Do I Need an SSL Certificate on My Site?

Your company's website is your connection to customers online. You have a great design, easy navigation and the latest shopping cart options. Are you missing anything else? If you are actively collecting payments for products and services, you may have overlooked the need for an SSL certificate. While an SSL certificate is not always required for a website, as online consumers become savvier, they will want to see this security measure taken for any website where they enter their personal information or payment details.

What is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL certificate works to encrypt sensitive data collected on your website. That includes names, addresses, and credit card numbers. An SSL certificate also provides some reassurance to your customers that you are a trustworthy company and they should feel comfortable working with you. SSL certificates do not guarantee safety of collected information, but it makes it more likely to be safe in the hands of your company.

Determine Your Needs

Since not all websites will need an SSL certificate, you will need to ask yourself a couple of questions before buying one. Each website’s different features will determine its need for a specific type of SSL certificate. Sites might choose to opt for one certificate over another if the site:

  • Collects credit card information from customers

  • Requires a login form

  • Uses a 3rd party payment processor

If you consider your website an e-commerce site, you absolutely need to have an SSL certificate because you will be collecting credit card information for purchases through your website. The certificate protects the consumer by preventing interception of the consumer's personal information. Whether you are using shopping cart software or are collecting information and storing it to process payments offline, an SSL certificate gives you the protection your customers should expect when buying goods and services on the internet.

When your site requires login information, an SSL certificate is also recommended. Without an SSL certificate, even the novice hacker can obtain usernames and passwords in plain text. This may not affect your website alone, but it could give hackers access to a number of your customers’ various accounts since many people choose to use the same usernames and passwords to login in to multiple websites. If protecting your customers’ login information is your company’s priority, an SSL certificate is recommended.

Third party payment processing that includes services like PayPal is convenient for online businesses that are just starting out or businesses that don't want to use their own shopping cart. This also allows a business to never collect credit card information, making an SSL certificate unnecessary for the site. Since the third party collects everything, it is their responsibility to have the proper protection for consumers.

Sharing and Buying an SSL Certificate

When you shop for an SSL certificate, you may find that it will be easier and less expensive to share the certificate rather than buying one of your own. This can work for some businesses, however sharing a certificate with a hosting provider will not show your domain in the address bar. A shared certificate can also provide visitors with a warning message depending on their security settings. If you want to ensure the safety of your customers when they enter personal information on your website, it is best to invest in an SSL certificate.

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