How Do I install an SSL Certificate?

For anybody with a website who wants to be sure that sensitive information such as credit card payments or social security numbers can be kept safe, an SSL certificate is a must. The abbreviation "SSL” is short for Secure Socket Layer. This essentially means that any data shared between the user and website is encrypted, and therefore, safe.

SSL certificates have many different grades. Of course this is reflected in the price range which can vary from almost nothing to a couple of hundred dollars per year. It all depends upon how sensitive the information is that needs to be kept secure.

For the most part, applications can use a lower-end certificate. Websites that are going to accept credit card payments should contact the appropriate gateway in order to meet their requirements. These are usually banks or the credit card companies themselves.

Step 1

The first order of business is a dedicated IP address. Shared hosting won't do in this case. SSL certificates are usually not shared, so they need their own IP address. Some hosting companies provide a dedicated IP address for no charge. Others require a nominal fee for this service.

There are a few initial requirements for purchasing an SSL certificate. The first is a CSR or Certified Signing Request and the second is getting a "key" generated. However, each of them can be done from the control panel.

The steps involved in purchasing and installing an SSL certificate are straightforward. After logging on to the server, a key has to be generated if one is not there already. After the key has been generated, the CSR has to be completed. It is also important to choose the proper key, make sure that it the one with "www." to be safe.

The server will usually ask for additional information such as location before displaying a new CSR page or emailing it to the owner.

Step 2

It is important to capture a snapshot of this page for posterity. A typical one can be done with a print screen function followed by pasting into a plain text document reader. The top will have "------BEGIN CERTIFICATE REQUEST------" followed by a number of random characters. The end of the document will have "------END CERTIFICATE REQUEST------” It is vital to include all of the dashes before "BEGIN CERTIFICATE REQUEST" and after "END CERTIFICATE REQUEST."

The instructions to configure the SSL may be slightly different from vendor to vendor. However, all of them need to have the CSR in one field and the contact information in a few different areas. The latter includes such things as owner, email, physical address and name.

The same information is typically also transferred to billing and technical contact fields. After the information is submitted, an email address is required for approval. The signing authority will reply with an approval to this address.

It is vital that the email address submitted must have some authority with the domain name or server. What this means is that a common name won't work. It must be something such as admin@thisdomain.com where "thisdomain.com" is where the certificate will be installed.

Step 3

Following the approval process, an email will be sent containing the certificate and quite possibly a "CA Bundle." An SSL certificate will resemble a CSR but will be much bigger. It also has the "------BEGIN CERTIFICATE------"; followed by random characters and ending with "------END CERTIFICATE------" All of these characters have to be included when installing it.

Certificates are typically installed in one of two ways. The first involves pasting the certificate into a field on the server itself. Or some will permit an upload from a text file or email. The certificate will usually be installed by the server.

If everything was done properly the installation should proceed smoothly. For help with errors or warnings, customers can contact the administrator for additional assistance.

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