How Much Does Software Maintenance Cost?

Key Takeaways:

  • Software maintenance costs annually range between 15%-25% of the total development cost, varying by maintenance type (Corrective, Adaptive, Perfective, Preventive) and influenced by technical/non-technical factors.
  • Factors influencing costs include software complexity, technology stack, software/database size, module independence, lifecycle length, external dependencies, and user requirements.
  • There are multiple software maintenance cost reduction strategies including implementing CI/CD, regular software updates, high-quality development practices, automation tools, and an effective bug-tracking system.

When you have a clear understanding of what software to build and validate your requirements, your next step is to define the software development budget.

While budgeting your software development, one of the core factors to consider is software maintenance cost.

If you fail to properly budget your software development, you might end up with challenges like project overruns, compromised quality, delayed development, and incomplete development.

All these issues can badly impact your brand reputation. This is why you need to consider all the necessary factors when budgeting your software development.

In this blog, we will discuss one key factor which is software maintenance cost. Learn three key areas of software maintenance costs which are as follows:

  • Cost of software maintenance
  • Technical and non-technical factors of software maintenance cost
  • Tips to reduce software maintenance costs

So, let’s get started.

Software Maintenance Cost [Quick Answer]

Being a leading software development company, we understand cost plays an important role when you decide to develop a software solution. That’s why we have decided to clear all your doubts.

As per the general industry consensus, software maintenance costs range between 15% to 25% annually of the overall software development cost. Let’s know about the approximate cost of software maintenance. Remember, depending on the maintenance type, the cost of software maintenance differs. Check the following table to understand to get a clear idea.

Maintenance TypeApproximate Percentage of Total Maintenance CostCost Range (Assuming Original Development Cost of $1M)Examples
Corrective Maintenance (Bug fixes and defects)20%$30,000 – $50,000Fixing errors in software like Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop
Adaptive Maintenance (Adjusting to changes in the environment)25%$37,500 – $62,500Updating an e-commerce app to work with a new version of iOS or Android
Perfective Maintenance (Improvements and enhancements)50%$75,000 – $125,000Adding a new feature to a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter
Preventive Maintenance (Optimization and future-proofing)5%$7,500 – $12,500Refactoring code in a banking system to improve performance and prevent future issues
Total Maintenance Costs$1,50,000 – $2,50,000

In addition, the total software maintenance costs are $1,50,000 – $2,50,000 which shall fall within 15% – 25% of the original software development cost. Here the above range is the sum of different types of software maintenance.

Note: This table is just an example of software maintenance costs. The software maintenance cost could be higher or lower depending on the complexity, the resources, and the time of development.

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As you are now aware of software maintenance costs, next, let’s learn about the key factors that impact the software maintenance cost.

Core Factors That Influence Software Maintenance Cost

In this section, you will learn about the different factors that impact the cost of software maintenance. The factors are divided into two groups that are technical and non-technical.

According to a study by ResearchGate, software maintenance is an extensive activity that includes the improvement of functionalities, error correction, code optimization, and removal of unnecessary or obsolete functionalities. Various factors influence the cost of software maintenance. Based on the study, there are two types of technical and non-technical factors that affect software maintenance costs.

Let’s first learn about the technical factors quite in detail.

Technical Factors

  1. Software Complexity

    If your software has complicated architecture, design, and functionalities, more time is required for maintenance. As the complexity increases, the time to maintain your software increases because understanding and resolving the changes becomes challenging. This can lead to an increase in costs in troubleshooting, impact analysis, regression testing, and deployment.

  2. Technology Stack

    The technology stack used in your software also impacts the cost of maintenance. If complex or less popular technologies are used to develop your software, then such level of expertise work is required. For that, a high level of skilled software engineers needs to be hired which could result in high software maintenance costs due to their high hourly rates.

  3. Software and Database Size

    As the size of your software or database increases, maintenance becomes challenging and complex. Because larger software has more code to maintain and also becomes more challenging to understand and change while taking care that existing functions work perfectly without any changes.

    In addition, if you have a large database, reconstruction and organizing take longer due to its complexity.

  4. Module Independence

    When your software solution is developed with the combination of different modules, the software maintenance costs reduce. Each module is responsible for a specific function.

    As these modules are individual, it becomes easy for developers to resolve errors, understand functionalities, and make test changes. By simplifying the functionalities, the amount of time and effort required for software maintenance reduces and leads to less cost.

Non-technical Factors

  1. Software Development Life Cycle

    If longer you use a software solution, it is more likely to require maintenance that includes updates, bug fixes, and improvements. Over time, when the technologies used in software evolve, you need to update your software to make it compatible with new systems, hardware, and software. Moreover, if your software becomes obsolete, the functionalities may need to be replaced, so the conversion cost increases.

  2. The External Environment

    When your software product is dependable on third-party or external resources, the small amount of change in external resources makes it necessary to update your software. So, the software’s environment, such as workflows, reports, and third-party tools, can impact the maintenance.

    If any of these external things change, the software might need to change as well.

  3. Frequent Changes in User Requirements

    As the needs of your software users change or update, you need to update your software products to meet your end-user requirements. The more frequent changes in the user’s needs, the more work needs to be done to match the expectations. This depends on the higher software maintenance costs.

Let’s now learn about the different types of software maintenance services and their cost

Software Maintenance Types and Percentage of Each

As said, there are four types of software maintenance. You can opt for any type of software maintenance service as per your requirements. Although, you might have questioned whether each of these types has the same percentage of software maintenance cost or is different. To answer your question, we have created a table on the types of software maintenance costs.

Type of MaintenanceDefinitionEstimated Maintenance Percentage
Corrective MaintenanceCorrective Maintenance is the process of fixing known defects in the software system. Activities under corrective maintenance can range from simple bug fixes to more complex adjustments in the system to rectify issues by software development team.20% – 25%
Adaptive MaintenanceThis type of maintenance involves making changes to the software system to keep it relevant and functional in its operating environment. In addition, as user requirements evolve, the system might need adaptations to stay useful and usable.25% – 30%
Perfective MaintenancePerfective Maintenance involves enhancements to the system that go beyond its original scope. This can include adding new features, improving performance, refining the user interface based on user feedback or changing market demands. The goal of perfective maintenance is to continuously improve the software product and keep it competitive.40% – 50%
Preventive MaintenancePreventive Maintenance, also known as proactive or preemptive maintenance, focuses on improving the future maintainability and reliability of the software. The intention is to minimize the occurrence of future problems and ensure easier and less costly maintenance. Activities like refactoring code to improve its structure and readability, improving documentation, or updating security protocols to prevent future issues.5% – 10%

Please note that these percentages are rough estimates and the actual distribution can vary based on factors like the specific software, its development process, its usage, and its operating environment.

In terms of percentages, many experts suggest that the annual software maintenance cost is typically between 15% to 25% of the original software development costs. However, this can vary widely depending on the complexity of the software, the quality of the original code, the skill of the maintenance team, the software’s environment, and the rate of change of the software’s requirements.

Therefore, it’s always recommended to conduct a detailed analysis considering all the factors specific to your project to get a more accurate estimate.

So far, you have learned about software maintenance costs, factors that influence the cost of software maintenance, and the percentage range of each type of software maintenance. Next, let’s learn how to reduce software maintenance costs.

How to Reduce the Software Maintenance Cost: 5 Tips

Follow these 5 tips that help you to reduce maintenance costs.

  1. Implement Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD)

    The use of CI/CD practices can help detect problems early, reduce integration issues, and ensure that the software is always in a releasable state. For example, a well-set Jenkins or GitLab CI/CD pipeline can detect build issues early, preventing them from reaching the maintenance stage.

  2. Scheduling the Software Maintenance at a Fixed Duration

    Regularly update and refactor the software to improve performance and prevent future issues. A research study by S. Chou, Xuan Loc Pham, T. Nguyen, and T. Yu suggests that scheduling software maintenance helps you significantly reduce the cost of software maintenance. The reason is that regularly updating libraries and dependencies can prevent security vulnerabilities and compatibility issues, reducing the need for emergency patches later.

  3. Opting for Quality Software Development

    High-quality code is easier to maintain and less prone to bugs. When high-quality software is developed, developers adhere to coding standards, making use of design patterns, and good documentation can improve maintainability. This might mean investing more upfront in skilled developers, but it can save maintenance costs down the line.

  4. Implementing the Automation Tools

    Applying automation tools and monitoring tools help in the software development life cycle. For example, whenever the server of your software goes down or up, these tools send notifications to the software development team. When the teams instantly get notified, the right people can check the problem and resolve the issues in your software solution.

    On top of that, the use of automated processes like testing, deployment, and monitoring can increase efficiency and reduce human errors. For example, tools like Selenium for automated testing or Ansible for automated deployment can reduce the time and effort required for these tasks.

  5. Implement Bug Tracking System

    Without an effective bug tracking system, you’ll find yourself trying to deal with a seemingly unending stream of issues. You might end up wasting resources on resolving minor bugs while major issues linger and potentially harm your users’ experience or your software’s security.

    This is where the bug-tracking system comes into play. A good bug-tracking tool allows you to document, categorize, and track every issue that arises. For example, when a bug is discovered, it can be logged into the system with all the relevant details like the nature of the bug, steps to reproduce it, and its severity.

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If you have any questions or doubts, please check our FAQ section.

FAQ About Software Maintenance Cost

  1. What is the impact of architecture on maintenance costs?

  2. The software architecture plays an important role in determining the cost of maintenance. Here is the list of reasons for how.

    • Modularity: A well-structured software system is modular which means composed of separate components or modules that perform distinct functions.
    • Readability and Understandability: Good software architecture results in code that is easier to read and understand.
    • Scalability: If a software system is architected to be scalable, it can handle increased loads like more users or requirements without major changes to the underlying codebase.
    • Flexibility and Extensibility: Good software architecture facilitates the addition of new features or the modification of existing ones.
  3. How can ML/AI help predict the cost of software maintenance?

  4. Here are the ways that describe how AI and ML can help to predict the cost of software maintenance.

    • Fault prediction
    • Resource allocation
    • Automated code reviews
    • Automated bug tracking
    • Automatic site monitoring tools

Let’s Update Your Software Application

In this blog, you have learned that software maintenance costs are a crucial aspect of your software development budgeting. With a clear understanding of the various types of maintenance, technical and non-technical factors that influence costs, and the strategies to reduce maintenance costs, you can make informed decisions while creating a budget for your software development.

However, if you want to validate your software requirements or want to develop a software application, let’s get in touch. As a leading software development company in Canada, we have experience in developing 300+ custom software solutions for worldwide clients.

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Rakesh Patel

Written by

Rakesh Patel is the Founder and CEO of Space-O Technologies (Canada). He has 28 years of IT experience in business strategies, operations & information technology. He has expertise in various aspects of business like project planning, sales, and marketing, and has successfully defined flawless business models for the clients. A techie by mind and a writer at heart, he has authored two books – Enterprise Mobility: Strategy & Solutions and A Guide To Open311

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