So you have a website, but you have been to plenty of websites, and lots of them have a green padlock thing that says it’s secure. You might think to yourself, I like that, the internet can be a scary place, and that makes me feel just a little bit safer when putting in my email address or details or buying something online… So the next question you want to know is “how do I get that on your site?”
It’s really pretty simple.
That secure padlock in the web browser means that the owner of that site has put a certificate on it. That’s a good thing. You feel safer seeing that, don’t you. And you should! That green padlock means that site you are on has installed a SSL Certificate.
But what is a SSL and a SSL certificate?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, which is an encryption technology created by Netscape in the 90s. What this does is creates a secure, encrypted connection between you and your browser and the server where the website you are visiting lives. This is important especially where personal data or credit cards are involved as this helps stop data theft and forgery. A SSL certificate gets installed on the web server and confirms the identity of the website you are visiting. When a SSL certificate is used properly, information transferred between the web browser (you) and the web server (website you are visiting) is encrypted and only the website owner will see the information you send and then the website gets a green padlock, or green address bar or the word secured in green depending on what browser you are using.
So what does a SSL certificate actually do?
Well it does a few things – but it gets long and boring so I will try to keep it short and sharp!
- It encrypts sensitive information – when you use the internet you might not always know where you are actually sending information and what servers and networks your data will travel through to get to where you want it to go. A SSL certificate is used to keep sensitive information, your information, encrypted on that journey.
- It provides authentication – not only does SSL provide encryption, it provides authentication. When you use a site with SSL, you know that the info you send, regardless of the info, is going to the right site, not an imposter trying to steal your information or credit card details.
- Provides trust – web browsers are very visual, they give a lot of visual cue to website visitors SSL is no different. A green padlock, a green address bar, the word “secure” in green, all these make you feel safe. Imaging a big red cross in the URL bar – you’d get out of there quick! This helps your end users trust you, or you trust them, which means they are more likely to stick around and read or make a purchase.
- PCI compliance – One thing that people don’t know when they are building out their e-commerce stores is the that in order to accept credit card payments and information, you need to pass audits that show you are complying with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards. One requirement is the use of a SSL certificate.
So there are clearly many reasons why you should be using SSL and have SSL on your site. But are there any drawbacks? Well, yeah, there are, which I will touch on here, but believe me, the good far out weigh the bad!
- Cost – SSL isn’t free, and a certificate from one of the big players can cost you a little bit. But there are new providers out there who are very competitively priced giving many more options
- Performance – because the info you send needs to be encrypted by the server it takes more server resources than if you weren’t to encrypt your data. But this is often minimised in many ways and to be honest, these days, you probably even wouldn’t realise the difference!
So that’s it. Pros far outweigh the cons, at least in my opinion, and although its not required on every website, it should always be a consideration. The proper use of SSL means you are protecting your visitors, will increase trust and keep your visitors on your site longer giving you a higher chance to turn a visitor into a lead or customer!
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