SSL certificates are a pretty complex topic especially if you aren’t too tech-savvy, that’s why we made this simple explanation!
March 16, 2023
Having a valid SSL certificate on your website is an expectation for modern-day online consumers. Not only will an SSL add a further layer of protection for your customers but you need one to stay PCI compliant, stay SEO friendly, and retain trust. Without it, visitors will be greeted with a warning that the site is not secure and, more than likely, they will take their business elsewhere.
For website owners who aren’t as tech-savvy, installing and maintaining SSL certificates can be a daunting task. Thankfully, modern-day technology is ever-improving, and installing a certificate on your website is much easier.
Installing an SSL Certificate
With an SSL, your visitor's data is encrypted before it’s sent to you and then your server decrypts this information with a secret or key. To enable a secure encryption for your website, you’ll first need to install these keys/certificates and set up some rules for your server.
There are a lot of companies out there that sell certificates and most web hosts will allow you to purchase one directly from them. Unfortunately, these certificates can be costly and have to be paid annually. Thankfully, there is a free option, Let’s Encrypt. Let’s Encrypt is a fantastic, open-source, and free certificate authority managed by the non-profit organization, Internet Security Research Group (ISRG).
Installing a Free SSL
Since its launch in 2012, Let’s Encrypt has only grown in popularity, and a lot of web hosts now support this kind of certificate.
But despite most hosting companies supporting free SSL certificates, some are much more Let’s Encrypt friendly than others. Some web hosts don’t offer customer support, others make installing the certificate incredibly difficult, and others only allow for free certificates on certain product packages.
If you’re only starting a website and haven’t picked a host yet, or your website hasn’t been built yet, reach out to us. We can help you with the design and/or hosting, and all of our plans include a free SSL.
If you already have hosting, you can take a look at the list below with the top website hosting providers, the support they offer for Let’s Encrypt, and some useful installation support links.
Purchasing a premium SSL
Unfortunately, not all hosts are the same and in some cases, you’ll have no other option than to pay a premium for a SSL certificate or to change your hosting provider. Or you might need to get a premium SSL if you are looking for a specific type of SSL certificate.
Types of SSL Certificate
Domain Validation(DV): When using Let’s Encrypt this is the type of SSL certificate that they provide. This certificate has the quickest installation process(a few minutes) but only validates domain ownership and SSL encryption.
Organisation Validation (OV): This certificate is one step above Domain Validation. To receive this certificate, you will need to prove that you own the domain and are a registered business. This can be added benefit to any company looking to add an extra level of trust to their website. Although the process takes a little longer than Domain Validation (typically a few days).
Extended Validation (EV): Extended validation SSL certificates are the highest standard of SSL available and the preferred choice for business. Unlike other SSL certificates, EV goes through a strict vetting process by a human. The major benefit to this cert is the green address bar which improves consumer trust.
On top of the types of SSL certificates, you’ll also need to look out for certificate variations. For example, you might need
A Wildcard SSL: This certificate will validate your primary domain such as www.mycompany.com, and any subdomains you own such as blog.mycompany.com. If you have a lot of subdomains you will definitely want a Wildcard SSL because they are much cheaper than paying individually for each subdomain.
A Multi-Domain (MD): Some SSL certificate providers will provide you with a multi-domain option. As the name suggests, purchasing a multi-domain certificate will allow you to verify and secure different root or subdomains at a discounted price. The number of domain names you can verify depends on the company and can vary from just a few to hundreds!
Installing a Premium Domain
Unlike Let’s Encrypt, all of the major hosting providers make it as easy as possible to install their premium domains. Typically, you’ll find an option to install an SSL from the Domain Management panel in your hosting dashboard.
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