What is an SSL Certificate?

Jul 21, 2022 | Hosting | 0 comments

SSL certificates are just one of the products we offer at Tomedia Hosting. But what exactly are SSL certificates, and why are they important for your business? In this blog post, we will answer both of these questions, as well as some other common FAQs.

What are SSL certificates, and why are they important?

A secure sockets layer (or SSL) certificate is a type of security protocol that authenticates your website’s identity.

It also creates an encrypted connection between a web server (i.e. your website) and a web browser (i.e. your customer’s computer). This ensures that only you can see and access your customers’ private information (for example, if they enter their card details to make a purchase). Basically, this means that customers can browse your website safely and securely, without fear of their private information being accessed or modified by hackers or cybercriminals.

Websites that have an SSL certificate will have “https://” at the start of their URL, which you can check by looking at the address bar. By comparison, sites without an SSL certificate will only have “http://”. Also, sites with an SSL certificate will have a padlock icon next to their URL, whereas those without this certificate will not. If a site does not have a padlock icon or “https://” at the start of their URL, it may not be secure.

Do I need an SSL certificate for my website?

Depending on the type of website that you operate, you may be required by law to have an SSL certificate for your website. For example, if you run an e-commerce store and collect credit card details from your customers, it is mandatory for you to have an SSL certificate.

Even if you do not collect your visitors’ card details, it is highly recommended that you get an SSL certificate. This will help to ensure that any private information you collect from your customers is kept safe and secure (even if this is just their name, location, and contact details, for example).

It is worth bearing in mind that most web browsers (including Mozilla and Google Chrome) have also now made it mandatory for websites to have an SSL certificate. This means that if you do not purchase an SSL certificate for your website, it may not show up in search results. It may also be blocked by these search engines, or flagged as “insecure”.

What are the different types of SSL certificates?

Several different types of SSL certificates exist. These include:

  • Extended validation (EV) certificates (which offer a high level of encryption, and display the business’s name and country, along with the padlock icon and HTTPS, in the address bar)
  • Organisation validated (OV) certificates (which offer a medium level of encryption, and display the business’s name and a small green padlock icon in the address bar)
  • Domain validation (DV) certificates (which offer a low level of encryption, and display a small green padlock in the address bar)
  • Wildcard certificates (which allow you to use the SSL certificate for one domain for other subdomains)
  • Unified communications (UCC) certificates (which allow multiple domain names to be protected by the same certificate)
  • Single domain certificates (which only allow one domain to be protected under the certificate)

How do I choose an SSL certificate?

The type of SSL certificate will be determined by the type of website that you operate, as well as the number of domains and subdomains that you are looking to protect. Your budget will also influence your choice of SSL certificate, as those that offer a higher level of encryption are more expensive than those that offer lower level encryption.

Why do I need to buy an SSL certificate separately for my website?

SSL certificates are not typically included in the purchase of domain names or hosting services. Instead, they are usually offered as an add-on to these services by the domain sales or hosting company.

Do I need to pay a web hosting company for an SSL certificate, or can I get one for free?

Both free and paid SSL certification options exist. Free SSL certificates can be obtained from sites like Let’s Encrypt, Comodo, Cloudflare, HubSpot, SSL for Free, GeoTrust, and GoGetSSL, whereas paid certificates can be obtained from web hosting companies, domain sales services, and specialist SSL certification services.

A free SSL certificate may sound like a great option for your small business, especially if you’re on a budget. However, it’s important to note that there are also a number of drawbacks to going the free route.

For example, a lot of paid SSL certificates will have a validity period of two years, whereas free SSL certificates expire after 90 days. This means that you will need to keep renewing your free certificate roughly every three months, rather than every two years.

Also, only domain validation certificates are available for free. These offer a low level of encryption. At present, SSL certificates that offer a higher level of encryption (such as extended validation and organisation validated certificates) are not available for free. As an extension of this, free SSL certificates will only provide you with a small green padlock in the address bar – not the business name, country, padlock icon, or HTTPS that is provided with higher encryption options.

Finally, purchasing an SSL certificate from a reputable web hosting company will have you covered under warranty. You will also have access to ongoing technical support to guide you through the SSL certification process. By comparison, if you opt for a free certificate, you will not have access to this support if you run into any challenges along the way.

Can I use an SSL certificate on shared hosting?

Yes, you can use SSL certificates if your site is hosted on a shared server. However, you will need to use a shared SSL certificate. This will be installed on the web server that hosts your site, rather than on your website individually.

At Tomedia Hosting, we specialise in paid SSL certificates. Whether you’re interested in EV, OV, or DV certificates, we can help! Find out more about our SSL certificate options here.


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