might cost around $60000 per year.

What percentage of software development is maintenance? 

Software maintenance might cost several times as much as software deployment. As estimated, 90% of the total cost of ownership is software maintenance cost.

Explore the chapters

2. Software Development Pricing Models Guide

2. Software Development Pricing Models Guide

Historically, organizations approached software development outsourcing as a black box where you throw away things you don’t want to do. The field is changing as the emerging markets have proved to provide quality and shown the advantages of higher dollar purchasing power.With so much at stake, traditional outsourcing engagement models thus moved towards partnership models. So now, businesses increasingly outsource things they can’t do.As a result, the emerging cooperation models have created numerous pricing models.However, once you start digging deeper with your research and evaluating IT contractors’ proposals, you’ll start to see not only the big difference in total cost but also the difference in pricing models used to calculate the cost.Ultimately, you may feel like companies are trying to take advantage of your lack of experience, and you can’t identify a potential long-term partner.In this publication, Mad Devs Customer University addresses your puzzling questions about pricing models with clarity and transparency.Unfortunately, it can be hard to determine the exact cost of a software development project. Unlike building products from an assembly line, estimating the cost of a software development project involves taking into account various factors.1. Human resourcesThe number of people who are involved in the project will have a huge effect on the cost of the project. You will need to hire a team of developers if you are not outsourcing the project. The size of the team depends on how complex the project is and how experienced the individuals are.Your team's work environment will also affect how productive they are. Having a good working relationship with one another will help them become more efficient. There may be issues that they need to resolve, but the more projects they work on, the more they will be able to improve their efficiency.The ability of your team to avoid conflict and work efficiently will have a huge impact on the project's budget. Make sure that everyone on the team is qualified and has the necessary skills to carry out their duties. Overworking the team can cause them to waste time and make them more prone to errors.2. Project complexity&sizeThe complexity of a software application is also a factor that will affect the cost of the project. It can be very challenging to develop a complex program due to the number of steps and calculations that it requires.The size of the software that you're developing will also be influenced by the number of screens that will be built. Having too many screens will increase the cost of the project.3. Software functionalityOne of the most important factors that will affect the cost of a software project is the functionality of the application. Having too many features will increase the cost of the development. It can also take longer to build and test a large number of applications.4. Scope of workThe larger the scope of the project, the more expensive it will be. Although the project will likely have a fixed schedule and human resources, the scope can change over time. This is because constant stakeholder feedback will help determine the cost and the quality of the project.5. UX/UIThe cost of a custom design depends on the features and scope of the project. Having a well-designed and engaging user interface is very important for a successful software development project. The right mix of animations, visual elements, and unique navigation elements will keep your users coming back.6. IntegrationsAnother factor that can affect the cost of a software project is the integration of its features with other business applications. For example, having multiple third-party tools such as CRM will increase the cost of the project.7. MigrationDifferent migration techniques and the unique requirements of different storage vendors can also add to the complexity of the process. Having a customized approach is also important to ensure that the data that you're moving will fit seamlessly into another system.8. Extra expensesEven though you're paying for the software, you should also consider the additional costs that the service provider might charge. These costs might not be related to the developers' hourly rates. It can be necessary if the complexity of the project increases or there is technical debt.Aside from the hourly rate, there are also additional costs that the service provider might charge. These additional costs can pile up and add up to a huge bill.Some businesses will also require that they pay for the licenses that the developers will need to complete the project. Others will require that they pay for the infrastructure costs associated with buying or leasing software.Most people don't realize that there are also maintenance fees that are included in the cost of a software development project. These fees can range from minor repairs to security updates.So when we’ve covered the major factors that influence project cost, we can move to pricing models. It can be overwhelming to build software from scratch. Not only does it involve writing code, but it also involves various phases such as architecture, design, testing, and deployment.To avoid getting bogged down by the various steps involved in building a robust software solution, companies should keep in mind that there are various pricing models available. They should also be aware of the premium options that are available for their project.With pricing models, companies can easily understand what they are paying for and what benefits they will get from their projects. There are several types of pricing models that can help companies develop software: Fixed price, Time and Material, Outstaffing, Dedicated team, Hybrid, and Gain-sharing model.Let’s look closer at each of them.

How Developer Seniority Level Matters to Software Development Cost

3. How Developer Seniority Level Matters to Software Development Cost

In this article, Mad Devs Customer University addresses the main factor in the cost of software development: the software developer seniority level. The hourly rate of a top-level developer can be dramatically different from (sometimes even a few times higher than) the rate of an entry-level one. Here, we want to help you figure out what these levels are and how they affect the price.Picture it: you have a project in mind, but you have no idea what software developer qualifications are required for it. Some IT contractors offer you Senior developers (so the rate and the price immediately soar), and others suggest that Mid-level developers or Juniors will do just fine. How do you know what’s right? Your best interest is to make sure that the team working with you does not have underqualified or overqualified professionals in it. If they are overqualified, you’ll end up paying more than necessary. If they are underqualified, the development will take longer than it could, and you’ll end up, again, overpaying.The problem, however, is that the qualifications you’re interested in are not easily defined. The widespread hierarchy goes: Junior, Middle, Senior, Team Lead. But there are no universal criteria in the industry for who falls into which category. Each IT company has its own understanding of what knowledge, skills, competencies, and experience a developer must obtain to climb up this ladder.Therefore, we will look at the question of qualification from two angles. On the client side, when he/she needs a certain level of expertise. And from the developers' side, how the career ladder of Software engineer levels looks like.Let’s start with first part.

Top countries to outsource software development

4. Top Countries to Outsource Software Development

Mad Devs Customer University continues its series of publications about pricing strategies to help customers in the IT industry maximize benefits in their work with contractors. Here, we will address the issue that many customers are implicitly or explicitly concerned about: does it matter where your team of developers is from? If so, how will geography affect your work with the team? What regions to choose from?First, it’s important to stress that geography matters, but it’s not the number-one factor. We want to take it off the table right away: you can find the right team for your project or organization anywhere on the globe. Modern communication technologies have made it possible to reach talents anywhere. Companies are shifting away from the traditional rule book when it comes to hiring and managing development teams, as the rise of remote work has forced many to rethink their approach. Working with a remote team can be very easy, as more data protection and distance work software have emerged.However, in some regions, you may be more likely to find a team that fits you in terms of approaches and culture. Things to consider include:And one of the main points - don’t overestimate the importance of your team’s location. Let’s elaborate on this.Assumption: countries with higher dollar purchasing power charge lower prices. In fact, it’s not always the case. Skills and experience are more important, and a high-rate developer from a developing country can cost as much as a high-rate developer from a developed country.Why doesn’t the developers’ location play a major role in influencing the cost of the software? Is it fair to pay a developer from San Francisco the same amount as a developer from Vietnam?They can deliver the same quality of work, so everything’s fair.Naturally, the towering leader in terms of senior developers’ average salaries is the United States, but it in no way suggests that the work of developers from elsewhere will be necessarily cheaper or of poorer quality.Too many factors shape average salary: taxes, cost of living, and income level, to name a few.Conclusion: check the skills and experience ahead of the actual location or the legal address. (And if you still want to narrow down your search to the region, jump right into the middle of the article.)

Red Flags in Custom Software Development.

7. Top Common Pitfalls of Outsourcing Software Development

In the early days of the software industry, developers were working alone on their products for years. And one day, their products have taken over the market and made their creators rich and famous. Of course, this was deserved. But it is worth noting that this was not because their products were the best, but rather because they were unique at the time. However, the software industry was rapidly changing, becoming more extensive and complex. The competition was growing, and the struggle for users' attention becoming much fiercer. So the market became filled with better and better products and services. And we got more and more used to the constantly increasing quality and amount of them. Now we're not willing to compromise at all, knowing that we can always find something better. This is all possible because more professionals from different fields, not only technical, are getting involved in development. Now any competitive product is the combined work of developers, designers, analysts, marketers, and managers. This is just a short list of specialists who have found a new home in the software industry. For example, when Steve Jobs was creating the Macintosh, he even invited zoologists who understand the anatomy to help him find the best proportions for the future device that fit perfectly. But the more specialists are involved in software development, the more processes it includes, and the more difficult it is to manage them. And each process must be treated with special attention. Because each of them can be the main factor of success and failure of the future product, you need to know the pitfalls of software development in general, and particularly the main pitfalls of project management.At Mad Devs, for example, we pay individual attention to each process in development. From specifying goals and the most suitable means to achieve them to using the best design, development, testing, and support practices. And this careful attention makes our customers want to contact us again and again. After all, they can always trust transparency, flexibility, stability of development, and the high quality of the final product. You can see this by looking at any of our cases.

Software development cost estimation

10. Mad Devs' Software Development Cost Estimation

Determining how long and how much it will take to deliver a new software product is one of the hardest things to do in software development. But the main critical problem that arises during software cost estimation is a lack of determination on how long and how much it will take to develop a new software product. It is inherently difficult to estimate software costs, and humans are terrible at predicting absolute outcomes. However, this problem can only be resolved by transparent communication and development processes based on collaboration and co-creation. Mad Devs is a software development company, which specializes in developing highly scalable, enterprise-level software solutions, and consulting. We have been engineering our partners’ growth since 2004. Our goal is to deliver value to our customers in the long run by solving end users’ problems. For us, no two projects are the same. Each is unique in what it sets out to achieve and unique in the myriad of parameters that form its existence. For years, we’ve seen new players in the IT industry struggle to find insights into custom software development. Mad Devs has summarized its expertise by introducing Customer University: a series of articles that bring light to questions that need to be asked during negotiation and proposal evaluation stages. We believe in starting the partnership by building trust from the very beginning. Therefore, we understand that pricing is one of the customers' main issues. To do this, we explain the mechanism of project estimation transparently. For convenience, we have divided the technical process into four stages.When we receive a partnership request, we foremost assess the proposed project to see if we are a proper contractor to take it on. Several features impact our work process, such as expertise in questions, the scope of the project, and can we cover the project with our resources. Mad Devs believes that signing a contract is a long-term commitment, so it is essential to consider every detail. We believe customers' business success depends on whether we have enough expertise and capacity to deliver the project.After we ensure that we have enough expertise and capacity to deliver the product, we start evaluating the customer's product vision and check whether it has a proven record of market fit. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to build a valuable product for end-users without precise product specifications and requirements. Such projects usually involve high risks and a lack of personal growth for our developers. Instead of developing features, the IT team will be trapped in a circle of re-developing one module repeatedly and wasting the budget. Cost is a product of time and team members. Suppose you employ people for a more extended period, the cost increases. Adding more team members increases the cost of delivering the same business value. We expect a certain level of preparedness from our clients. Please note if you have the following problems: