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What is an SSL Certificate?

The initials SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. It’s a protocol that enables communication through the internet to be secure.  SSL performs the same functions as TLS (Transport Layer Security) although they are not perfectly identical. TLS is an improved form of SSL.  In fact, TLS is also sometimes referred to as SSL v3.1. From now on, we believe you won’t get confused by the use of the terms TLS or SSL.

The initials SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. It’s a protocol that enables communication through the internet to be secure.  SSL performs the same functions as TLS (Transport Layer Security) although they are not perfectly identical. TLS is an improved form of SSL.  In fact, TLS is also sometimes referred to as SSL v3.1. From now on, we believe you won’t get confused by the use of the terms TLS or SSL.

Their only difference is that one is an updated version of the other and people have also become too used to the term SSL to a point that they are finding it difficult to use TLS. However, they are both cryptographic protocols. They ensure that communications over the internet are secure.

Communication is one of the key pillars of a successful business. As such, you need to employ all the necessary measures to ensure that information is secure. One of the many ways of doing so is ensuring that your site or the site you are interacting with is encrypted. So, all communication between servers, phones, digital devices, clouds, and computers should use an encrypted route.

By encryption we mean that the site has a green padlock on the address bar and is https:// certified; where “s” stands for security. This means that even if the data is leaked or intercepted before it reaches the recipient, the hacker cannot get the content of data being transferred. Google warns its users if the site they are about to visit is not encrypted; in most of the times they will give you a warning like this “the site you are about to open is not secure”

We know you have once or severally shared sensitive information and hoped that it reaches the other end safely. However, rather than relying on hope and luck while transferring sensitive information, we shall show you how to reduce the risk of data leakage during transmission. In fact, there are cases where messages or emails have been modified before they reach their destination or even username and passwords stolen by hackers.

Don’t put your website and the information of the customers at risk for trying to save on SSL certificate. Again, ignorance is no defense and we are working on taking away this risk by providing more information on the subject of SSL. By the time you are through with the article, we believe you shall have all the genuine reasons to get an SSL certificate.

What it is used for?

SSL uses - Positive SSL Certificate Installation by SiteMax

To understand the use of an SSL certificate on a website, let’s use a practical example which is easy to understand. Let’s take an example that you are talking on your phone. Any person near you can hear what you are saying and in most of the times, the communication is conveyed as a voice. As a matter of fact, you cannot encrypt a voice. Without SSL, communication between two or several computers would have the same risks.

When data is transferred through a site with HTTP:// without an S, it means that the information is transferred as plain text and can be eavesdropped and may be used for a different purpose other than the one intended. For example, without hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS ://) account logins or even bank card details can be stolen. The SSL certificate ensures that data is encrypted and cannot be decrypted until it reaches the intended user.

Basically, SSL is used to certify that you are connected to the right server, the information is secure, the data requested is actually the one delivered, etc. However, you should be aware that free and paid versions of an SSL can have different functionalities.

For example, if you want only to protect the visitors on your site and increase some trust level on the site just by having the green padlock, then you can just use a free SSL. Some of the SSL include those from let’s encrypt. These are just sufficient enough to protect your visitors from the preying eyes of hackers and eavesdroppers.

However, if you want the SSL provider to also provide a report on what they find on your site, then you must get a paid version of the SSL certificate. They authentify that the owner of the site has gone an extra mile to identify his or her identity with a third party. This is the most trusted form of SSL certificate.

Why do I need it?

SSL purpose - Positive SSL Certificate Installation by SiteMax In the current digital era we are living in, there is no genuine reason not to get an SSL certificate. A lot of very sensitive information is being shared over the internet every minute and hackers are also out there trying to intercept the information to get some advantage. Anyone who gets hold of your sensitive information can extort money from you or even sabotage you and your associated businesses. As such, unless you are not afraid to lose your credibility and maybe incur some losses, you should get an SSL because you need it. It’s not too late to get one since it will prevent you from being a learning example. It’s always advisable to learn from the mistakes of others rather than making those mistakes.

Information about data loss and leakages are all over the internet and there is no reason that can prevent that from happening to you if you do not take the necessary measures. One of the ways you can do so is to purchase an SSL certificate. As such, in summary, we can say that you need an SSL certificate for the following reasons:

  1. To protect the privacy of data moving from the user’s computer and the server
  2. To provide some authenticity of the site and ensure that the site owner is exactly who she/he says to be


Does it affect the ranking of your site in Google?

SSL SEO - Positive SSL Certificate Installation by SiteMax

There are many factors that affect the ranking of a site on Google. Some of these are directly related to the authority of the site compared to other sites offering similar or near similar information. One way to get that authority is instilling confidence on users of your website.

If people don’t trust your site, then they will leave as soon as they land on your site. This increases the bounce rate that negatively affects the SEO algorithm. Even Google has categorically stated that having an SSL certificate on your site contributes to SEO which in turn affects ranking.

SEO is the initial denoting Search Engine Optimization; they are basically the strategies used to make sure that all contents on the internet are shown to the user/searcher according to their relevancy. This means the information which has the most substance is shown on the first page, and the others follow to second, third, etc position respectively. More information abotu teh benefits of SSL encrypted site to the user here!

There is a very big misconception that a majority of the internet users or website owners believe but it’s not true. Most of them believe that you only require an SSL certificate if your site has a login page, financial data capture, a check out page, or any other page that requires a user to key in their sensitive information on their site.

It’s good to know that every site on the internet requires an SSL at least for the trust it instills on users. There is nothing worrying than a search engine telling you that the site you are trying to access is not secure. It even asks you whether you are sure to continue. At that point, the easiest option is just to go back and the site owner loses one more visitor. This further negatively affects ranking as Google algorithm ranking also looks at the traffic flow to the site.

There is no other time to secure an SSL certificate than now when it has such a great impact on traffic, trust, and even ranking of a site. There are many trusted SSL certificate provider and it’s up to you to do diligent research to get the best value for your money. 


Positive SSL certificate Price

The price of SSL certificates varies depending on who is supplying and what it’s expected to cover. For example, some hosting companies like Namecheap provide a free SSL certificate after buying their hosting package. There are also third-party providers like SSL dragon who sell SSL certificates. In the same note, there are also free SSL certificates in the market.

However, in order to make a well-informed decision, let’s get into details on the actual pricing of SSL certificates on different providers based on whether you are buying an SSL for one domain, subdomains, or multiple domains.  For example;

  • Comodo: This among the most trusted providers and their cheapest option for one domain is $7 per year
  • Rapid SSL: The standard one costs $7.50 per year
  • Thawte: The cheapest option with this hosting as per the time of publishing is $29 per year.
  • Some of the other providers include; Symantec, Geotrust, and Global sign. 

In most of the times, the price you pay for a certificate is dependent on whether you are purchasing any of the following certificates:

  • Single domain SSL certificate: Just as the name portrays, this is best suited for a single website. It’s among the cheapest because it all its processing is automated. There is no human verification which is required.
  • Wildcard SSL certificate: This is the ideal certificate in a situation where you want SSL for unlimited subdomains hosted on a single website.
  • Multidomain SSL certificate: This one is a certificate that provides protection to multiple domains up to a limit of 99 domains. They are basically cheaper than wildcard SSL certificates
  • Extended validation certificate: This is the most expensive and the most comprehensive in the validation process. Its coverage extends to the scrutiny of personal data pertaining to the website. It’s also issued after verification of the physical existence of the business.


How long does SSL Last?

SSL validity - Positive SSL Certificate Installation by SiteMax

An SSL can last for a period ranging from 90 days to two years. These certificates expire just like any other product with a limited life. Once the SSL expires, it can no longer offer a secure connection. You can check whether your site’s SSL or the one on the site you are visiting is valid or after how long will it expire with these simple steps:

  • Click the padlock on the address bar of the website of interest
  • Under connection, open the tab further to get more information
  • Under this, you will see the expiry date of the SSL, the issuer, other interactions with the website, as well as whether the certificate is asymmetric or symmetric. In most of the times, SSL certificates are asymmetric

The shorter the life of an SSL certificate, then the safer it is. However, the automation level also determines how frequent the databases are updated. An SSL should optimally last for only one year or have renewal options. If this is not by the buyer, then the seller will update the certificates often.

According to certificate authority forum guidelines, a certificate should never be issued to last more than 39 months. The maximum recommended period should be 36 months. As such, if you have any provider with validity options exceeding 36month, then that should be enough red flag to warn you.

If the SSL certificate you have on your site is provided by your web hosting company for free, then it’s the responsibility of the web hosting company to ensure that the certificate is valid as long as you host your sites with them.


Factors to consider when selecting an Positive SSL certificate:

In order to get the maximum value for your money or for the time in this exercise, then you are supposed to consider the following factors:

  1. The supplier/provider of the SSL certificate. Different providers are rated differently by prior users and it’s always advisable to go with the majority unless you have strong shock absorbers to explore on your own. The reputation of the provider is something that should not be ignored
  2. The compatibility of the SSL with your browser or the medium you are using or expect your users to be using while accessing your site
  3. Efficiency and automation level. You don’t need to wait on a queue to access SSL services. However, sometimes, the speed at which the certificate is issued is mainly dependent on the verification process; quality checks can take some time to certify
  4. The support system should be effective and efficient. Every case must be handled within a reasonable time depending on the complexity of the matter
  5. The number of domains you want to secure. This is one of the major factors that will affect pricing. We have already mentioned that you can have an SSL certificate for one site, multiple domains, and, wildcard
  6. The warranty amount. What this means is that your customer is given financial compensation in case of fraudulent activities
  7. The sensitivity of the information that will be shared between the servers and the computer. Sensitive information like those involving financial data, account logins and other sensitive card information require strong SSL certificates


How can a user know that the site is SSL encrypted?

https - Positive SSL Certificate Installation by SiteMax

As already aforementioned, a user can know the site is SSL encrypted if it has a green padlock and HTTPS:// in the search bar. However, it’s good to mention that even with an expired SSL certificate, the data flow from the server and the browser are encrypted and decrypted accordingly. The only limitations may be with respect to usability.

It’s advisable not to enter your login, card details, and other sensitive information on a site which has no green padlock. A site which is not SSL encrypted has no green padlock but instead has an exclamation mark where the green padlock sits. The site is also HTTP:// rather than HTTPS:// Click here to learn more about the benefits of SSL encrypted site to the users.

If you find that the site is not encrypted and you would like to get one for the site, then you can consider the following options.

  • Almost all hosting companies provide SSL certificates. For example, Namecheap offers an SSL certificate starting from $8 per year to $22 per year depending on the number of domains included as well as the functionality. The cheap SSL is mainly advocated for personal websites while the high-end ones are ideal for E-commerce sites
  • There are also free SSL certificate providers like let’s encrypt, Comodo, Cloudflare and many more
  • Majority of the free versions of SSL certificates have their paid versions. This is a clear indication that there is something premium with a paid SSL certificate


Wrap up:

There are many types of SSL certificate and each is optimized for a particular purpose. As such, despite discussing so much about SSL certificates we cannot conclude without saying that you get what you pay for in most of the times. Free SSL cannot be compared to the paid ones. There are three major versions of paid SSL certificates available today. These include extended validation (EV SSL), organization validated (OV SSL), and domain-validated (DV SSL).

Perform due diligent research before settling on one of the providers in the market depending on your budget and the primary reason for getting an SSL certificate. It’s advisable to ensure that you have the green padlock on your site because it increases the trustfulness of the site.