Things To Know Before Buying An SSL Certificate

Things to Know before Buying an SSL Certificate

What is SSL?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer.

It protects sensitive data between a server & a client.

In simple words, the transmitted information between you and a website is encrypted & remains safe.

Having an SSL is a must for those who have an e-commerce site. It not only makes your site trustworthy, using an SSL on your website is a positive search engine ranking signal.

Many bloggers argue that they don’t need an SSL certificate as they are only offering information & not selling anything.

This logic looks valid, but one should know that blogging is not just a hobby & people make decisions based on information they read in blogs. Using SSL encryption will prevent man in the middle attacks, which is a serious security issue when working online.

Man in the middle attack example

Bloggers can take advantage of free SSLs (shared SSL’s) offered by companies such as LetsEncrypt & CloudFlare. Both of them are free & supported by all major hosting companies. Both of them also offer domain validated SSL certificates. (You will learn more about different types of SSL in the next article of this series.)

Now, let’s have a look at things you need to consider when shopping for an SSL certificate.

Dedicated SSL vs. Shared SSL

  • Dedicated SSLs are fully owned by one user (and they cost money).
  • Shared SSLs are usually free, but have security concerns & are not recommended for e-commerce sites.

Another major difference between dedicated & shared SSLs are the support services. Shared SSLs don’t have support & dedicated SSLs do have support.

(However, a quick search on Google, or your hosting technical support system, can help you with any issues you have.)

Level of Encryption

There are various levels of encryption available. To accept credit/debit cards, you should have an SSL certificate with a minimum of 128-BIT.

The Brand Name:

When you look for options to buy an SSL certificate, you will find that a variety of companies are selling SSL certificates. This can get confusing.

You can buy an SSL from anywhere, but consider using a brand when you are selling expensive items such as cars, jewelry, jet planes, or anything where trust factor plays a major role in a buying decision.

For high end e-commerce sites, you can purchase an SSL from companies like Verisign, Geotrust, or Comodo.

Do you need a dedicated I.P.?

  • It’s important to have a dedicated I.P. when using an SSL certificate.
This way, your SSL certificate will be linked to your I.P. address. However,  a dedicated I.P. is no longer a prerequisite for installing an SSL certificate.
On shared hosting, many companies are using Server Name Indication (SNI) to offer SSL certificates on shared I.P. addresses. SNI indicates what host-name the client is attempting to connect to & it allows the server to present multiple certificates on the same I.P. & port number.

In short, you can use an SSL certificate on shared hosting.

But when using a shared I.P., there are some trade-offs:

  • It’s common to see a certificate mismatch error.
  • SNI is not compatible with many old browser versions.
    • Ex: Safari on Windows XP, any version of Internet Explorer (6,7,8,9), Blackberry browsers.
  • You can read about SNI in detail over here.
I suggest you to start using a dedicated I.P. address. Usually it costs around $3/month, or you can get one free with high-end shared hosting packages.

Can you pay for SSL bi-monthly?

You can’t.

The minimum tenure to purchase an SSL certificate is 1 year.

Optionally, you can choose to purchase it for 2-3 years at a time.

I hope this clarifies your SSL related questions before making a purchase. In the next guide, you will learn about different types of SSL certificates & which one should you buy.

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