Cheap SSL Certificates – Are they worth it? Before evaluating cheap SSL Certificates, let’s take a moment to understand what SSL Certificates really are.
What is an SSL Certificate?
A Secure Socket Layer Certificate or SSL Certificate adds a layer of encryption between a web server and the browser. The purpose of adding this layer of encryption is to ensure that all the data that is exchanged between the web server and the browser is secure and private. SSL Certificates are common today and are used by any website that needs to ensure protection for the consumer while providing online transactions and confidentiality of information provided by the users. Any type of business that provides payment options or private information to be passed would need an SSL Certificate.
Information contained in SSL Certificates
- Your domain name: The SSL certificate contains the domain name of the site to which it was first issued.
- Location: The SSL certificate contains information about the physical location of the owner of the website
- Validity: The certificate also contains the dates between which the certificate is valid
- Ownership: The certificate also contains information about the owner of the certificate and the domain name of the owner of the certificate.
Why do we need SSL Certificates?
- SSL Certificates provide proof of the identity for a website. This proof is non-forgeable and authenticates the website
- Provide security by ensuring that any data or information that is exchanged between a browser and the website cannot be accessed, read, intercepted or misused by anyone.
- Ensure confidentiality for a user by protecting all confidential information that a user may share with the website.
- Provide security of online transactions by ensuring that payment and banking information entered by the user is inaccessible to anyone
Who needs SSL Certificates?
If a website stores or requests credit card numbers, bank account numbers, personal information, passwords or any other private information, it needs to ensure a secure connection while acquiring this information. SSL Certificates provide this secure connection that protects both the website and the user. For the website, SSL certificates eliminate the possibility of fraud and for the users; it provides confidentiality and security of information that is passed between the two. Free and Cheap SSL Certificates – Are they Legitimate?
There is nothing illegitimate about a free SSL Certificate. Some web hosting providers offer so free SSL certificates as a value addition to their customers. As long as they absorb the cost of the SSL certificate and actually offer a free or cheap SSL certificate, there is nothing wrong with it. However, many so called free or cheap SSL certificate providers try to take advantage of unsuspecting customers by offering sub-domain SSL certificates or wild card SSL certificates that are less than secure.
A sub-domain SSL certificate allows the SSL certificate provider to make unlimited sub-domains under one domain that is usually owned by the service provider. Then, they allocate a free or cheap sub-domain SSL certificate for a sub-domain created for your site.
This looks something like this: https://yourdomain.providerdomain.com.
What this means is that the SSL certificate is not owned by you and does not cover your domain. It is owned by your service provider.
The impact of this is:
- SSL certificates are supposed to identify you. Since this type of cheap SSL certificate is actually owned by someone else, it does NOT identify you. This means there is no way of knowing that you are who you claim to be.
- A transaction done on your site automatically loses all credibility and defeats the purpose of having a SSL certificate.
- The Google Page Rank that would have come to your site would go to the actual owner of the SSL certificate
However, not all providers of free or cheap SSL certificates are cheats. Many companies package SSL certificates with your web hosting package with minimal margins. This means that the provider is absorbing some cost and providing the benefit to you.
To ensure that the provider of a free or cheap SSL certificate is genuine, ask two questions:
- Will your website have a dedicated IP address? Providers of sub-domain SSL certificates cannot provide your site a dedicated IP address.
- What domain will the SSL certificate be issued to? If it is any domain other than your domain or if you see any other domain along with your domain name, then it is likely to be a sub-domain SSL certificate.
Selecting cheap SSL Certificates
The cost of a SSL certificate does not matter. Whether it is an expensive or cheap SSL certificate, all genuine SSL certificates provide you and your customers’ security and help you gain the trust of your customers. Some SSL certificates are as cheap as $12 while others can cost you in excess of $1,000. The cost depends on what the SSL certificate provides and the premium attached to the certificate by the service provider. As long as the SSL certificate is actually assigned to your domain name and provides the security you need to provide to the visitors to your site, there is nothing wrong with selecting a cheap SSL certificate. Just make sure you get a genuine certificate and are not cheated in the bargain.