SSL Certificate - What it is and Who Needs One

With the ubiquity of the internet in everyday business, security has become one of the top concerns for its millions of users. From performing online banking transactions to the purchasing of goods with a credit card to signing into an email account, these exchanges of sensitive financial and personal information should be safe and secure from the prying eyes of would-be cyber criminals and other snooping third parties. While choosing to trust a web site rests with the user, an online business can do their part to offer peace of mind to potential customers by protecting the transmission of users’ personal or financial information over the internet. Not only is this a good business practice but it can help convert a potential customer into an actual customer, keep and build user base, and build trust. So how does an online business go about protecting a user’s sensitive information? By purchasing and installing an SSL Certificate onto their website!

What Exactly is an SSL Certificate?

You’re probably wondering now what exactly an SSL Certificate is. To understand this, we first need took at the underlying technology: SSL. SSL is an acronym for secure socket layers. Secure socket layers was developed in 1994 by Netscape Communications as a method of encryption to protect data transmitted over the internet. At this time, when the internet was still relatively young, there was already a growing concern over just how safe and secure the internet was when it came to people transmitting their personal information.

Because of the nature of the internet, information gets sent across several different computers on the way to its destination. Through the hops along different computers is where third parties can intercept data. This is where an SSL Certificate comes into play. An SSL Certificate consists of a public key and a private key. When a company installs an SSL Certificate on their website, information that is sent from users is encrypted using the public key. When the encrypted information is received by the company, they use the private key to decipher it. Strong levels of encryption are used making it nearly impossible for an unauthorized third party to decipher the information without the private key.

Who Needs an SSL Certificate?

Since the reason why SSL Certificates are necessary to protect any and all private information from being taken and illegally used by an unauthorized third party, anyone who has a website that asks or requires people to enter their personal and/or financial information needs to purchase an SSL Certificate. In doing so, they are allowing for a much higher level of privacy as well as a much higher rate of security when compared to a website that chooses not to use an encrypted web connection. In fact, when an SSL Certificate is used the information is encrypted in a way that creates more than a billion trillion different ways that the information can be put back together!

It is especially important for business owners to encrypt their website with an SSL Certificate. In doing so they are helping to do what is necessary to gain the trust of anyone who visits their website, which is important to their being seen as a reputable company. Trust is a big issue when it comes to both getting and keeping customers.

Who Doesn't Need an SSL Certificate?

Anyone who owns a website that doesn’t ask for any personal or financial information from its visitors doesn’t need to have an SSL Certificate. Even though an SSL Certificate is not considered necessary, purchasing one could still help instill trust in anyone who happens to visit your website.

How Much Does an SSL Cost?

The cost of an SSL Certificate is going to depend on who you choose to buy it from. Most SSL Certificate providers offer a 1-year certificate for anywhere between $100 & $350. There are also web hosting companies that will add an SSL Certificate to your web hosting package for a much lesser price, even sometimes offering them for free. When purchasing an SSL Certificate from a web hosting company, expect to pay anywhere between $20 & $100.

The 2 main types of SSL Certificates are:

1. Dedicated SSL Certificate - This type of SSL is going to be dedicated to only one website/domain and receives its own URL.

2. Shared SSL Certificate - This type of SSL is not dedicated to a specific website/domain and shares a URL with other websites. These are typically cheaper than dedicated SSL certificates.

Good to Know

  • There are a few ways to tell if a site is using an SSL Certificate.
    1. Look for the padlock in the address bar of the browser. This can be clicked on for more information.
    2. Look for a trust mark or seal on the web page.
    3. A green address bar triggered by Extended Validation (EV) SSL
  • The choice is given to use an SSL Certificate only on certain web pages vs. the entire website.
  • Using a Shared SSL Certificate satisfies the requirements set forth by AdWords.

Bottom Line

Purchasing an SSL Certificate is not only a really smart idea, any website that needs to ask for someone's personal or financial information is required to have an SSL Certificate installed within their website. And since nearly 65% of people who are looking to do business with a company will first look to see if the website has an SSL Certificate (or some sort of security protection) purchasing one simply makes sense.