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The Devil Is In The Details

Most of us are not experts in PHP, HTML, CSS or those other languages that make our heads hurt. But it’s not usually the complexities of the languages themselves that bring down our computing endeavors…rather, it’s an unorganized approach that does us in. This sort of haphazardness can affect many areas of your business. Caution is key. Read on for a few tips about the proper method for doing safe coding, storage and security.

Let’s face it…the more you can do to your own web site, the less you’ll be dependent on guys with names like Playboi, Ladeezman, or HALOMASTER. Better yet, you can save yourself time and money by making changes to your site yourself. Plus, when you go through the process, you usually learn 3 other things that you can use in the future. But how do you make changes to your site without endangering your daily bread and butter? How can you take smart steps into the world of coding? Read on and we’ll give you a few tips.

1. Notepad Is My Friend
notepad
Who would have thought that this tiny little notepad that Bill Gates thought up when he was but a mere millionaire, would be so perfect as a helper to your homegrown coding. But this little free tool saves engineers’ butts every single day.

How?

Simple. If you have a large block of code that you’re about to make a few changes to, you just copy that block of code and paste it into Notepad before you make changes. It’s that simple. Highlight it, copy it and then click into Notepad and paste it in. You’ve now created a life raft in a sea of possible mistakes.

You have a certain cloak of invincibility when you have that perfectly working code sitting there. You can make various changes and check them on the LIVE site…if you have an epic fail, you simply return to Notepad, copy that code and paste it right back in and voila, you’re safe. But in the meantime, you’ve hopefully learned a little from that dalliance and are free to try again.

Along those same lines…if you’re working on a file via FTP, make sure you download a copy of the pristine file and store it somewhere before you start working on it. Always create a safe haven before you make any changes!

For Mac users…Yes, we know you don’t have Notepad…probably have some fancy monogrammed solid gold word processor that does exactly the same thing, but also brushes your teeth in the meantime…we get it! You might want to try it with TextEdit or Leopard.

Fun Fact #1… ClickCartPro; all 120,000 lines of code and still going strong, was written entirely in Notepad. And it was written with only our lead programmer’s left hand. (okay, just kidding about that part)

2. Check Each Edit As You Finish It

If you are making numerous changes, it is always wise to check each link in the chain as you progress through the changes. (Make Change…Save…Test) That way, if something breaks, you don’t have to recheck all of your changes en masse…just the one you made most recently. It might take a little more time on the front end, but that kind of organized approach saves all kinds of time if you don’t have to track through 5 pages of code to try and locate the one thing you did wrong.

3. Test, Test, Test

Shopping cart software like ClickCartPro, has a direct effect on your business income, so testing becomes imperative to your bottom line. Certainly the number one test scenario you should run is a full checkout. Can you buy an item, checkout and get your money? It might be a hassle to run your own credit card and then log into your payment gateway and credit yourself, but it’s worth it if, while you’re sleeping, several customers try to check out…can’t, and end up leaving without purchasing. Have your wife, your husband, or a child try it and make sure they can easily place an order and checkout. The same goes for published instructions. Remember, you might just be too close to the situation to provide the instruction necessary. Have numerous people of all walks of life test for you. If you correct one little oversight that helps a customer complete an order, your attention to detail was worth it.

4. Password Protection and Storage

This seems like such a simple thing. But passwords today are the lifeblood of the computer industry. Each night while you sleep, thousands of criminals are chipping away at your servers trying to find a way in. Once they do, they go after email to try and send spam or other financial info to try and steal money. The number one thing you can do is make sure that your passwords are robust, random and complex. If you’re still using “1234” or “admin” as your password, you’ve just made a criminal’s day. You can use the same password everywhere, but make sure it doesn’t really contain any words, contains several symbols, a mixture of caps and lowercase letters and a string of nonsense letters (probably a total of at least 16 characters should be safe). Once you have it, store it in a little (you guessed it) Notepad file on your hard drive so you can always refer back to it. Most places where you have to remember a password can be stored, so you won’t have to type in a huge string each time…but being able to have that Notepad backup means that you can cut and paste it when you need it. Your ClickCartPro and EuropaCart products do not store any financial information, but creative criminals can still find ways to give you grief. Strong passwords are the best way to prevent such nonsense.

5. Backup Your Site And Your Critical Data
Don’t ever be caught with your pants down. There are certain files that are crucial to your day to day operations. Do you have backups in case something bad happens? If the answer is no, then get them. Save your passwords, your install files and any license keys for software purchases in a safe place…hopefully in a different building than your current computer system. If you need a backup of your ClickCartPro store, you should ask your host if it’s not clear how to do that. But servers go down from time to time and if you lost your site today, how long would it take to set it all up again? Ask yourself this question…”If the building my computer is housed in burned to the ground tomorrow, would I still be in business?” If the answer is ‘no’, you should be taking some precautions.

If you have sort of protected yourself by dumping crucial data to a zip drive, but then you leave that zip drive plugged into your current computer, you’ve protected yourself against a hard disk meltdown, but in a fire, both items would be melted together into a nice pretty sculpture.

This doesn’t have to be some big expensive third party investment. Create a password protected folder (no, not the password 1234) on your server (presumably located outside your building) and upload all of your critical files to it each night before you go home. If you save those files to one folder, you can set it and forget it while you’re walking out the door. The last time you lost a hard drive, you vowed to never let this happen again…finish the job today!

With security and testing, there are no shortcuts. Don’t take the easy way out, it always costs you in the end.

Kryptronic: Security. Stability. Reliability