Happy 2013 to everyone!

I know from many years of personal experience that New Year’s resolutions are easily made but hard to follow through on! However, when it comes to your business, sometimes it is a little easier to stay with them, because we all want to grow our businesses and be successful online.

To that end, I am putting together a recommended list of things that may help you with maintaining your Zen Cart website for 2013 and onward.

1. First, and by far the most important, is to make sure that you are using the latest version of Zen Cart that is available, ALWAYS. When a new version comes out, contact a professional such as myself and get your site upgraded – no ifs ands or buts! This not only protects YOU as a vendor, but also your customers as well as your hosting company’s server.

Believe it or not, I still see people who have websites that were built in 2004, 2005 and they come to me frantic because their websites have been hacked! Granted, they are few and far between now – it is mostly 1.3.8 websites I have to intercede with that have been hacked. In a lot of cases, the paypal address that the customer’s money goes to for orders has been changed to a “hacked” one – and then they are not only out that money but still have to ship the product.

New versions of Zen Cart (or any other software for that matter) are released for a reason. Security and bug fixes are two main reasons I can think of. I still am amazed sometimes at people moaning and groaning about having to do an upgrade. This should be a STANDARD COST OF DOING BUSINESS – not a luxury.

Think of your Zen Cart store as you would your vehicle – you keep the oil changed, you put gas in it, you make repairs to it when a part breaks down and you fix the breaks when they are squeaking…. so why wouldn’t you maintain your income stream software that same way? Additionally, if you collect payment via credit cards – there are PCI Compliance regulations that must be met. If you aren’t PCI Compliant and your site is compromised, there are very stiff penalties that are assessed to you in the thousands of dollars PER OCCURRENCE!

Scary stuff – you could lose that car that you so lovingly take care of (and your house, shoes, shirt and everything else you own) – by neglecting to take care of your online software!

We offer Zen Cart Upgrade services starting at $400.00 and possibly going up from there depending upon how many modifications are installed. We offer 1/2 off all mod installs if ordered with an upgrade – whether NEW mods or upgrading current mods you have installed.


2. Clearing out your debug log files. One of the many things I like about Zen Cart is that it will generate log files that can help you out if you know what you are looking for – like say an error that is going on with the template, or a payment processing error. Because these logs build up, I always recommend that my customers log into their admin, mouse over the Tools menu and click on Store Manager and click the confirm button to clear out these files on a monthly basis or more often if a busy shop. Of course, if you are having problems with your Zen Cart store, you don’t want to delete these until you have a Zen Cart Expert look at them.

3. Optimize your database. Many times database tables will get “overhead” and need to be optimized or repaired to get rid of that overhead. Overhead is usually temporary space that is used to run the queries from Zen Cart or installed modifications. Over time, these queries can build up and should be removed. Again, back to using a vehicle as an example…. you regularly get oil changes and tune ups on your vehicle to keep it running efficiently. Same concept here – each month (at least) go into Tools>Store Manager and click the button to optimize your database.


4. Clean out your admin activity log. Zen Cart is intelligent enough to create logs of the activities of admins that are doing things in your administration area! This is another great troubleshooting tool that a Zen Cart Pro can use to “backtrack” or look at to see what might have been changed when you have a problem. Zen Cart records these activities in a table in your database. While Zen Cart will automatically prompt you after so many days to clean out your admin activity log, I highly advise that you just get into a habit of doing this on a monthly basis. Starting with Zen Cart 1.5.0 (which, by the way you SHOULD be running at the very least), you now have the opportunity to SAVE this logging of activity to a file on your computer. This can also help you with a “gotcha” moment if you have several people working in your admin and something is changed and everyone says “I didn’t do it!” LOL It will show EXACTLY the username, date and time of what was done!

5. Make sure your images are optimized. One thing that can slow down any website, no matter how good/fast the server is, would be images that have huge file sizes! I always tell my clients – first you should make sure that you are not uploading images that are any larger width wise or height wise than 800 pixels. I have seen sites that have images that are 4000 x 4000 pixels and this breaks their page that the images are on. This makes the filesize of the image (how may KB it is in size) so large that it cannot even be served up to your visitors.

6. Remove old images you no longer need. Having old images on the server can cause duplicate “additional images” to show up in a product that has an image with a similar name. By routinely removing old images, this gives you more disk space for your hosting plan. Keep in mind – merely deleting a product does not delete the image off the server.

7. Don’t let just anyone work on your Zen Cart. Boy, oh boy… is this important! I have people come to me all the time after working with a supposed “zen cart pro” and they have all kinds of problems with the work that was done. On top of the work being incorrectly (or not at all), they are treated VERY BADLY and unprofessionally! They are cursed at, called stupid, or just simply ignored. I see proof of this all the time as people forward emails to me from other so called professionals! Last year I had a customer contact me that was completely out of business because he paid $34.99 for an upgrade and they wiped out his template, simply uploaded new 1.5.0 files that overwrote modifications and did not bother to remove the old 1.3.8 files that were no longer necessary!

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