One of the most important items that you will have installed on your business website is an SSL certificate. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it represents security online. When you are protected by a secure sockets layer, it means that information traveling between your ecommerce Web site and another site is encrypted. This makes it difficult for someone to intercept the information and make use of it. The SSL certificate verifies your identity as well.
Having an SSL certificate is important because it shows your customers that you are serious about keeping their information safe from others. Indeed, if you do not have an SSL certificate, most browsers these days will issue a warning. This means that your customers will be warned that you do not have an SSL certificate. Many customers will refuse to buy items from a business that does not have an SSL certificate. This is understandable, since identity theft is the fastest growing crime, and doing business on an unprotected Web site can increase the chance of becoming a victim of identity theft.
Getting an SSL certificate
It is relatively easy to get an SSL certificate. You need to provide identifying information to a company that issues the certificates, and that is trusted to properly encrypt your information. You will be given a certain code and you use it to install secure sockets layer protection on your Web site. The SSL protection does cost money. You will have to buy the certificate initially, and then you will have to pay for ongoing service, usually on an annual basis. How much you pay depends on the security level you choose, and the kind of SSL certificate that you get.
There are free SSL certificates, but they can be questionable in terms of security and service. Additionally, it is possible to reduce your costs by getting a shared SSL certificate rather than paying a great deal more for a dedicated SSL certificate.
Shared SSL certificate
This is an SSL certificate that you share with someone else. Usually, someone else has the certificate and will agree to add you, or let you use the certificate, for a smaller fee. Often, the shared SSL certificate can provide your business websites with the protection of SSL, but without the higher cost.
The main downside to the shared SSL certificate is that your business name is not usually on the SSL certificate. The person who bought the certificate (and you are sharing it with) usually appears. For some online shoppers, this might raise red flags. Another problem is that if the person who bought the SSL certificate lapses, you lapse as well, leaving your Web site vulnerable. Many ecommerce Web hosts provide shared SSL certificates for their clients. This is an easy way to get SSL protection initially. You pay a regular (usually small) fee, and you can make use of your Web host’s SSL certificate.
Dedicated SSL certificate
This is an SSL certificate that you buy on your own. Your identity is independently verified, and your domain name is what appears on the certificate. A dedicated SSL certificate is much more expensive than a shared SSL certificate. However, you are in charge of your protection, and your SSL certificate can come with you if you switch Web hosts. Customers see your company’s name when the check the SSL certificate, and that bolsters your credibility. Another advantage is that you are able choose the level of security you receive, rather than simply taking whatever the SSL owner of a shared certificate offers.
In the end, you have to weigh cost against other considerations. If you do not do a lot of business, and if you are comfortable with your ecommerce web host, it might be fine to simply get a shared SSL certificate. This is also true if you are concerned with spending time getting the SSL certificate or if you want everything taken care of for you. Many people go with the shared SSL certificate because of immediate convenience. The less costly shared certificate could leave money free to use for other things. On the other hand, if you want to build your company to something that is high profile and does a lot sales, it might be worth it to spend the extra and get the SSL certificate. It all depends on your specific needs, as well as how much money you have to spend.