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How to Choose an SSL Certificate?

Published on 3/4/2011 by

SSL certificates are a necessity if you plan to buy or sell goods online.  SSL stands for secure sockets layer, and it’s a type of protocol that protects shoppers and business owners during Internet transactions. Each time you buy something from an eStore online, you should see a tiny padlock in your browser’s web address bar. That padlock alerts you of the fact that it’s safe to shop on that domain because it’s been protected with an SSL certificate.

Do you need to buy an SSL certificate for your website to process credit card transactions, collect personal addresses or other information that needs to remain confidential? Here are a few tips on how you can choose the certificate that’s right for you.

Know the type of SSL certificate you require

There are many different types of SSL certificates, including free, dedicated, shared, and wildcard. The type of certificate you require is dependent on how it will be used. Take some time to learn about the varied types of certificates before going any further. (Link here to previous SSL certificate article.)

How many domains will use this certificate?

SSL certificates can be purchased for individual domain names, in bulk to cover sub domains or even the secure an entire Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Do you plan to employ your SSL certificate across multiple domains or will it serve only one eCommerce shop? Your web hosting company offers inexpensive shared web hosting certificates that can be used with many domains, as opposed to dedicated SSL certificates that are functional on only one website. If you have more than one domain with your current web hosting company, one frugal option is to choose a shared SSL certificate that can be employed on all your many websites. That said, there are some disadvantages to choosing a vanilla shared SSL certificate:

  1. Your shoppers will see the certificate has been issued from yourwebhostingcompany.com and not yourwebsite.com.  In addition, they may receive a pop-up warning indicating the SSL certificate does not belong to your domain.
  2. If you decide to leave your current web hosting company, you cannot take your shared hosting certificate with you.

A few things to keep in mind

IP address:  In order to use an SSL certificate on your website you will require an IP address. This can be purchased through your web hosting company for a few dollars a month.

Correct URLs:  Whether you’re using free, shared or private SSL certificates you’ll have to narrow down where the SSL certificate is placed. Will you put it on www.mysite.com or mysite.com?

You can purchase anywhere:  SSL certificates are available from your web hosting company, your domain registrar and from private companies. Shop around to find the best price and service. Understand that some companies and hosts charge more money to install SSL certificates than others.

Make sure it’s compatible:Some SSLs promise to be 90% compatible with Internet browsers and others promise to work with common browsers 98% of the time. Obviously you want your SSL to be functional to your entire buying audience, so pay careful attention to your SSL certificate’s compatibility rating.

Choosing an SSL certificate for the first time can be an overwhelming process. Take your time to learn the basics and then check out some of the companies that are highly favored in the industry.