Since Google announced late last year that they would be giving search rank priority to sites using secure HTTP connections (HTTPS), it’s becoming ever more important to have your site encrypted with an SSL certificate.
SSL is an essential technology for any site with eCommerce functions or collection of sensitive data, such as credit card info or passwords, but there are benefits to using HTTPS even for non-eCommerce sites. Aside from the benefit of a better search ranking, HTTPS connections can load site assets faster than regular HTTP connections, which will also have a positive impact on user experience. In this article, we will outline the common steps to purchasing and installing an SSL certificate.
What is SSL?
SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layers, is an internet security technology that creates an encrypted connection between two points — generally a server and the client. This can be used to encrypt either a website or email connections. SSL is also known as a security protocol, which outlines certain rules for how algorithms should be used to encrypt data.
While data transfers over HTTP (HyperText Protocol) are sent using just plain text, HTTPS encrypts the data being sent, removing the vulnerability of a hacker or other threat receiving private data such as social security numbers or other personal info.
An SSL certificate ensures that the client (the user) is accessing the correct site they are intending to access (https://www.facebook.com, for example), rather than a site meant to look like the real one. Attackers will often set up a fake site meant to look identical to the site you’re trying to access, but in actuality is being used to collect user’s personal data for malicious purposes.
Installing an SSL Certificate
The process of purchasing and installing an SSL certificate is typically fairly straightforward. Most popular web hosting providers (such as GoDaddy, Nexcess, WP Engine, etc.) offer SSL certificates either included in their hosting packages, or available for an additional fee. The process may vary slightly for different hosting providers, but the general steps can be outlined as follows:
Create a CSR (Certificate Signing Request)
A CSR file, which includes information about your server and public key, will need to be generated first before purchasing and installing an SSL. This can typically be done from the cPanel or equivalent server control panel settings.
Purchase the SSL Certificate
Most hosting providers can offer SSL certificates, but if not, you can go through a direct SSL service, such as Symantec, DigiCert or GlobalSign. Just make sure you are getting your certificate through a reputable source.
Download the SSL Certificate
After purchase, you will receive a file containing the SSL certificate, either by email or potentially through the account panel of your hosting provider.
Install the SSL Certificate via cPanel
Once you have the certificate, you can typically upload the file via the SSL Manager in cPanel. Alternatively, you can also often just copy/paste the certificate into a dedicated text field.
Test the installation
After the SSL is installed, make sure to test it by visiting your site in various browsers, using https:// before the domain instead of the regular http:// prefix.
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