How to decide which SSL (HTTPS) certificate is right for you

SSL stands for secure socket layer and HTTPS stands for hypertext transfer protocol (secure). If your website has an SSL (HTTPS) certificate, it means that visitors can be sure about its identity. The relationship between your website and its visitors is built on trust. SSL certificates help to grow this trust not just among visitors but also in the eyes of search engines.

At eWebGuru, we provide different types of SSL certificates for your needs. They are designed to suit different requirements. Regardless of whether your website is already running, following this guide will help you avoid a lot of potential trouble later on.

Domain-validation (DV) SSL certificates

These are the quickest to set up as they typically don’t require any specific documentation. Because of the shorter and less resource-intensive process involved, they are often the cheapest as well. The purpose of a DV SSL certificate is to make it clear that the concerned domain’s ownership lies with you.

This ownership is usually verified using either of two methods, HTTP or DNS. The HTTP method typically involves placing a file with the exact same name and contents as specified by the CA (certifying authority) at the designated location. This can be usually done only by someone who has access to the website’s file system, and hence it represents ownership of the domain. However, although it is typically faster than the DNS method, it can get cumbersome in case of multiple subdomains.

The DNS method is usually used when you need to include multiple subdomains and/or the root of the domain or simply do not want to add a temporary file in your website. It involves adding specified DNS records in your website’s DNS zone. This too can be usually done only by someone who has access to your website’s DNS entries and nameservers, and hence this too represents ownership of the domain.

If you are running short on time/money and it is not absolutely critical to have additional means of trust displayed on your website, a DV SSL certificate will make sense. They usually need to be bought and renewed in terms of years of validity.

Note that although you might see a padlock symbol being displayed in the browser near the address when a DV SSL certificate is installed, it will not make the address bar or its text green. This is because a DV SSL certificate provides only a basic level of encryption, which is still better than not being encrypted at all.

So if you have found that your website’s search engine ranking has recently taken a hit, one of the reasons behind it might be an absent/poorly configured SSL certificate. Contrary to popular belief, installing an SSL certificate will not actually change any of your website’s files or data.

Think of it as using an insulated wire to connect an electrical appliance. Now that your wire is insulated, you will continue using your appliance in the same way as earlier. Its just that now you are less prone to risks of getting electrocuted or accidentally exposing the bare metal to water/fire etc.

Since a DV SSL certificate doesn’t cover multiple domains, the signing request for the same needs to be carefully thought of. Many people don’t often realise that just because they have issued a certificate for, say, example.com , it does not automatically mean that even www.example.com will be included. Depending on the CA and the interface being used to generate the certificate, you may need to separately specify the www subdomain.

Extended-validation (EV) SSL certificates

If you are running a website where you collect a lot of sensitive information, such as payment-related information or health-related records, you can benefit a lot by having an EV SSL certificate. Their issuance takes longer than DV SSL certificates and typically requires some documentation about your business as well. This is because an EV SSL certificate not only checks for ownership of the said domain, but also whether the entity itself is who it really claims to be.

Most browsers will turn their address bar green and display the legal business name of the identity concerned right inside the address bar when you visit a website having an EV SSL certificate installed. This certificate represents a heightened level of trust on the website, which is essential when you are dealing with sensitive data.

Wild-card SSL certificates

These certificates cover multiple domains together. They represent convenience in the form of having to install one certificate for multiple domains. If you have multiple domains located on the same hosting space, it can make sense to go for a wild-card SSL certificate.

There are even times when you organise a website using subdomains instead of directories/folders. E.g. if your website has a blog and a forum installed at http://blog.example.com and http://forum.example.com instead of at http://www.example.com/blog and http://www.example.com/forum respectively; and you forget these subdomains while generating the signing request for www.example.com , now you will have to go for a wild-card SSL certificate.

Some people consider wildcard certificates to be a subset of DV and EV SSL certificates, because either of the two techniques end up being used by wildcard certificates for certifying the website’s identity. However, most DV SSL certificates cost lesser than wildcard certificates, while also offering support for only one domain and the “www” subdomain in most cases.

Today most web browsers have reached the point where they are compatible with and recognise each of these SSL certificates properly, so you do not need to worry about compatibility issues while purchasing an SSL certificate.

Wrapping up

We provide each of these types of SSL certificates at eWebGuru. Check out the options at https://www.ewebguru.com/ssl-certificate.html . Note that merely installing an SSL certificate will not automatically encrypt all your traffic. Depending on how your website is configured, visitors might still be able to access your website in an unencrypted manner. Whether or not you want to force the encryption to happen (which will involve HTTP-to-HTTPS redirection) depends on your choice.

However, as a general rule of thumb, your website’s search engine ranking is likely to go up after installing a properly configured SSL certificate. This is in addition to your visitors placing greater trust on you and having more confidence while sharing sensitive data.

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