What is an SSL Certificate?

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An SSL certificate is used to encrypt information; without encryption, the information transmitted between a browser and server displayed in plain text, which is much easier for hackers to access. Until recently, it was only really essential to have one if you took direct payments on your website, but Google has indicated it will rank higher websites that have this security layer. In addition, internet browsers like Chrome and Firefox are beginning to show warnings on sites that do not have SSL certificates, especially if they allow users or customers to login to accounts, networks or backend administration.

Having an SSL certificate on your hosting is therefore becoming much more important.  A site with an SSL certificate will display the green lock in the browser next to the web address, and your website address will change from http to https. It provides your visitors with a sense of increased trust and safety. 

However, it can add a cost to your annual website hosting. SSL certificates need technical set up, depending on your server and hosting provider. Be aware when moving from non-SSL to SSL that there may also be SEO considerations.  On the positive side, many hosts now offer a free SSL certificate via their own certificate provider or via Let’s Encrypt, a free certificate authority. 

If your site is a WordPress one, the Really Simple SSL plugin is highly recommended in helping you make the move.