We’ve become used to shopping globally in the last decade or so as well as having access to a lot more choice. What all customers expect when they shop online is that their transactions are secure. If your online company can’t demonstrate it is able to keep consumer data and sensitive information such as card details safe, it can significantly impact on the about of business you are able to do.

What is SSL?

It stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is basically the underpinning technology that is designed to keep users safe by protecting all sorts of sensitive data through various levels of encryption. Most commonly it’s associated with protecting online transactions where money is exchanged for goods. The sign that someone has an SSL certificate is the padlock that appears at the bottom of the browser – click on this and you’ll be able to see details.

SSL has actually been replaced by TLS or Transport Layer Security though we still use the former term to describe it. Essentially, this is just a more updated and secure version of the original. This provides the high levels of encryption used to hide your details from potential hackers.

If your website is secured by an SSL certificate, you will also see HTTPS or Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure at the start of the URL in the website address line.

Why You Should Have SSL

Most businesses should be looking to include SSL and security protocols for their online environments. The mains reasons for having it are:

  • You accept or are involved in sending sensitive data, including various types of user information and financial details such as billing and credit cards.
  • You site requires users to login or signup to certain parts of your site or receive things like newsletters or promotional material.
  • There is local security and privacy legislation in your area that means you have to keep data secure (something which applies to most countries nowadays).
  • You simply want to provide an environment that users are going to trust.

How to Get SSL

The process of putting SSL onto your website and converting from HTTP to HTTPS is relatively easy and most hosts provide the facility to do this. You will need to first buy a certificate and there are different levels depending on the type of validation required and the sort of website that you run.

  • Verified by Domain Validation (Basic): This is the basic form of SSL and simply validates that you own the domain and is best suited to sites that have low security requirements – for example, you don’t accept payments or collect sensitive data.
  • Verified by Organisation Validation (Extended): If you have low level data transactions then this is the next step up and includes verification of your company listing and other information that validates your organisation.
  • Verified by Extended Validation (Complete): This is the higher level and includes much more detailed scrutiny of your business and is vital if you handle things like credit and debit card information and want to appear credible to the shopping public.

Once you have applied for the SSL, your hosting provider will normally install it on your site – you’ll see the HTTPS on your url and notice the padlock at the bottom of your browser. The cost of an SSL certificate will depend on the level of validation and can range from about £25 a year to around £250 depending on the supplier and your security needs. You should always ensure that you have the right certificate for the data that your site is handling.