What is an SSL Certificate?
It's simply the Web's mechanism for securing data in transit
Yes, SSL is an acronym, but if I started out telling you that it stands for Secure Sockets Layer, you'd probably get confused and immediately lose interest…wait, whoops, let me start over-an SSL certificate (or TLS certificate) is the behind the scenes technology standard for authenticating & confirming the identity of a website and then encrypting data prior to it traveling through the web. This digital security certificate gets its proper name from the layer of the server it operates on, but don't even concern yourself with that notion, we can explain it a little better here so everyone can easily understand.
The encryption concept
Encryption, in general, is the scrambling of information into an encoded, unreadable, unrecognizable, undecipherable format that can only be read with the proper decryption key made to decode that message beforehand. So, an SSL/TLS certificate is kind of like an electronic passport to facilitate the above encryption concept online. As the electronic passport, it's used to establish a website's identity prior to sending any web user's encrypted sensitive information through the Web to the Web server. The user's Web browser simply accesses the digital certificate or checks the passport to establish a trusted & secure connection between the user's browser and website's server, then allows encrypted information to flow safely.
C'mon, just give it me straight
In a nutshell, an SSL or TLS certificate (Transport Layer Security) is the Web's trusted protocol or mechanism to send encrypted data from a browser to a Web server to keep information safe and secure from prying eyes. The different levels or what we call "enhanced versions of SSL" are used to show your site visitors that you're actually using this technology on your site for the users' sake. The higher level certificates show more obvious signs that you're safe & secure and have proven that you are a verified and legitimate company.
Let's check those credentials
The following important details are contained within the SSL certificate:
- The name of the certificate holder (domain name and/or full company name & location, depending on the level of certificate)
- Unique serial number & date of expiration (how long this certificate is valid)
- A copy of the public key (the key used for encrypting, NOT decrypting)
- Digital signature of the issuing & trusted Certificate Authority (Symantec, Thawte, GeoTrust or RapidSSL)
So, how do I get one of these security certificates?
Well, first, you definitely want to make sure you get a certificate from a known & trusted third-party Internet security company called a Certificate Authority or CA. These CAs must be recognized as a trusted CA within all of the Web browsers out there in order for them to work properly. But no need to worry! We happen to carry the top 4 most recognized & trusted SSL brands out there.
After you decide what CA you're going with and purchase the necessary SSL solution, you'll need to actually apply for the certificate in order to get it issued. Depending on the type of certificate you wanted, the time needed to complete your application or the enrollment process will vary. The most basic encryption-only certificates are the quickest to get issued because they only require you to confirm that you are in control of your domain name (FYI, any person in the world who can register a domain can also get one of these basic certificates, even fraudsters!).
For the more reliable & desirable higher-end certificates, you must confirm your actual business's identity & details in order to activate all of the SSL indicators embedded within the browsers to promote trust and instill confidence in users when browsing your website, this takes just a few days or so longer, but it's sure worth the wait! Only those with a real & legitimate company can get these highly sought-after certificates, which is a great differentiator for your business.
Got the certificate issued, now what?
Well, now this part may get a bit technical, so you might need to contact your site administrator or purchase SSL installation from us because it's now time to install the certificate on your server. SSL certificate installation can be a little tricky sometimes with all of the different types of servers and updates out there, but you can check out our helpful SSL installation instructions here in our knowledgebase. Or if you have a simple question, feel free to call us or hit us up on Live Chat.