If you want to create your own website, or you already have one, you have probably already heard about the importance of SSL certificates. But what exactly do these certificates do? And how do you know if you need one? And if yes, which type?
At Openprovider, we want to make the topic of Internet security clear and accessible to everyone. That’s why we have created this article with everything you need to know about SSL certificates. We have even included easy-to-follow video tutorials at the end, to order and set up your own certificate yourself.
Why should you buy a SSL certificate?
The main reasons to purchase a SSL certificate are because it will keep your website safe and increase your customer’ trust.
SSL certificates ensure that your website and online presence are secure. A SSL certificate validates the identity of your website and keeps the data that it receives encrypted and safe. It does this by using encryption algorithms that “scramble” the data that users enter into your website, which makes it impossible for third parties to intercept it.
You can quickly see whether websites have a SSL certificate by the padlock icon you will see in front of the domain name in the browser. Websites that do not have a SSL certificate will automatically be marked as “unsafe” by all major browsers. Visitors will receive a warning that this website is unsafe when they try to access it. This is something you will want to avoid, as it will deter people from visiting your website.
Moreover, a website with a SSL certificate will also rank higher in search engines, compared to websites that do not have one. That’s never a bad thing to have! Sometimes, search engines might even not show any results from websites without SSL.
Did you know that 99% of browsing time on Google Chrome is spent on websites that have one? That by itself is already a good reason to get yourself a certificate.
Which types of websites need SSL certificates?
SSL certificates are an absolute must for websites that deal with customer data in any form. This includes websites that use forms in which customers enter personal data (names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses), as well as websites that process payments. If your website contains the option for customers to make an account and set up a password, it is necessary to use a SSL certificate as well.
The above information makes SSL certificates particularly important for e-commerce businesses who regularly process personal information and payments. However, they are also strongly recommended for websites that only include a simple contact form. After all, your customers wouldn’t like it if their phone numbers or email addresses got leaked to third parties! And that’s not to mention all the negative consequences for your company that might follow.
Types of certificates: DV, OV and EV
So, you have decided that your website needs a SSL certificate. Great choice! But how do you know which type of certificate you have to order?
There are multiple factors to consider when deciding which type of SSL certificate you should order. First off, there is the distinction between Domain Validation (DV), Organization Validation (OV) and Extended Validation (EV) certificates. These types of certificates are all suitable for different types of websites. If the content of your website is strictly informational or entertaining, without an e-commerce component, a DV certificate is likely to be the best option for you. Meanwhile, small to mid-sized e-commerce businesses will need an OV certificate, which offers a larger amount of security for personal data and payments. EV certificates are restricted to large enterprise-type businesses, which is why we don’t discuss them further in this article.
The difference between these certificates is the amount of protection that they offer. As OV certificates offer more protection, the validation process is more thorough compared to the process for DV certificates. OV certificates are also slightly more expensive. We will discuss validation in more detail further into this article.
More types of certificates: single domain, wildcard and multi domain
There are also different types of SSL certificates based on the amount of domains they cover. The simplest type of certificates (whether DV, EV or OV) cover a single domain, and are therefore aptly named single domain certificates. If you have a personal website or a small e-commerce business, a single domain certificate is likely good enough for you. A single domain certificate will cover both ‘your-domain-name.com’ and ‘www.your-domain-name.com’.
In addition to single domain certificates, there are also wildcard certificates, which also cover all of the subdomains a particular domain may have. For example, for Openprovider, support.openprovider.com would be considered a sub-domain that would be covered. Lastly, multi-domain certificates cover multiple domains at once. These certificates are the most expensive, and are usually used by larger organizations.
Why would I opt for a paid certificate rather than a free one?
There are free SSL certificates available on the Internet. These offer a basic level of security. However, there is no validation process involved with the issuance of a free SSL certificate. Domains that use free SSL certificates have not verified their personal and business identities and could therefore be run by malicious third parties. Paid certificates involve a validation process and are therefore more trustworthy.
Moreover, as a domain owner, you will have to renew your free SSL certificate every three months. It is not possible to issue these certificates for a longer period of time. It’s a painful process to reinstall the certificate every 3 months. It takes time out of your workday, and it is likely that sooner or later, you will forget to do that, and your certificate will accidentally expire. Meanwhile, you can choose to buy a paid certificate for a period of up to multiple years, which takes a lot of administrative work out of your hands. You buy it, and you don’t think of it again for a long time.
So, how do I get my SSL certificate validated?
The validation process for DV and OV certificates is slightly different, with the process for OV certificates containing some additional steps.
In order to obtain a DV certificate, you need to be able to prove that you are the owner of your domain. This is usually done by email. You should provide an email address that is linked to the same domain that you are requesting the certificate for. Very often, simply firstname.lastname@example.org will suffice. You will then receive an email with a confirmation link, which you have to click. After doing this, you will have passed the validation and the certificate will be issued to you.
The validation process for OV certificates is slightly longer. Besides verifying your domain ownership, you also need to prove that your business is a legit one. The Certificate Authority that issues your certificate will be checking whether your company is registered in your particular country, and whether the business information that you entered during the order process matches the government information that is connected to your business. They will also conduct a check whether the phone number connected to your company is valid. So it is important to answer their call and confirm that you have ordered the SSL certificate. You need to pass both validation processes in order to be issued an OV certificate. The fact that business information is authenticated here gives these certificates an extra layer of trust.
FAQs and tutorials
That’s all the basics about SSL certificates, covered right here! We hope you have learned more about why your website needs an SSL certificate, which type you need, and how the validation process works. If you would like to learn more, we have a special category of our Knowledge Base dedicated fully to SSL certificates. We have subcategories for general questions, ordering, validation and installation, in order to answer any questions you might have.
If you need extra help, we’ve even got some nifty video tutorials that will explain every step of the SSL ordering process for you! You can check them out through the links below:
We want to be here with you every step of the way on your SSL journey. If you do encounter an issue, our support team is happy to assist you.