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What is an SSL Certificate?

Before I explain the purpose and benefit of having an SSL Certificate (SSL), you need to understand what SSL is.

SSL is an acronym for Secure Sockets Layer.

It is a security protocol and is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. It offers authentication, privacy, and integrity to internet communications.

Typically, data transferred between web servers and browsers are sent in plain text, which means that malicious hackers can access and use the information.

However, when you have an SSL, it ensures that all the sensitive data of your website’s visitors are sent over a secure network.

Installing an SSL Certificate on your web server triggers the padlock and the https protocol that allows you to create a secure connection from a web server to a browser.

 

How does it work?

If you don’t have the SSL certificate, a secure connection cannot be established, which means your company information will not be encrypted.

This diagram below shows what happens in the background when you access an encrypted website (click to enlarge):

 

Why are SSL Certificates Critical?

Here are 3 reasons to have an SSL Certificate:

1. It encrypts sensitive information

As you can see from the diagram above, the information you send on the internet is passed from computer to server, so any computer in between you and the server can see your credit card numbers, usernames and passwords, and other sensitive information if it is not encrypted.

When an SSL certificate is used, the information becomes unreadable to everyone except for the server you are sending the information to.

2. It will protect you from cybercriminals

It is impossible to escape the rising tide of cybercrime if your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate.

Cybercriminals are clever! They will identify weaknesses in your network…mostly when information is transmitted.

3. It also helps build trust

With SSL certificates, your customers will see visuals like the padlock icon and green address bar that indicates well-trusted encryption is in use.

Personally, if I see a website that doesn’t have the padlock, then I don’t leave my details at all. Be that via a contact form, or a request to download an eBook, etc, but definitely not when it comes to purchaseing something with my credit card. There is no assurance that my information will be safe.

 

FAQs

Below are some of the questions I am often asked about SSL’s:

Do I need SSL?

If you have a website that stores information on visitors, be that name and email address or most importantly credit card details, then you need an SSL certificate on your site. Without SSL, the data transfers in text format which is an insecure way of sending data, as demonstrated on the image above. SSL protects the data by ensuring it’s encrypted.

Do I still need SSL if I don’t sell anything online?

Website owners tend to think that if you don’t allow transactions on your website, you don’t need an SSL certificate. However, SSL encryption has a range of very important benefits for small business owners, including the points mentioned above, and the one below!

Does SSL help with Search Engine Optimisation?

Yes. Google is pushing web owners to implement SSL certificate on their websites. Their aim is to become a trusted Search Engine. To do that, Google has to give preference on their search engine results pages to websites that have an SSL certificate installed.

How do I get SSL?

Quality Web Hosting providers provide SSL certificates as part of their web hosting plans.  So if you don’t have one, contact them to discuss adding this.

Do SSL certificates expire?

Yes. If you allow your SSL certificate to expire, it becomes invalid and your site will revert to HTTP. When this happens, transactions on your website will no longer be secure and your website will no longer be completely safe for you or your visitors to use.

Will SSL take care of all my security needs?

An SSL certificate will protect your personal information online. However, if your web server is vulnerable, attackers with access to the webserver will be able to read information from the server itself.

This side-steps the SSL security features completely. Therefore you should always make sure you invest in both an SSL certificate, as well as a secure hosting platform.

 

If you have questions or concerns regarding your SSL Certificates, please don’t hesitate to get in touch