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An Explanation of SSL Certificates: From the Simple to the Complex

SSL Certificate graphic

Posted on 07/27/2017 at 09:20 AM

SSL certificates have been the focus of a handful of our blog entries over the years, but we still get a lot of questions about them. What are they? Why are they useful? Do I really need one? And a million more. 

In an effort to answer some of those common questions, we thought we’d put together a list of notable FAQ’s to help you better understand their purpose. 

TLDR: Watch This Video!

Not up for all of the “technical mumbo jumbo”? That’s okay. Start by watching the below video that Global Reach created just for you. It outlines the high level, basic information you’ll need to know. If it sparks further curiosity, browse the most commonly asked questions further down the page!

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The Technical, Nitty Gritty:

“What is an SSL?”

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It is a technology which allows for an encrypted pathway between a web server and a browser. 

“How does an SSL certificate work?”

Within the safe environment where an SSL certificate is present, information can be privately shared between the server and browser. This is why they are widely accepted as an industry standard, as they are relied on by millions of websites to safeguard the transactions their customers make with them online.

“Do I need an SSL certificate for my website?” 

Short answer: If you don’t have one, you should probably get one.

Even if you do not exchange sensitive information with your users online, there’s a huge movement to encrypt everything on the web. In fact, the Chrome browser is beginning to shame websites that are not protected with an SSL certificate. As an added bonus, you can benefit from an SEO perspective, as search engines grant a small ranking boost to websites which are encrypted using an SSL certificate. 

“How can I determine whether or not I have an SSL Certificate?“

There are a few ways you can check to see if your website currently has an SSL certificate in place. 

Look at the URL in your browser:

If the URL reads "https" instead of “http,” this is a good indicator that your website does have an SSL certificate in place. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, while HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure.

Look for a little padlock icon in the browser’s address bar:

Usually, the padlock icon appears on the left or right-hand side of the browser’s address bar, depending on the browser you are using. 

Make sure the certificate is valid.

Even if a website’s URL contains HTTPS, and a secure padlock icon is displayed in the browser address bar, it’s important to note that the certificate might not be valid, meaning it could be expired and the connection isn’t actually secure.

To verify the validity of the SSL certificate, you can try using a tool by Qualys SSL Labs: https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/ 

This tool will give you all kinds of information about your SSL, but most importantly, it will provide you with the timeframe for which your SSL certificate is valid.

How do I get an SSL for my website? 

So you’ve determined you need an SSL; now how do you get one? Well, we have some great news! That’s the easy part! 

Simply send an email to SSL@globalreach.com and our support team will work with you to set up an SSL certificate for your website. 

Categories: Safety and Security

Tagged As: Domains

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