Security has taken center stage in all business interactions nowadays. This applies not only to online communications, but also to consumers and producers who are wary of protecting their personal information even during face-to-face information exchange.
So when we consider the ever-expanding realm of ecommerce and digital transactions, security becomes increasingly critical. After all, we are dealing with a lot of money and sensitive data that is exchanged between entities that you never have and are highly unlikely ever to meet personally.
This is where security certificates play a crucial role. It is like trusting a 3rd party to provide a shared platform for security that allows the customers to feel safe about sharing their sensitive data on the internet with you, as long as you can prove they can trust your site and the security mechanics.
Nowadays, SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates are the most prevalent form of security mechanisms used by websites around the globe. They are affordable, convenient, and effective. Let us begin by seeing why you may need one.
Do you need an SSL certificate?
Today, the World Wide Web is a scary place. Not a day passes without the news of a website being hacked and data compromised. No wonder that customers are refusing to interact with websites that cannot assure them of the safety of their information.
SSL works by encrypting the data passed between the user’s browser and the web server so no one can know about the information being exchanged, even if hackers want to add themselves in the communication channel and listen to the conversation (this is a called an MTIM attack, or a Man in the Middle attack).
Once you Install SSL Certificate on your web server, the visitor sees a secured padlock on their browser. This visible cue assures them that they can safely exchange any sensitive information with your site and engage in business transactions on your website without worrying about data theft during transmission. This leads to your website attracting more organic traffic (as you also get an SEO boost from search engines for using SSL/HTTPS) and a better rate of customer conversion.
How do you get an SSL certificate for your website?
Here are some things you need to do to get your own SSL certificate and install it on your web server.
Own a website
Well, first off, you must have a website. Pretty obvious, huh? Don’t be fooled. You will be surprised to know how many “sharp” business minds out there forgo getting their own domain and work with cheap and easy options that provide them a website on someone else’s domain! So, you do all the hard work, and yet, you don’t have the right on your online property.
Do not make this mistake – make sure you own the domain, and it matches your brand. This will help you maintain your business’ online integrity and security while giving your brand its own unique online identity.
Have a dedicated IP address
Just as is the case with owning your domain, you must also ensure that your hosting provider provides you with a dedicated IP. Don’t be lured by lower-end plans that force you to share the IP address with other co-hosted websites. It is a security bomb waiting to explode, and you will also find it hard (if not impossible) to install your SSL certificate.
See if your hosting plan includes an SSL certificate
It is always better to check if your hosting company can provide you with an SSL certificate before venturing out and looking for a 3rd party to buy one from. However, make sure they can offer you the kind of SSL certificate that meets your security needs. The advantage of getting one from your web host is that it will be easier to work with just one company for all your needs than stretching yourself between multiple vendors. Also, the setup and certificate management will be much easier than dealing with someone else.
Check if your hosting provider can offer you an SSL certificate as an add-on
Even if your hosting company does not include an SSL certificate as part of your plan, they may be able to offer you one for an additional fee. This may increase your bill with them, but you would love the simplicity and convenience of procuring, installing, and managing your security certificate.
Work with a trusted CA or an authorized vendor
This is where you will get the most options, not only in terms of the kinds of SSL certificates you can pick from, but pricing as well.
The CA (Certificate Authority) or the authorized dealer you choose to work with will furnish the information needed to verify your identity and ownership of the website. The level of scrutiny will depend on the kind of SSL certificate you are looking to purchase.
Once your identity information has been vetted, the CA will provide you with your SSL certificate that you can install on your web server.
Some people decide to go with a “self-signed cert” to save money and the hassle of going through a CA. Note that this does not do much good to you on the internet as the users will have no way of ensuring they are dealing with you and not with someone masquerading as you. Also, these certificates are not as secure. We recommend you stick to a trusted CA.
Activate your SSL certificate
Now that you have obtained your SSL certificate, the next step is to activate it. If you got your security certificate from your web host, you need to activate it on the server. Let’s say cPanel server.
The process of activating your SSL certificate requires you to generate a CSR (Certificate and Signing Request). You can typically find this in the SSL/TLS area of your control panel admin. Generate your CSR and share it with your CA, so they can verify your identity and your purpose for requesting the SSL certificate.
Install your SSL certificate
Once the SSL process is completed, the CA will send you an SSL certificate in email. Now that you have obtained your SSL certificate and activated it, you are ready to install it. Don’t fret – it is easy, one of the most straightforward steps in the entire process, to be honest. All you will need to do is paste the SSL certificate’s content in the space provided for it on your cPanel or browse the certificate file located on the server. The steps may vary a bit based on your hosting provider – check their instructions if you face any problems.
You have the option of protecting your entire website with your SSL certificate or cover only a few specific pages (typically, the ones where the users enter or view personally identifiable or sensitive information).
That is all. As you can see, it is straightforward to get the SSL certificate for your website and install it. Remember, assuring the users of the security of their information during data exchange is critical to the success of your online business or website. Not only does it keep your customers safe, but it also boosts your conversion rates.