What is a SSL certificate?
A SSL certificate is an online security provision that secures communication between a web browser and the server using bit sized keys ranging from 256-bit size to 2048 bits.
According to the 2015 Cyber security Trend Report (Ponemon Institute) businesses loses at least $21,155 each day due to security attacks.
SSL certificates are precautionary measures against such cyber attacks that can infiltrate your organization and wreak havoc through data leaks, identity theft, monetary embezzlements and so on.
There are various types of SSL certificates available in the market. A gist of them is as under:
Types of SSL certificates
SSL certificates can be classified based on the validation level they provide as well as the number of domains/sub-domains that they secure.
Based on validation levels, SSL certificates can be classified into:
Domain validation (DV)
Domain validation is done by validating the ownership of the website domain. It can be done by adding the website’s DNS record or through email. DV is best suited for web portals for where security risks are minimal, like blogs, forums and similar non-sensitive portals.
Organization validation (OV)
Organization validation SSL certificates are for public domains like ecommerce websites where the domain ownership and location information needs to be authenticated. It provides higher security than DV.
Extended Validation (EV) denoted by a green address bar and padlock sign is the highest form of SSL certificates. They are issued by Certificate Authorities (CA) after stringent reviews. Post issue, the web URL of the website will display start with https and the organization’s name will exhibit in the green text. The SSL certificate details will contain the owner’s name, location and country.
Based on number of domains secured, the classification will be:
Single name SSL certificate
As the name indicates, it is a SSL certificate that will provide encryption and security for just one hostname or a sub-domain, but not both.
Multi-domain SSL certificate
Multi-domain SSL certificates support multiple domains and their sub-domains. They are highly recommended for websites which need extensive encryption for all their domains and sub-domains.
Unified Communications Certificate/ Subject Alternative Names
Meant specifically for office communication circles and Microsoft Exchange environment, UCC offers security up to 100 domains.
Wildcard SSL certificate
For example a wildcard certificate for mydomainname.com will also secure:
- So on and so forth…
Key deciding factors in buying a SSL certificate
We saw the various kinds of SSL certificates and their encryption levels. Now have a glance at the various deciding factors that go into buying a SSL certificate that will protect your website from harm’s way.
Dedicated SSL and Shared SSL
Dedicated SSL is all for yourself. You own it exclusively for your website. It gives maximum security and mostly comes with live support features. Of course, they cost more than shared SSL certificates.
Shared SSL on the other hand are available for free. As a result, the security features are also compromised. They are safe, but not always and also no support service is available for shared SSL certificates. It does pay to have your website guarded on all corners.
If you are searching SSL certificates for an ecommerce website, a dedicated SSL certificate will be the best foot forward.
A minimum 128-bit rate of encryption is required for processing debit/credit cards. You can get encryption as high as 2048-bit rate depending on the processing requirements.
For an ecommerce business or for any website that wants its customers to keep coming back, Extended Validation SSL certificate is a must-have. EV SSL certificates follow some of the highest standards of online security. They establish the legitimacy of the online entity that is transacting with the user. EV SSL certificate can be identified by the following visual cues:
- Green address bar
- Website owner’s name in green in the address bar
- A padlock icon in the address bar
- Organization information like name and location in the certificate
Warranty if SSL certificates is a slightly misleading concept. The warranty is provided by the SSL certificate authority not to the website owner(s) but to the end-user. In case, the end user suffers a loss due to transacting with a website that has the trust seal, the SSL certificate provider will cover the loss to the extent of the warranty. The loss will be considered only in those cases where the validation of the certificate provider failed.
However, this hardly happens. Hence, the size of warranty claim should not necessarily be a deciding factor. However, it is worth considering around the border lines keeping in mind the safety of the end users.
By default, most SSL certificates are issued for one year. There are SSL certificate providers in the market who provide certificates at a discounted price if they are purchased for a two or three year lifespan.
Also, certificate providers do provide the provision to change the domain name. So, you don’t have to worry about being stuck with the same domain for long. However, do not miss to ensure that your choice of SSL certificate provider does provide this facility.
And, once the expiry date of your ongoing SSL certificate nears, make sure you have already made plans to renew it or zeroed in another option that can be activated immediately. Even a day without SSL encryption can cause serious damage to your website’s security.
Most SSL certificate providers (like SSL2BUY and Namecheap) offer SSL certificates as packages. There will be basic packages for entry level websites and packages with high-end configurations like Extended Validation that ecommerce websites and enterprise-grade users will require.
The price of the SSL certificate will also vary with the package opted by the user. There is no hard and fast rule that higher the guarantee better will be the quality. The brand value, presence in the market and the security history of the brand also matters while making a final choice.
So that’s it folks. Everything you will want to know about SSL certificates and the deciding factors to buy one. Make sure you invest money in a worthy SSL certificate that will keep your website hack proof.