What is an SSL Certificate?

padlock

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 which do not have SSL certificates and where data or text is input (e.g. in a contact, login or checkoout form).

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. 

Let’s Encrypt is free and offers a basic SSL certificate – anyone can add if they have access to your website’s control panel. The certificate is a domain validation (DV) one and can only ensure a secure connection to the website. it’s ideal for websites that need encryption without the absolute guarantee of ownership.

However, if your website is a business that’s processing credit cards directly on your site (i.e. not via Paypal) or transmitting sensitive information, it’s recommended that you consider purchasing a certificate so your user’s can rest assure the connection is valid and secure. Such certificates will usually be Organizational Validation (OV) certificates which require additional organizational information about who is purchasing the certificate such as their Name, City, State, Country. (OV) certificates also require the user to respond to an email with a verification code and may also offer warranty protection against losses (check with your host).

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