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Madison, Wisconsin
Powderkeg Web Design
September 30, 2013

What is an SSL certificate and why would you need one?

What is an SSL certificate and why would you need one?

One of the largest concerns of conducting business over the internet always has been, and likely always will be, security.  When entering our information into online forms, we often times submit sensitive personal data over the internet.  When this data is not sent over secure chancels, you risk having your information intercepted and compromised.

Luckily though, there are widely used encryption techniques used to protect our data, SSL being one of them.  SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer.  In a nutshell, it allows the data that is being transferred between a webhost’s server and the visitor’s computer to be secured using encryption.


What is an SSL Certificate?

In order to encrypt the data that is being sent to and from your web server, you must install a SSL Certificate on your server.  In most cases, you will buy the certificate from a certificate authority, an organization that is authorized to sell encryption certificates.  They can usually be purchased via your web host.

Once purchased, the certificate will then be applied to your web server.  If you are using managed hosting, then this is usually done automatically through your web host.  Installing the certificate on your server enables your visitors to automatically connect using encryption.  Once installed, your visitors can access your site using “https://” instead of “http://” preceding your domain.  This would will then create a secure connection, usually denoted somewhere in your browser with a padlock symbol.


It’s important that on any page where the user submits sensitive information, they are using the https version of your domain.  As long as they are, then the data that is being sent into your website will be protected.  So of course the next question is…


When do you need a SSL Certificate?

Google, along with a large majority of internet organizations are now recommending that every website use a secure connection. By using https, you are showing your visitors that you respect their privacy.  In cases where sensitive information being passed, you NEED to encrypt the data.  Below are just a few of the more popular reasons you’ll need one:

1. E-Commerce Store Checkout Page (Credit Card Submission)

2. Donation Page (Credit Card Submission)

3. Client Registration Pages (Personal Data Submission)

4. Sensitive Information Pages (Fraud Prevention)

5. Internal Portals (Increased Security)


If you are unsure if you need to have a secure connection for a page on your website, your web developer can usually help you determine if it is necessary.  Security for your visitors is something that you should not take lightly, as there can be liability issues on behalf of the website if data is compromised.