SSL Certificates: Types, 5 Benefits, How to Buy & Install

What is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates a web site’s identity and enables an encrypted connection. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer.

The primary motivation for HTTPS is authentication of the accessed website and protection of the privacy and integrity of the exchanged data while in transit. For example, it protects against man-in-the-middle attacks, and the bidirectional encryption of communications between a client and server protects the communications against eavesdropping and tampering.

The most prominent way you notice SSL Certificates is HTTPS in the web browser address bar when surfing a secured website. An example of this is https://web4africa.ng

These days, HTTPS uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) as the communication protocol for encryption. The protocol is therefore also referred to as HTTP over TLS. However, that is a whole other topic.

What are the types of SSL Certificates?

The most common way to distinguish between the types of SSL Certificates is the different validation processes during procurement from authorised Certificate Authorities (CAs).

There are three types of SSL Certificates available today; Extended Validation (EV SSL), Organization Validation (OV SSL) and Domain Validation (DV SSL).

DV SSL

We’d start with Domain Validation SSLs. The lowest level of authentication is used to validate these SSL certificates before issuing. Primarily, the validity of the domain ownership is confirmed. To pass the Domain Control Validation (DCV) process, the Certificate applicant can choose between email, DNS or HTTP. Of course, email is the most common means of validation.

The Certificate Authority typically issues these certificates within 5 minutes after the domain validation. They are great for personal use.

OV SSL

Now let’s talk about Organization Validation SSL. As the name implies, the validity of the organisation applying for the certificate is authenticated. This is in addition to the domain validation. So, before an OV SSL is issued, the organisation’s existence is confirmed, and the authenticity of the person applying, to do so on behalf of the said organisation.

OV SSLs give the users of a website some confidence that the organisation they are interacting with is valid.

The duration between application and issuance of the certificate can take between 2 and 4 days.

They are great for business use.

EV SSL

The validation process does go further in the case of Extended Validation SSL certificates. The legal status of the applying organisation, the physical address, and telephone number are all validated before an EV SSL is issued. Due to the strict vetting process, the duration between application and issuance can take between 2 to 10 days.

Websites equipped with an EV certificate get their verified company name displayed in all major browsers. All major web browsers like Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and others reveal the verified company name after clicking the padlock icon in the address bar.

Major browsers no longer display the green bar for EV SSLs. However, an EV SSL certificate is still the best option for large companies or organisations, even without the green bar. This is because a website user can still find the same information when clicking on the padlock symbol. Therefore, potential customers can be safe in the knowledge that a genuine company that has been checked and vetted is running the website.

EV SSLs are great for serious e-commerce websites.

SSL Certificates: 3 Main Types of SSLs

An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates a web site's identity and enables an encrypted connection. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer...

Benefits of SSL Certificates

  • SSL Certificates protect data: this is the primary role of SSL Certificates, encrypting data transmission. The encryption ensures the integrity of the data during transmission.
  • SSL Affirms Your Identity: Organisation Validation and Extended Validation SSLs both confirm the identity of the entity applying, which gives the website users confidence that they are dealing with a real company or organisation.
  • Better Search Engine Ranking: the world’s leading searching, Google, has affirmed that SSL Certificates can be a tie-breaker, all things being equal. In essence, they prefer websites that have installed a valid SSL certificate.
  • SSL Helps You Satisfy PCI/DSS Requirements: if you accept card payments or any electronic payment on your website, an SSL certification is a compulsory requirement.
  • SSL Improves Customer Trust: an OV SSL or EV SSL certainly boosts users’ trust since they know they transact with an actual legal entity. It is even more critical for e-commerce websites.

How to buy an SSL Certificate

Generally speaking, you need a domain name and an active web hosting account in other to buy a valid SSL certificate. In addition, the domain name to be used for the SSL needs to be working correctly. Ultimately, it is necessary for security validation purposes.

  1. Find a credible SSL certificates store
  2. Choose the specific type of certificate that is appropriate. Your use case would largely determine this.
  3. Generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR). This can be done from the hosting control panel, the SSL store, or a credible 3rd-party online CSR generator. A private key would also be generated that needs to be carefully stored as it is required for the certificate installation later.
  4. Provide the CSR to the SSL Store during the order or after.
  5. Make Payment
  6. The validation process is immediately initiated after payment is confirmed. The simple Domain Validation SSL certificates are usually easy to validate, primarily relying on email validation. However, for OV and EV SSLs, the process is more involved and can take between 2 and 10 days as the legitimacy of the applying entity need to be validated.
  7. Once the validation process has been completed successfully, the certificate is issued. The buyer can download the certificate from the seller’s control panel or email.

How to install an SSL Certificate

The installation process for SSL certificates varies slightly depending on the web hosting control panel or lack thereof, but the principle is generally the same.

The certificate code needs to be uploaded into the relevant part of the hosting control panel, along with the private key. So long as both codes are valid, the certificate will be installed successfully.

Conclusion

SSL certificates are essential for every website or entity that wants to be online. Therefore, it has become pivotal for every website owner to consider an SSL certificate necessary for doing business online. Larger organisations can also choose more involved SSLs like Organization Validation (OV SSL) or Extended Validation (EV SSL) due to the higher level of trust they can evoke.

About Web4Africa

Established in 2002 and based in South Africa, Web4Africa is a leading ICANN Accredited Domain Name Registrar and Web Hosting company offering various SSL Certificates, Web Hosting and Domain Names to clients worldwide.

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Avatar of Oluniyi D. Ajao
Oluniyi D. Ajao is an Internet Entrepreneur and Tech Enthusiast based in South Africa. Follow him on twitter @niyyie for more tech updates.

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