A digital certificate known as an SSL certificate allows an encrypted connection and verifies the reliability of a website. The security protocol known as Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, establishes an encrypted connection between a web server and a web browser.
To safeguard online transactions and maintain the privacy and security of client information, businesses and organizations must install SSL certificates on their websites.
In brief, SSL guards against unauthorized access to data exchanged between two computers and maintains internet connections safe. A padlock icon in the address bar next to the URL indicates that the website you are viewing is secured by SSL.
The SSL protocol has undergone multiple iterations since its introduction approximately 25 years ago, all of which had security issues at some point.
There was a redesign and name change, leading to the creation of TLS (Transport Layer Security), which is still in use today. But the initials SSL stayed, and that’s why the updated protocol is still frequently referred to by its previous designation.
What is SSL Web Hosting?
SSL Web Hosting is a type of web hosting service that incorporates Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology to encrypt the communication between your website and visitors’ browsers.
This encryption scrambles data transmitted between the two, protecting sensitive information like passwords, credit card details, and personal information from being intercepted by hackers or unauthorized parties.
Think of it like a secure tunnel for information to travel through. When a visitor accesses your website, their browser first establishes a connection with your web server. If you have SSL enabled, the server sends an SSL certificate to the browser. This certificate verifies the authenticity of your website and initiates the encryption process.
Once the connection is encrypted, any information exchanged between the website and the browser becomes unreadable to anyone outside the secure tunnel. This significantly reduces the risk of data breaches and protects your visitors’ privacy.
SSL Web Hosting offers several key benefits:
- Enhanced security: By encrypting data, you significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. This is crucial for websites that handle sensitive information like online stores, banking websites, and healthcare portals.
- Improved trust and credibility: SSL certificates display a padlock icon in the browser address bar, indicating a secure connection. This builds trust and confidence with your visitors, knowing their information is protected.
- SEO benefits: Google and other search engines consider websites with SSL certificates to be more trustworthy and rank them higher in search results. This can significantly improve your website’s visibility and organic traffic.
- Compliance with regulations: Many industries and regulations, such as PCI DSS for online payments, require websites to use SSL certificates for compliance. SSL Web Hosting ensures you meet these requirements.
Overall, SSL Web Hosting is essential for any website that handles sensitive information or wants to build trust with its visitors. It offers a range of benefits, including enhanced security, improved trust, SEO advantages, and regulatory compliance.
How Do SSL Certificates Work?
The way SSL operates is by making sure that any information sent between users and websites, or between two systems, cannot be read. Data is encrypted during transmission to prevent hackers from accessing it as it travels across the network.
Names, addresses, credit card numbers, and other financial information are among the potentially sensitive facts included in this data.
Here’s a simplified explanation of how SSL/TLS certificates work:
1: Initiation of a Secure Connection:
- When a user attempts to access a secure website (using “https://” instead of “http://”), the web server presents its SSL/TLS certificate.
- The browser checks the certificate to verify its authenticity.
2: Verification of Certificate Authenticity:
- The browser verifies the SSL/TLS certificate by checking whether it was issued by a trusted Certificate Authority (CA).
- Certificate Authorities are organizations that are trusted to verify the identity of the entity requesting the certificate (e.g., a website) and issue the certificate.
3: Public Key Exchange:
- Once the certificate is verified, the server and the browser initiate a process called the “SSL handshake.”
- During the handshake, the server sends its public key to the browser. The public key is part of the server’s SSL/TLS certificate.
4: Symmetric Key Generation:
- The browser generates a symmetric key, which will be used for encrypting and decrypting data during the session.
- Symmetric key encryption is more efficient than asymmetric key encryption, which is used in the initial key exchange.
5: Secure Data Transmission:
- The browser encrypts the symmetric key using the server’s public key and sends it back to the server.
- Both the server and the browser now have the shared symmetric key without exposing it to potential eavesdroppers.
6: Encrypted Communication:
- With the shared symmetric key, the server and the browser can encrypt and decrypt data that is exchanged during the session.
- This encryption ensures the confidentiality and integrity of the data being transmitted between the server and the browser.
7: Session Key Renewal:
- For security reasons, the session key is periodically renegotiated or renewed during the communication.
8: Session Termination:
- Once the user ends the session or logs out, the secure connection is terminated.
In summary, SSL/TLS certificates facilitate a secure communication channel by encrypting data exchanged between a user’s browser and a web server.
The use of public-key cryptography ensures the authenticity of the server’s identity, and symmetric key encryption provides efficient and secure data transmission during the session.
According to Hosting Mastery Hub, we provide you with guidance regarding some important things to keep in mind:
- SSL certificates are issued by trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs) like DigiCert, Comodo, and Let’s Encrypt.
- SSL certificates have an expiration date and need to be renewed regularly.
- Most modern browsers automatically trust certificates issued by recognized CAs.
- Using SSL certificates is essential for protecting sensitive information online, especially for e-commerce websites and online banking.
Why an SSL Certificate is Essential?
SSL certificates are necessary for websites to protect user data, validate website ownership, stop hackers from building a false version of the site, and encourage user confidence.
Maintaining the confidentiality of data is essential when a website requests users to sign in, submit personal details like credit card numbers, or see confidential information like financial or health benefits.
SSL certificates contribute to the privacy of online communications and reassure visitors that a website is reliable and secure enough to exchange personal information.
The requirement for an SSL certificate to access an HTTPS web address is more important to companies. Since HTTPS is the secure variant of HTTP, all traffic on HTTPS websites is SSL-encrypted.
The majority of browsers label HTTP websites—those devoid of SSL certificates—as “not secure.” This signals to consumers that the website might not be reliable, which encourages companies that haven’t switched to HTTPS to do so.
An SSL certificate aids in the security of data like:
- Login information
- Transactions using credit cards or details about bank accounts
- Information that can be used to identify a person, such as their complete name, address, birth date, or phone number
- Contracts and legal documents
- Medical documentation
- Secret information
In short, an SSL certificate is an essential tool for website owners who want to:
- Protect user data
- Build trust and credibility
- Improve SEO ranking
- Comply with regulations
- Provide a positive user experience
Without an SSL certificate, websites are vulnerable to data breaches, phishing attacks, and other security threats. This can damage a website’s reputation and deter users from interacting with it.
Types of SSL Certificate
There are different types of SSL certificates with different validation levels. The six main types are:
- Extended Validation certificates (EV SSL)
- Organization Validated certificates (OV SSL)
- Domain Validated certificates (DV SSL)
- Wildcard SSL certificates
- Multi-Domain SSL certificates (MDC)
- Unified Communications Certificates (UCC)
1: Extended Validation Certificates (EV SSL)
This is the most expensive and highly ranked kind of SSL certificate. It is typically utilized by well-known websites that take payments online and gather data. When this SSL certificate is installed, the address bar of the browser shows the nation, the business name, HTTPS, and a padlock.
Information about the website owner shown in the address bar aids in separating legitimate websites from rogue ones. The owner of the website must go through a standardized identity verification procedure to verify that they have a legal claim to the sole rights to the domain before they can set up an EV SSL certificate.
2: Organization Validated certificates (OV SSL)
Since the website owner must go through a strict validation process to receive one, this version of the SSL certificate has a certainty level that is comparable to that of the EV SSL certificate. To differentiate itself from illegal websites, this kind of certificate additionally shows the information about the website owner in the address bar.
After EV SSLs, OV SSL certificates are often the costliest, and their main function is to encrypt sensitive user data while it is being sent. Installing an OV SSL certificate is a must for commercial or public-facing websites to guarantee the confidentiality of any shared customer information.
3: Domain Validated Certificates (DV SSL)
Domain Validation SSL certificates offer lower confidence and little encryption because there is little validation required to obtain this sort of SSL certificate. They are typically utilized for informative websites or blogs, i.e., those without online payment processing or data collection functions.
This kind of SSL certificate is among the cheapest and easiest to acquire. Website owners just need to react to emails or phone calls showing domain ownership as part of the validation procedure.
The padlock and HTTPS are the only things visible in the browser address bar; the company name is hidden.
4: Wildcard SSL Certificates
With a single wildcard SSL certificate, you can protect an unlimited number of subdomains in addition to the base domain. Purchasing a Wildcard SSL certificate is significantly less expensive than purchasing separate SSL certificates for each of the sub-domains you need to safeguard.
The typical name of wildcard SSL certificates includes a symbol, which stands for any legitimate subdomains that share the same base domain.
For example, the following can be secured using a single Wildcard certificate for website:
5: Multi-Domain SSL certificates (MDC)
Multiple domains and/or subdomain names can be secured with a multi-domain certificate. Except for local or internal ones, this involves combining completely separate domains and subdomains with various TLDs (Top-Level Domains).
Sub-domains are not by default supported by multi-Domain certificates. Should you require a single multi-Domain certificate to secure both example.com and www.example.com, then both hostnames must be included in the certificate request.
6: Unified Communications Certificates (UCC)
Multi-Domain SSL certificates also include Unified Communications Certificates (UCC). Originally, Microsoft Exchange and Live Communications servers were the target market for UCCs.
These days, any owner of a website can utilize these certificates to enable the security of several domain names under a single certificate. UCC certificates show a padlock in a browser and are organizationally certified.
Using the green address bar, UCCs can be utilized as EV SSL certificates to provide the maximum level of assurance to website visitors.
To acquire the appropriate kind of certificate for your website, you must be knowledgeable about the various SSL certificate kinds.
How to Get an SSL Certificate?
A Certificate Authority (CA) is the direct source of SSL certificates. Every year, millions of SSL certificates are issued by Certificate Authorities, also known as Certification Authorities in some cases. They are essential to the functioning of the internet and the ability of trustworthy, transparent online interactions.
Depending on how much protection you need, an SSL certificate might cost anywhere from nothing to hundreds of dollars. After determining the kind of certificate, you need, you can search for Certificate Issuers that provide SSLs at the necessary level.
The steps listed below are necessary to obtain your SSL:
- Set up your server and make sure your WHOIS record is current and matches the information you are sending to the Certificate Authority (i.e., it should display the right location and name of your organization).
- leading your server to generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR). Your hosting provider can help you with this.
- Verifying your domain and business information by submitting this to the Certificate Authority
- installing the Certificate, they send you after everything is finished.
After acquiring it, you must set up the certificate on your web host’s servers—or, if you host the website yourself, on your own servers.
The type of certificate you obtain and the certificate provider you use will determine how soon you receive it. The time required to finish each level of validation varies.
While Extended Validation can take up to a week to process, a basic Domain Validation SSL certificate can be provided in a matter of minutes.
Can you use the same SSL certificate on more than one server?
Yes, you can use the same SSL certificate on more than one server, but it depends on the specific type of certificate and the terms of your agreement with the certificate authority (CA).
On the same server, one SSL certificate can be used for several domains. Additionally, you can utilize a single SSL certificate on several servers, depending on the provider. Multi-Domain SSL certificates, which we previously covered, are to blame for this.
Multi-Domain SSL Certificates function with several domains, as the name suggests. The individual granting the Certificate Authority will determine the number. A Single Domain SSL Certificate, as the name suggests, is made to secure a single domain. This is not the same as a Multi-Domain SSL Certificate.
Multi-Domain SSL Certificates, often known as SAN certificates, may be mentioned, which could further complicate matters. The abbreviation for the Subject Alternative Name is SAN. You can list extra domains that you wish to cover under a single certificate using the extra fields (SANs) found in every multi-domain certificate.
Multi-domains and, in the case of the latter, an infinite number of subdomains are also permitted by Unified Communications Certificates (UCCs) and Wildcard SSL Certificates.
What happens to an SSL certificate that has expired?
The validity of SSL certificates is not indefinite. A maximum of 27 months should pass before SSL certificates expire, according to the Certificate Authority/Browser Forum, which acts as the de facto industry regulator. This implies that if you renew with time left on your old SSL certificate, you can carry over up to three months into the new period.
SSL certificates expire because, similar to other authentication methods, data must be regularly re-validated to ensure its accuracy. Things change as businesses and websites are bought and sold on the internet. The data on SSL certificates also changes when they are transferred.
The expiration period serves the objective of making sure that the data used for server and organization authentication is as current and accurate as possible.
SSL certificates were originally valid for five years; this was then lowered to three, and most recently to two years plus an additional three months. Google, Apple, and Mozilla announced in 2020 that they would implement one-year SSL certificates, even though the Certificate Authority Browser Forum had rejected this idea.
This became operative in September 2020. The validity period may get shorter in the future.
An SSL certificate that has expired renders the website in question inaccessible. Within milliseconds of a user’s browser arriving at a website, it verifies the validity of the SSL certificate (as part of the SSL handshake). The message “This site is not secure” will appear to visitors if the SSL certificate has expired. The possible danger in store “
Although consumers can choose to continue, it is not recommended because of the potential cybersecurity dangers, such as the potential for infection. Users will quickly click off the homepage and visit other websites, which will have a substantial influence on website owners’ bounce rates.
For larger enterprises, remembering when SSL certificates expire can be difficult. When it comes to managing certificates, enterprise-level enterprises with several websites and networks and the potential to interact across marketplaces will have many more than smaller and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), which may only have one or a few.
At this point, negligence rather than ineptitude is typically the cause of an SSL certificate expiring. Using a certificate management tool is the easiest way for larger enterprises to keep track of when their SSL certificates expire.
You can browse online for a variety of products that are now available on the market. These let businesses view and control digital certificates throughout their whole infrastructure. It’s crucial to log in frequently if you utilize one of these platforms so you can stay informed about when renewals are due.
You will lose the ability to conduct secure transactions on your website if you let a certificate expire because it becomes invalid. You will receive a prompt from the Certification Authority (CA) to renew your SSL certificate prior to its expiration date.
You will receive notices of your SSL certificates’ expiration at scheduled times, typically beginning ninety days in advance, from the Certificate Authority or SSL service you used to get them.
Instead of sending these reminders to a single person who might have left the firm or transitioned to a different position by the time the reminder is sent, try to make sure that they are going to an email distribution list.
To make sure the appropriate people receive the reminders at the appropriate times, consider which company stakeholders are included on this distribution list.
Best Free SSL Web Hosting Providers in 2024
Let’s get right to it: ARZ Host, Bluehost, and HostGator are the top two hosting companies that offer free SSL certificates. ARZ Host is the greatest hosting company overall, and they both provide the certificates for free.
This is because Hostgator offers exceptional uptime, yet Bluehost does well in the majority of areas across a variety of plan kinds. Our research gives ARZ Host an overall rating of 4.8 out of 5, whereas Bluehost and HostGator have a rating of 4.7, meaning that they are extremely close competitors.
First things first: data traveling via your website is encrypted thanks to an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). It safeguards the confidentiality of your visitors’ personal information, including their payment information. The cost and level of protection of SSL certificates vary, with annual prices ranging from $19.99 to $269.99.
However, purchasing an SSL certificate isn’t always necessary. Since they are so essential the majority of hosting companies include them for free in their packages!
10 Best Free SSL Web Hosting Providers 2024
- ARZ Host – Best overall hosting provider.
- HostGator – Best for dedicated hosting.
- Bluehost – Best for money back guarantee.
- A2 Hosting – Best for cloud hosting.
- Green Geeks – Best for green hosting.
- Hostinger – Best for discounted prices.
- SiteGround – Best for reliability.
- InMotion – Best for cheap plans, but at the expense of speed.
- DreamHost – Best for uptime.
- Hostwinds – Best tailor-made VPS & dedicated plans.
This article clarified the complex topics of online security and guided you through the top suppliers of free SSL certificates.
The most all-around host available is ARZ Host if you are unable to choose just one and you place equal weight on uptime and support. For the majority of websites, we suggest ARZ Host as the best free SSL host.
Hosting Mastery Hub recommend you choose one of these hosting companies and give your website the cozy warmth of a brand-new SSL certificate right away! Don’t leave it out there, unprotected, and alone!
SSL web hosting is not just a technical feature, but a strategic investment in the security and success of your website. It offers numerous tangible benefits, from enhanced security and trust to improved search engine ranking and increased conversions.
With its ease of implementation and affordability, there is no reason why any website should operate without the protection of SSL.
By making the switch to SSL web hosting, you are making a commitment to your visitors, your business, and the future of your website.
FAQS (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is SSL?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It’s a security protocol that creates an encrypted connection between a website and a visitor’s browser. This encrypted connection ensures that any data exchanged between the two, such as login credentials or credit card information, is private and secure.
What is SSL web hosting?
SSL web hosting provides you with the necessary resources and tools to install and manage an SSL certificate on your website. This certificate enables the HTTPS protocol and displays a padlock icon in the address bar, signifying a secure connection.
Why is SSL important?
SSL is crucial for several reasons:
Security: It protects sensitive information from being intercepted by hackers.
Trust: It fosters trust among visitors, encouraging them to share their information and engage with your website.
SEO: Google gives a slight ranking boost to websites with SSL certificates.
Compliance: Certain industries, like e-commerce, require SSL for compliance with regulations.
What are the different types of SSL certificates?
There are various types of SSL certificates, each offering different levels of validation:
Domain Validation (DV): Validates the domain name only, fastest and cheapest option.
Organization Validation (OV): Validates the domain name and organization information.
Extended Validation (EV): Offers the highest level of validation, including organization details, legal and physical address verification, and displays a green address bar.
How do I get an SSL certificate for my website?
You can purchase an SSL certificate directly from your web hosting provider or a trusted certificate authority (CA).
The provider will guide you through the installation process, which typically involves uploading the certificate files to your hosting account and configuring your server.
Is SSL free?
Some web hosting providers offer free basic SSL certificates, while others charge a fee for more advanced certificates. You can also acquire free certificates from Let’s Encrypt, a trusted CA.
Does SSL affect website performance?
While SSL adds an extra layer of encryption, the performance impact is minimal and generally not noticeable. Modern web browsers and servers are optimized for SSL connections.
By understanding the importance of SSL and how it works, you can ensure your website is secure and trustworthy for your visitors, providing them with a safe and positive online experience.