What is SSL?
Why you need a secure socket layer to conduct online business
SSL or secure socket layer is an online security protocol – and technology you need if you're going to set up an online business or conduct online transactions. This is the online standard, used by millions of sites to protect online transactions with customers.
SSL will secure your website by encrypting information as it travels from the host server to the Internet browser visiting your site. Think of secure socket layer as a lock and key system for your online store. (In fact, when SSL is engaged and you are in a secure Internet connection, you will see a little lock on your browser.)
Why you need SSL
A secure socket layer connection is vital if you are going to be accepting credit or debit card numbers (or other sensitive information) through your website. Without this security layer, any personal or financial information that is transmitted is at high risk of being stolen and misused.
Customers should, and will, be wary of using any online store that does not have SSL in place. Protect your customers and your own reputation by ensuring you use secure socket layer connection.
What you need to use SSL on your site
Enabling a secure socket layer on your site requires two things: a dedicated IP address and an SSL certificate.
If you are using a shared hosting service, you are sharing a server and Internet Protocol (IP) address with a number of other sites. An IP address tells the world where that server is located – much like your home address and postal/zip code. However, if you wish to offer your customers a secure connection, you cannot share an IP address with anyone else. Most web hosting companies will sell you a dedicated IP address, which will be used only by your domain and website.
Once you have a dedicated IP address, you may purchase an SSL certificate. These are sold by certification authorities, businesses who often offer other e-commerce and hosting services. Each certificate is unique, identifying the certificate owner. Only the owner is able read the encrypted data transmitted between you and the customer.
A secure socket layer certificate will include your contact information, domain name and an expiry date.
How SSL works
You don't need to know the complexities of a secure socket layer to purchase and use an SSL certificate. However, we can simplify the process:
1. A visiting browser requests the web server identify itself
2. That server transmits a copy of the SSL certificate back to the browser
3. The browser verifies the SSL certificate. If it trusts the certificate, it will send a message to the server.
4. The server will then start the SSL encrypted session
5. Encrypted data is shared between the browser and the server
In other words, the browser checks out the server to make sure it's trustworthy. Once it sees the proper identification, a secure session may be opened. It's much like two businesspeople doing background checks on each other before shaking hands on a deal. Once trust is established, both parties can get down to business.
For more on SSL certificates, please read our articles on Buying SSL Certificates and Selecting the Right SSL Certificate.