Ever noticed certain web addresses start with "http://" while others might start with "https://"? When you browse sites that require you to provide sensitive information like credit card numbers or other sensitive personal info you might have noticed that extra "s" pop up from time to time. That extra "s" means that you are visiting a site that is secured and encrypted. Any data that you will share with that site will be protected by a technology we call SSL, otherwise known as Secure Sockets Layer.
Here is the language used to define SSL according to SSL.com:
"SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral. SSL is an industry standard and is used by millions of websites in the protection of their online transactions with their customers."
When you come to a web page on the internet that you send any of your information to, whether it is your credit card information or your name and address, when you click "submit" that information has the potential to be intercepted by a hacker or someone with criminal intentions. When information is captured in this way, it is commonly referred to as a "man in the middle attack". There are many ways in which this type of attack can occur but the most important and most common way is to use a program to secretly view a users information right as it is input on the page.
The way we prevent this type of attack is by using SSL. When using this technology, an encrypted website will work with your browser to allow both the webserver and your own computer to bind together in such as way as to allow them to share the information you submit without any threats of others being able to access it. This layer of privacy can be essential to prevent the types of threats mentioned before! Furthermore, it has become an industry standard with millions of websites depending on it everyday.
The connection happens so fast that many have argued that it may actually even be faster to use SSL than if our websites were to remain unsecured today. SSL connections are automatic so customers don't even notice when they are using it.
Lastly, it is important to note that SSL is equally important for SEO purposes as Google has announced that it now considers SSL in its search rankings. This means more secure websites will be ranked higher than unsecured sites in search results. Certain web browsers warn users to avoid sites without SSL. These warnings include popups that are meant to steer users away from sites that operate without it. Even if you never need to collect personal info from your customers on your website, using SSL will get you better results than not.
Typically SSL requires a certificate created by a 3rd party. There is a yearly fee for this. If you choose to install it yourself there is no fee, if you would like us to install it this costs roughly $150/yr. Most SSL certificates require that you have a dedicated IP address not a shared IP address assigned to your website. The cost for this is $10/mo. So you should expect at least $270/year of added cost to have an SSL secured site.