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The Web Doctor

Brian Platz
The Web Doctor
Salem, Oregon
(503) 373-4728


ARTICLE: WHY YOU NEED AN SSL CERTIFICATE

By: BRIAN PLATZ

You may be wondering whether or not you need a Secure Sockets Layer ("SSL") certificate for your web site. Simply put, an SSL certificate allows you to send encrypted and secure data from the website visitor’s browser to the web server where your site is hosted. SSL is the backbone of a secure Internet and protects your sensitive information as it travels across the world's computer networks. SSL certificates are identified by the “https://” seen in the address bar when visiting a website, where the “s” stands for “secure.” If the site you’re visiting displays only an “http://” in the address field, the site you are visiting does not have an SSL certificate installed.

The primary reason why SSL is used is to keep sensitive information sent across the Internet encrypted so that only the intended recipient can access it. This is important because the information you send on the Internet is passed from computer to computer to get to the destination server.  Any computer in between you and the server can see your credit card numbers, usernames and passwords, and other sensitive information if it is not encrypted with an SSL certificate. When an SSL certificate is used, the information becomes unreadable to everyone except for the server you are sending the information to. This protects it from hackers and identity thieves. In addition to encryption, a proper SSL certificate also provides authentication. This means you can be sure that you are sending information to the right server and not to an imposter trying to steal your information.

Why is this important? The nature of the Internet means that your customers will often be sending information routing through several computers. Any of these computers could pretend to be your website and trick your users into sending them personal information.  It is only possible to avoid this by getting an SSL Certificate and encrypting the communications and traffic sent in between the client and hosted web site.

SSL SecruityWhile SSL certificates were introduced in 1994, it wasn’t until recent years, that it became increasingly important for all website owners to use them. Initially, SSL certificates were predominantly used by those collecting sensitive data on their sites such as credit card information. However, in 2014, Google announced that search rankings would be affected by whether or not a website had an SSL certificate, therefore encouraging website owners to install security certificates regardless of the sensitivity of the data being transmitted on their sites. In 2017, Google introduced the “Not Secure” message in the address field of the Chrome browser when users typed the address of a site that did not have a security certificate installed. In July of 2018, the “Not Secure” message became permanently visible in the Chrome browser for sites lacking an SSL certificate. Other browsers followed suit by using things like a green lock indicator for websites secured with an SSL certificate, or a “non-secure” message when typing in a form field on a website lacking a security certificate. 

With so many advantages, why would anyone not use SSL? Are there any disadvantages to using SSL certificates? Cost is an obvious disadvantage. Hosting companies and SSL providers need to set up a trusted infrastructure and validate your identity and install and configure the SSL certificate so there is a cost involved. Performance is another disadvantage to SSL. Because the information that you send has to be encrypted by the server, it takes more server resources than if the information weren’t encrypted. The performance difference is only noticeable for web sites with very large numbers of visitors and can often be minimized with special hardware in such cases.

Overall, the disadvantages of using SSL are few and the advantages far outweigh them. Proper use of SSL certificates will help protect your customers, help protect you, and help you to gain your customers trust.

To sum up, the benefits of activating SSL certificates for your business or personal websites are incredible. The Web Doctor wishes all their hosting clients to not miss out on all the advantages of installing and using SSL/https on their hosted web site(s) and add that extra layer of security for your website visitors and gain their trust.

SSL Secure Connection

Brian Platz is the Web Doctor; an internet consultant living in Salem, Oregon since 1996.

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