- Jul 14, 2020
- by Brad Litwin
Adding a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate to your website is a cybersecurity best practice. However, it can be hard to know if a free one is enough for your website, and which paid solution to choose if it isn’t.
Although there are many types of SSL certificates available, it’s possible to find a solution that is ideal for your site. Understanding the differences between your options is the first step.
In this post, we’ll quickly review what SSL certificates are and why they’re important. Then we’ll explore the five solutions we offer at A2 Hosting and provide tips on choosing the best one for you. Let’s go!
Understanding SSL Certificates
An SSL certificate’s primary function is to encrypt the data that travels between your website and those who use it. A common situation in which this is useful is e-commerce. Having an SSL certificate in place protects customers’ credit card details.
It’s easy to spot when a site is using an SSL certificate because it will use HTTPS instead of HTTP. Most browsers also indicate whether users’ connections are secure in the address bar:
As a result, it’s very easy for even non-technical users to assess the security of your site. This may influence their perception of your brand and whether or not they feel comfortable sharing information via your website.
Additionally, browsers such as Google Chrome may warn users away from your site if it doesn’t meet security standards:
This can scare users away and hurt your traffic levels. It may also negatively impact your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Fortunately, it’s very easy to acquire an SSL certificate for your website. Most hosts offer them for free and will even handle installing yours on your site for you.
How to Decide Which SSL Certificate Solution to Use for Your Site (5 Top Options)
There’s no doubt that an SSL certificate is a must if you want your website to succeed. However, there are several different types available, and it’s important to choose the solution that best suits your site. Below, we’ve examined five options you might consider.
The first decision you’ll need to make when choosing an SSL certificate is whether to use a free one or pay for a premium solution. While you often get what you pay for when it comes to web-related products, there are actually advantages (beyond cost) to using a free SSL certificate in some cases.
A free SSL certificate will cover your basic encryption needs and provide the benefits of enhanced credibility and SEO. Additionally, if you acquire yours through your host, your provider will likely manage your free SSL certificate for you so you don’t have to worry about installing or renewing it.
Many small, simple sites that don’t collect much user data will thrive with a free SSL certificate. If you have a blog, online portfolio, or personal website, this solution is probably ideal for you.
2. Single Site
When it comes to paid solutions, the simplest option is a single site SSL certificate. This will provide protection for one domain, and is usually the least expensive type you can purchase.
Single site SSL certificates are very similar to free ones in terms of the protections and benefits they provide. For this reason, a single site solution is also best for those collecting minimal user data.
However, single site SSL certificates may include a few extras, such as badges you can display on your site to boost credibility. At A2 Hosting, ours also provide warranties to protect end-users in the event something goes wrong.
Although you will likely have to set up your single site SSL certificate yourself, it’s relatively simple to do so. This solution uses Domain Validation to authenticate ownership of your site, which can take a little as ten minutes to complete.
Once you’ve purchased and verified your single site SSL certificate, you can install it using your familiar web hosting control panel interface.
Wildcard SSL certificates are ideal if you need to protect a large network of sites. They enable you to use a single certificate to encrypt data for an unlimited number of subdomains.
This solution may also use Organization Validation rather than Domain Validation to verify ownership of your site. This process is more rigorous and may take a few days to complete, but also assures a higher level of security.
That said, there are also security-related drawbacks to Wildcard SSL certificates. Since all your subdomains share one private key, a breach of one is a breach of your whole network. As such, you may want to avoid using this solution for e-commerce, business sites, university networks, and other online platforms that contain highly sensitive information.
Managing a Wildcard SSL certificate is much easier than having to juggle multiple certificates for all your subdomains. However, it’s more complex than the other solutions we’ve mentioned so far due to renewal requirements and having to install it yourself.
All things considered, a Wildcard SSL certificate may be the best solution for large content publishers such as an online magazine or a multi-author blog with subdomains for different categories.
Premium SSL certificates use Organization Validation to verify ownership of your site, making them a viable solution for businesses and e-commerce sites. As we already mentioned, this process takes a few days to complete.
With a premium SSL certificate, your site will be better protected against phishing scams. This is especially important if you’re selling products or services online, since payment processors are popular targets for this type of attack.
Like other paid SSL certificates, you’ll need to manage renewing and installing a premium solution yourself.
The highest level of data encryption you can use for your website is an advanced SSL certificate. Some use Organization Validation, while others go the extra mile and provide Extended Validation, the strictest standard of ownership authentication.
This type of SSL certificate will also display your web address in green in some browsers to provide added credibility to your site. Although you’ll have to renew and install this solution yourself, the extra effort may be worth the increased authority it lends your site in the eyes of visitors.
An advanced SSL certificate is an appropriate solution for business and e-commerce sites as well as other websites that deal with highly sensitive data, such as medical, legal, and educational sites.
SSL certificates are key to keeping your site’s users safe. Having the appropriate solution set up to encrypt your data will help you provide top-notch protection and avoid devastating security breaches.
- Free: Provides basic protection as well as credibility and SEO benefits for blog, portfolios, and other low-risk sites.
- Single site: Offers the same level of protection as a free SSL certificate, with extras such as badges and warranties.
- Wildcard: Enables you to encrypt data for multiple subdomains.
- Premium: Additional protection for businesses and e-commerce sites.
- Advanced: The highest level of SSL protection, appropriate for sites that deal with highly sensitive data.
Image credit: Pexels.