Do I Need An SSL Certificate? Find Out Fast!

Wondering, "Do I need an SSL certificate?" Have you heard of SSL, or SSL certificates before? Do you know if you need one for your website? Well if you're running an online business website, then you'll definitely need SSL. SSL might sound technical and intimidating, but it's not nearly as complex to set up and install on your website as you might think. In fact, it's one of the easiest aspects of getting your business website set up properly. And, it requires zero technical skill. By the end of this post, you’ll have a clear understanding of what SSL certificates are, why you need one for your site, and where to go to get one. And, you'll also know exactly what's involved in getting it all set up on your site. Let's take a look!

What Is An SSL Certificate?

Okay to start off, just what the heck is SSL or SSL certificates? SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. Have you ever seen the tiny padlock icon in the address bar of your web browser? You'll see this when the website or page your visiting is protected by an SSL certificate. You'll also see that the website URL is proceeded by "https" rather than "http" -- the "s" means that the connection to the website is secure. This means that any information submitted to the website, like credit card information and other personal information, will be secure.

A padlock icon appears in a site's address bar, indicating to the visitor that the site is secure.

With an SSL certificate installed, a padlock icon appears. This lets the visitor know their information is secure.

SSL is the industry standard encryption technology that secures information that's passed from a visitor's web browser to a web server or payment system. That's all it is. It's widely used across the web on millions of websites to protect online transactions and customer information.

So, if the business website you want to run needs to accept any kind of private, personal information, like payment information or other kinds of sensitive customer data, you'll need an SSL certificate installed on your website. And even if you won't be collecting sensitive data, having an SSL certificate is still a good idea. With an SSL in place, all data that's transmitted between the visitor's web browser and the web server remains private and encrypted.

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If you saw my tutorial about how e-commerce works, then you know that there are a handful of components that are all chained together -- the website, the shopping cart, the payment gateway, and your merchant account. If you didn't see that tutorial, be sure to check it out because I detail out how the entire process works.

Now in the above scenario, where you have a full e-commerce website with a shopping cart, payment gateway, and so on, an SSL provides security for the entire transaction. Imagine an SSL certificate as an umbrella that covers (or encloses, or protects) all of these various components.

So, the transactions that are happening between the website, the shopping cart, the payment gateway, and your merchant account are all protected. And because the customer's personal information and their credit card information is encrypted, that means that you and I, as the website owner and retailer, don't see our customer's credit card information at all. Sometimes, we have no idea even what method of payment the the purchaser used. All we see is the order come in, and the funds going into our merchant account.

Believe it or not, but with this kind of secure technology, it's actually safer to buy online than it is to use your credit card in person at a store. That's how secure SSL is!

Where Do You Get An SSL Certificate?

Now that you understand what an SSL certificate is, how it works, and why you need one, the next big question is, where do you get one? Often, you can get one through your web hosting company. And I have some great news for you: All three of the web hosting companies I recommend here on Ten Ton (Web Hosting Hub, SiteGround, and WP Engine -- see a comparison of these three right here) offer a free SSL certificate for you when you sign up with them. Awesome, huh? Otherwise, you'd have to look to a third-party SSL vendor like GeoTrust or Entrust, which might start at about $150-200/year.

All three web hosting companies I recommend provide free SSL certificates upon sign-up!

Now if you go with a free SSL certificate from one of the web hosting companies I'm recommending, how do you actually install it on your website? Well, I have more great news: Your web host will actually install it for you, usually at no extra cost. Double-awesome! So, you won't need to handle anything technical, dig into any code, or do any web server configuring or anything crazy like that. Simply sign up for web hosting using one of the hosts I'm recommending here, and then ask them for your free SSL certificate to be installed on your site. It's easy!

And once you have an SSL certificate successfully installed on your business website, again your URL will display as "https" and a padlock icon displays in the address field to indicate to visitor that their connection, and any information they submit, is secure and protected.

That's all there is to it!

Let's Wrap Things Up

So there you go, there's our look at SSL certificates -- what they are, how they work, why you need one, and how you can get one for your business website. I hope you enjoyed and learned some important stuff. And, SSL isn't nearly as technical as it seems, does it?

So, if you haven't done so yet, go ahead and sign up with one of the web hosts I'm recommending, and grab your free SSL certificate (again, I compare these three hosts right here). And, I show you the steps to sign up with Web Hosting Hub here, with SiteGround over here, and with WP Engine right here.

See ya next time!

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