Last night we applied some updates to the manner in which domain mapping behaves. If you have pointed yourdomain.com (or billing.yourdomain.com) to your AcuInvoice account, the following summarizes the manner in which invoice URLs and payment processing now occurs. These changes provide flexibility in branding your AcuInvoice account without sacrificing security as it pertains to sensitive data.
Invoices Sent From Mapped Domains
If you are logged into your AcuInvoice account using yourdomain.com and you send out an invoice, the invoice URL will be branded with your domain (e.g. http://yourdomain.com/someinvoice.php). Note that in this case the invoice is served over a standard http connection, due to the fact that there is not an SSL certificate installed on the AcuInvoice server that is valid for yourdomain.com. If a user clicks on the link for one of the enabled payment gateways, the transaction will occur over the acuinvoice.com domain, and will still have the benefit of 256-bit SSL encryption. In short, invoices can be viewed without SSL, but payments will be processed over an encrypted connection.
Invoices Sent From Your AcuInvoice ID
If you have a mapped domain, you can always login to AcuInvoice at https://your-acuinvoice-id.acuinvoice.com and send invoices. In this scenario, your invoices will be accessible and payable only over an encrypted connection.
One week ago today, we updated the AcuInvoice server to version 1.0. AcuInvoice users have been sent an email notifying them of the server update and explaining some of the changes that were unveiled concurrent with this release. Most of the development items in 1.0 were administrative, but there were a few features and fixes that new and existing users will note.
The obvious change with 1.0. One of the critical issues in determining AcuInvoice pricing has been the identification of a metric that could potentially be used by both AcuInvoice, as well as by the customer relationship management (CRM)/ project management module we intend to release in the second half of 2008. The plans outlined in the AcuInvoice pricing page, therefore, are based primarily on the number of invoiced clients, since this metric more closely relates to concepts that will be introduced in these additional modules. All AcuInvoice accounts include unlimited invoices and unlimited contacts. Clients only count against your subscription once they have been invoiced.
We killed the big signup form in favor of a system that merely requires an email address and the selection of an AcuInvoice subdomain. Login credentials are created on the fly and emailed to you immediately. New users can simply click on the confirmation URL and will be taken into AcuInvoice immediately. We obviously recommend that you update your user information prior to sending any invoices (they would look rather naked in the absence of your business information, wouldn’t they?), but this method makes it super-easy for people to view the AcuInvoice UI and to take our system for a test drive.
Rick at HappyPa.ws (an outstanding domain name for a great service–I’ll be sending my sister-in-law your way, Rick) suggested that we provide a means of applying discounts to invoices. Though we will likely deploy something more robust in the future, we have added “discount” as an item type in AcuInvoice. We would like to gather more feedback from users regarding a more robust discounts module and have posted a thread on the forum on this topic. We would encourage you to participate in this discussion so that our development roadmap accurately reflects the requests of our users.
Rest Added Following PayPal Transaction Completion
AcuInvoice was consistently faster than the PayPal instant payment notification (IPN) service. Therefore, when invoices were paid via PayPal, they were returned to their invoice to find it still in an open state. This was confusing, and resulted from the fact that there is a moderate delay between the completion of a PayPal transaction and the delivery of IPN notification. We have therefore implemented a delay of a few seconds to allow the PayPal IPN to update the AcuInvoice server prior to returning users to their (hopefully closed) invoice. If users encounter this issue again, let us know and we will increase the rest time a little more.
Various Browser-Specific Display Fixes
The 1.0 release includes browser-specific fixes for Safari, IE 6, IE7, Firefox, and Opera. The most irritating bug related to a Firefox display issue that was specific for Mac OSX—strange.
Thanks to the hundreds of AcuInvoice users who have contacted us, submitted tickets, and posted to our forums. We are grateful for your valuable feedback and please continue to contact us if you know of ways we can further improve AcuInvoice. We look forward to continuing the active development of AcuInvoice, implementing new features based on customer demand, and providing rapid, high-quality customer service. If you have any questions, or encounter problems of any kind, don’t hesitate to contact us.
We’re currently updating the AcuInvoice server to the 1.0 release and there may be brief periods during which certain functions are unavailable. We will have detailed release notes shortly.
As we near the 1.0 release (delayed by several days by the arrival of Charlie), we are already actively coding features for AcuInvoice 1.1. This next release of AcuInvoice will include a number of user interface improvements, feature upgrades, and modifications designed to improve the overall user experience; details have previously been posted here. In discussing plans for 1.1 with our engineers this morning, we have decided to seek feedback from the AcuInvoice user community regarding the notion of allowing subscribers to opt-in to the AcuInvoice staging environment, thereby providing access to an advanced preview of new features and allowing us to more rapidly assemble feedback that will make AcuInvoice more useful and productive for everyone. We stress that this would be on an opt-in basis and that users would not be required to use the staging environment. More details are below. If, after reading this post, you are interested, please post a comment or respond to the thread I have posted on the forum (go on, you know you want to join the forum).
What Is The Staging Environment?
We develop and test on an internal LAN, then perform advanced testing in a staging environment that has a configuration substantially similar to the live AcuInvoice server. Additional testing in the staging environment helps us find (typically minor) bugs that had previously gone undetected, and helps us further optimize the code prior to releasing it to the public. The more people use the staging environment, the faster the code can be optimized, and the faster the code will get out to the public.
Is It Safe?
Yes. We don’t put Blue Screen of Death code on our staging environment; it’s typically pretty solid and just needs to be reviewed by a few more users. Also, if we open up the staging environment, we would let you opt out at any time. Lastly, since we recently implemented Amazon S3 backups, we would easily be able to roll back your account to a previous day. The risk is quite minimal.
Why Would I Use The Staging Environment?
Good question. Here are a few reasons.
- You would get to see cool, newfangled features before everyone else.
- You would get to influence the development process more directly; your input is likely to have an obvious impact on the final work product.
- We would likely give out perks to staging environment users who provide significant help, feedback, etc.
If you think this sounds like something you might be interested in, let us know. Our go/no-go decision on this will be based largely on the level of enthusiasm expressed, so if you are interested, please let us know by commenting here or on our forum.
We’ve noticed that PayPal’s instant payment notification (IPN) feature, which AcuInvoice uses to record the receipt of payments, is informing our servers of payments received on a timeframe that can’t really be described as “instant.” There was a post to the PayPal Developer Community blog on Friday indicating that delays were observed. Though PayPal subsequently indicated that the problem had been resolved, it appears as if similar problems may have resurfaced. Therefore, if it takes an unusually long time for PayPal payments to be recorded on your invoices, please understand that this appears to be an issue on the PayPal side. IPN notifications should be received, but it might take several minutes, or even hours for AcuInvoice to be notified.
As part of our final push toward the AcuInvoice commercial release, we have implemented offsite backups to Amazon.com’s Simple Storage Service (S3). Think of this a Time Machine, but for your AcuInvoice data. These backups store your AcuInvoice data and user configuration files for the past ten days. Backups will be for all accounts—both free and paid—so you can have confidence that your data is backed up on one of the most stable, secure, and redundant IT infrastructures in the world. If you ever accidentally delete data, or for any reason need to roll back to a prior version of your AcuInvoice account, simply contact support and we will be happy to recover your invoice data and user configuration files.
The past few days have been some of the most exhausting, but wonderful days ever. Charlie was born on January 27th and is 8 lbs, 10 oz of energy. He’s got a powerful pair of legs (can hold himself up), has outstanding taste in music (already a Willie Nelson fan), and prefers to take naps on the couch with his dad at about 3AM. Baby is healthy and mom is recovering rapidly. Highly recommended.