What Is An SSL Certificate?
Are you wondering what is an SSL certificate? Well, if you're contemplating switching your site from HTTP to HTTPS, then you're going to want to know this is, so let's dive right in!
And...before we get into it, HTTPS is a minor - let me repeat that - MINOR ranking signal, so if you've thought this is a waste of your time, I hope this gets you to reconsider. Now, back to SSL certificates...
An SSL certificate is technology that allows encrypted communication between a website and a web server. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. This is a universal security technology you'll find anywhere on the internet.
What Is An SSL Certificate Used For?
It's designed to reduce the chances of sensitive information like passwords, user names, credit cards and other information from being intercepted by hackers. By encrypting this data, it remains private between just the parties who have a need to know.
Your SSL certificate has to be installed on your web server. If you're not comfortable with getting under the hood of your server, get your friendly neighborhood web dev expert to do this for you, so it's done right the first time.
Once it's installed, it does a couple things:
- Ensures the authenticity of a website's identity to let web searchers know they aren't on a spoofed or duplicated site
- Transmitted data gets encrypted
There are different types of SSL certificates, so if you're starting out on the journey to make your site secure (HTTPS), this is the first task you'll do, because until you get your SSL certificate, you can't really do anything else.
Some of the SSL certificates you can purchase single, wildcare and multi-domain. There are more, but these are fairly common.
- Single - only guards one domain or subdomain
- Wildcard - secures one domain and unlimited subdomains associated with the domain
- Multi-domain - just as the name says, secures the data on many different domains
Not only are there different SSL certificate types, but there are different validation levels:
- Domain validation - the cheapest one you can buy; gives basic encryption. You can get this in less than a day.
- Organization validation - certain website owner details must be verified in addition to domain validation. It can take up to several days to receive this.
- Extended validation - in addition to everything else, the entity's legal and physical validation has to be done. This can take several weeks.
Which one is right for you? It depends upon your site, your business structure and how long you want to wait for an SSL certificate.
Do I Need To Use An SSL Certificate?
Well, if you deal with any of the following information on your site, then yes, you need an SSL certificate. Things like:
- Credit card information
- Medical records
- User names/passwords
- Personal information
- Financial information
- Legal contracts
There are more, but you get the idea.
So, you'll need to buy one from from a Certificate Authorities (CA). Some domain name registrars and web hosting companies are CAs, so check with your own providers first.
This isn't meant to be a huge primer on the topic, but now you know a few basics to get you started.
Until we meet next time, stay safely between the ditches!
All the very best to you,
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