What is an SSL and Why Do I Need One?

If you own a blog or business website of any kind – particularly an e-commerce website – you’ve probably heard about SSL certificates. But what is an SSL certificate and why would you need one?

Introducing the SSL

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and the certificate is a digital mark of authentication which proves your website’s identity. At the same time, it uses encryption technology to protect information that is being passed to the server. This encryption process involves scrambling data into a format that cannot be deciphered without the decryption key.

What sort of information is held within an SSL certificate?

The certificate will include data such as the holder, serial number, public key, expiration date and the digital signature of the authority issuing the certificate.

Why do I need an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate?

The SSL certificate will act as a digital passport to verify your website or blog’s credentials when you do business online. When a user sends data to the web server, the browser will first check the digital SSL certificate before providing the secure data transfer connection. It’s essential to have an SSL to protect your website and to give your customers peace of mind when they do business of any kind on your site. The SSL certificate will show that your site is professional, trustworthy, built to current data protection standards and will safeguard their information.

In effect, therefore, the SSL delivers to key things:

1. It encrypts secure private data such as personal identifying information and payment details.
2. It provides a quality Trustmark to customers, demonstrating the security credentials of your website.

Does my website definitely need an SSL?

There are a number of instances in which your website should definitely have a secure sockets layer certificate:

1. If it is an e-commerce site that collects customer data (such as payment information).
2. If you take payment card information, store it in a database and then process it manually via a merchant account or POS machine.
3. If your website requires the customer to log-in using private details.

However, if you use a third party payment processor such as PayPal, you won’t need the SSL because the payment data is provided elsewhere. You only need an SSL certificate if your customer provides payment information within your own website.

In short, an SSL is extremely important to protect customer data for most modern business websites. If you don’t have one – or don’t know whether you have one – it’s time to act now.