Summer is a time for fun where we all enjoy long bright days and spending time with the people and friends that you share your lives with.  For us, we spent a lot of our summer with friendly customers gathering and listening to their feedback, trolling tickets, scouring forums and checking out the direction of our industry and the online software industry in general.  We are proud to report some of the fruits of our lessons learned and to build the framework for an upcoming pivotal pre-holiday release of AmeriCommerce.
While we worked on pieces of the next major release of our ecommerce software, we wanted to provide some real value immediately using the insight our customers provided.  The 3 areas that received the most attention were:  Speed, Security & Reliability.
Yes, we know, our front end pages were already very fast and others are scrambling to keep up with our speed while offering half the functionality.  However there were certain features and customers that said ‘hey, we need more’, so we listened.  The timing is great with Google just beginning to give extra weight to faster sites and the approaching holiday season spike, what better opportunity would we have to be loyal to our customers?
- Cut front end page load times by over 75% in many cases!
- Reduced traffic between web and SQL servers by over 25% resulting in faster response times.
- Enhanced our Provisioning application to reduce update downtime to as fast as 2 seconds per site for a hotfix!
- Switched to an official Scrum/Agile product development strategy for even faster releases.  We did this before, but in an unofficial way.
Reliability (and more speed)
Speed isn’t just about front end pages, it also includes producing new features faster.  However, also ensuring the product still works after all of this fast change slows the pace considerably…so we had to enhance things to pick up speed without sacrificing reliability.  We have to do a great job ensuring your key features are protected with every version of the product we release.  The more reliably we do this, the faster we can release our product, playing hand in hand with our need for speed.  2010.5 gave us this by:
- Adding almost 500 new automated quality assurance tests to ensure the safe operation of the key aspects of the AmeriCommerce system.
- Adding multiple front end automated UI acceptance and load tests to further exercise the platform.
- Incorporating a new automated software build system that packages each new version of our product and runs our automated tests, coding rules, performance tests and packages the product.
PCI/DSS Compliance is paramount in this industry and long ago we have seen our customers through these needs, however, these rules are just a starting spot not and end destination.  Security is more like a road with no end, we must drive far beyond the established rules and always strive for more.  With an ever increasing amount of malicious activity out there, the only way an individual site owner can keep up is trusting your software vendors and partners to address these concerns.  We shoulder that responsibility with respect and compassion and kept this a top priority by:
- Deploying a new encryption and sensitive data storage mechanism involving clustered fault-tolerant encryption servers providing additional layers of security for your sensitive information and keeping different pieces of data in multiple silos separate from your storefront data.
- Installing 3 new automated auditing systems for tracking file level changes and continual 24/7/365 real-time auditing of our files and network traffic for enhanced above-and-beyond compliance to PCI/DSS Regulations.
- Creating a login tracking system showing live trends of logged in users sent to our network operations center hourly for analysis.
- Expanding audit history logging of logins and data changes in the admin console.
- Spending a LOT of recurring money to do the above so our customers don’t have to.  Sorry, we had to mention that for some brownie points!
Naturally, we also slipped a few features in too while working on 2010.5 and the foundation for next month's pivotal release!  Here are some highlights. If interested, check out the daily feed here.
- Mailing List Enhancements (see the details here)
- ExactTarget Mailing Manager Integration
- Saved Credit Card selection on 1 page checkout
- Optional HTML Head area modification specific to categories/products/manufacturers, add your own tags
- Rule Engine Enhancements
- New Merge Codes & API Methods
- Additional JQuery Support Added
Aside from all of the above, we have been setting the company up for success in other ways by committing more solidly to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).  We did this by switching out even more internal systems to our neighbors in the SaaS industry.  This includes task management, release management and even many of our office document and collaboration applications.  AmeriCommerce ecommerce software is already in the cloud (ecommerce SaaS), but now even most of our operations are too.  We are currently evaluating our support ticketing and idea management solutions to see how we can position them better as well.
We look forward to discussing the next release soon!  Until then, happy selling and know we are behind our customers 100% of the way!