security recommendations

Website owners around the world have been pummeled with information about SSL over the last couple of months. SSL, or secure sockets layer, is an internet security protocol used to secure website data. Due to changes at Google, SSL is looking to be shifting from a luxury to a necessity for websites around the world.

Continue on to learn what is SSL, why it is important, and whether you need to add it to your business website.

What is SSL?

SSL is a data transmission protocol websites use to secure connections with users. You are already using SSL virtually every day you use the internet. Any time you see “https” in the link to a website in your address bar, your connection is secured with SSL. Even this website uses SSL to protect your connection!

what is ssl

Basically, what SSL does is ensure that the data between your browser and the web server is not stolen or tampered with. When the two computers connect, a digital encryption key is established. Only the two computers, the server and your PC or smartphone, can decode the information sent between the two sites. What is SSL, it’s a safe way to connect with your customers.

Why is SSL important?

If you take any customer information or payments through your website, SSL is absolutely necessary. If you take payment information without SSL, your customer’s information is unencrypted. As a result, your data travels across the internet leaving it wide open for hackers and other bad guys to steal their information.

SSL also protects against other forms of hacking and attacks including spoofing (a website posing as your website). In the event of spoofing, another website poses as your website and steals user information that is submitted to the wrong server.

As of the beginning of 2017, there is another reason to add SSL to your website: search traffic. Google started using SSL as a ranking tool in 2016. As of the start of 2017, SSL is becoming a more important factor in ranking sites. Therefore, not implementing SSL is harming your online business. There is no excuse for skipping this vital step.

How much does SSL cost?

In the old days, you didn’t have many inexpensive options to add SSL to your site. Going through most hosting companies required around $50-$60 per year at the minimum depending on what certificate you choose. The cheapest option I ever found was to get a Comodo SSL certificate for $9 per year through NameCheap.

But everything started changing last year thanks to Let’s Encrypt. Let’s Encrypt is an organization dedicated to expand SSL access across the internet. Through partnerships with major hosting companies, you can now get SSL certificates for free included with your hosting account. If you use WordPress and host your website, you can with a participating hosting company. All you have to do is go into your settings and add an “s” to your website URL and your site and users are protected with SSL.

With free SSL being rolled out to website owners, there is really no excuse to not use SSL! If your host is not participating in Let’s Encrypt you can still pay for an SSL certificate. You should consider encouraging your host to join Let’s Encrypt. If not consider moving your hosting to a more forward thinking hosting provider.

How you can add SSL to your business website

Most hosting company provides SSL included with your hosting, as is becoming increasingly common. Furthermore, you will need login to your host and change your website settings to use the https vs http. You can find out if you have SSL installed looking in your hosting CPanel. If you have WordPress, follow this simple guide to activate SSL if a certificate is installed for your site. No plugin required!

If your hosting company still thinks it’s 2016 and doesn’t offer free SSL, you have to take a few more steps to purchase and install SSL. You can pay your hosting company to do it or follow along with one of the many free guides available online.

Finally, one thing’s certain, 2017 is the year of SSL for websites big and small. If you are not onboard, the internet will leave you behind.

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg is a finance, travel, and technology writer originally from Denver, Colorado living in Ventura, California. When away from the keyboard, Eric he enjoys exploring the world, flying small airplanes, discovering new craft beers, and spending time with his wife and baby girl. You can connect with him at his own finance blog Personal Profitability.

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