How to Choose the Best SSL Certificates

In order to choose the best SSL certificates, it can help to understand what they are and what types, levels, and validation methods there are. The types are free, shared, and dedicated. The type tells something about how the certificate is provided and used. The levels are the security of the certificates, which can be increased by several methods. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to make an educated choice of the best SSL certificate type for your business needs.

What Is SSL?

Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, is a protocol that Netscape developed to allow the encryption of private Internet communications. An SSL certificate is what provides the ability to communicate in this way. There are Certification Authorities (CA’s) that authenticate the certificates. When a credit card transaction, or some other passing of information that is meant to be secure, is initiated, the browser used by the customer checks the website’s certificate for authenticity, and if it satisfies the criteria, the encrypted communication is begun. There are a lot of different ways to do this, so you need to know more to choose the best SSL for you.

What Are the Types of SSL Certificate?

Free SSL certificates are sometimes offered as part of a web hosting package for an eCommerce site. They are free in the sense that there is not a separate or ascertainable charge for them. Free certificates may also be offered to customers for a limited period (such as a year) or to customers who meet certain criteria. For example, Go Daddy offers an SSL certificate free of charge to validated Open Source projects.

Shared SSL may require websites to operate as subdomains of the web host, a certificate offered through the host’s shopping cart software, or by giving each customer access to a directory where secured pages can be uploaded.

Dedicated SSL certificates are often provided as part of a dedicated hosting package, in which case they are definitely linked to the customer’s domain name, rather than the web host’s.

What Are the Levels of SSL Certificate?

The levels of SSL have to do with the strength of the encryption. Entry level certificates may offer lesser encryption (such as 40-bit), while more secure certificates will have 256-bit encryption.

What Are the Methods of SSL Certificate Validation?

There are three types of validation. From least secure to most secure, they are

• domain validation (DV), in which the contact information of the applicant is matched to the WHOIS database for the domain name of the website;

• organizational validation (OV), in which the business itself is validated and the accuracy of the physical and web addresses verified; and

• extended validation (EV), which is the most thorough and which enables the green address bar as an indicator of security.

Where to Look for SSL Certificates

Browsers keep the “root certificates” of the CA’s that they most trust, and will trust all certificates issued by those authorities. For a trouble-free experience with your certificate, you may find that using one of the most highly-regarded CA’s is a good plan for getting the best certificate. Names like Thawte, Verisign, and Network Solutions come up often.

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