3 Reasons Why You Need an SSL Certificate
While an SSL certificate is optional, it is the best way to protect your customers from cyber criminals.
First, let’s explain what an SSL certificate is.
An SSL certificate is a data file hosted in a website’s server that allows that website’s public key and identity to be encrypted. Think of it like a digital passport that provides authentication of a website’s security and validity.
Why every website should get one:
It signifies a business is valid.
It provides proof that a website is secure.
Let’s dig into these, one-by-one.
New phishing websites pop up every day. Fortunately, internet users are becoming increasingly aware of this. One of the ways they try to protect themselves from this is by checking to see if the website has an SSL certificate. In addition, many browsers automatically reject any websites that are not secure.
Why? Because applying for an SSL certificate is one extra hurdle a lot of fraudulent websites don’t bother with.
Also, an SSL certificate gives the website address an HTTPS prefix—and the lock symbol—which can boost a website’s rating in Google. The higher the Google rating, the more likely a user is going to trust that website.
This is the main concern. Just as many restaurants post their health inspection grades to reassure customers that it’s safe to eat there, an SSL certificate reassures website visitors that the information traded between their browser and the website’s server is secure. This builds trust, which can turn a visitor into a customer.
That’s great, but how does it even work?
First, the browser tries to connect to a website, and then sends a message requesting the server to identify itself. Then, the server sends the browser a copy of its SSL certificate. (If there is no SSL certificate, the user might get a warning pop-up from their browser, which often turns people away!) Once the copy is received, the browser checks whether it trusts this particular SSL certificate. If yes, it sends another message to the server. Then the server sends back a digitally signed receipt acknowledging it’s ready to start an SSL encrypted session. Finally, the browser and the server can share encrypted data.
All of this should happen in a fraction of a second.
Once the browser and the server have made that safety handshake, the person using the browser can feel reassured there isn’t a third-party hacking into the server, trying to run off with their credit card information. For any e-commerce site, this is vital.
Let’s Encrypt, a nonprofit certificate authority (CA) is one of the most popular—and trusted—providers of SSL certificates. Their certification lasts for 90 days (for a good reason), but it is automatically renewed so you don’t have to worry about it.
Another free SSL certificate provider is SSL for Free. They, too, have a 90-day limit.
Both Let’s Encrypt and SSL for Free offer easy-to-follow instructions on how to get the certification right on their websites.
Soft Warning: Some web hosting companies also offer SSL certificates, but keep an eye out for any fees. Sometimes, they will offer a certificate with an upgraded service, and we caution you not to upgrade only for this reason. If you can get it for free elsewhere, why not do that?
There are plenty of certification authorities out there claiming to offer a “higher level” SSL certificate, but the truth is, a free Domain Validated (DV) certificate is all you need. They don’t provide any actual increase in security, and the average internet user doesn’t notice the difference between a DV certificate or an Extended Validation (EV), which is costly. In our experience, they’re an unnecessary expense.
The bottom line:
An SSL certificate provides validity, security, and is free.
A website without an SSL certificate will turn away internet users and potential customers. A website with an SSL certificate will build trust, boost Google ratings, and protect from data theft. Since they’re relatively uncomplicated to set up and free, they should be on a business website’s “necessary” list.
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