Atlantic.Net Blog

What is an SSL Certificate?

Chelsea Fieler
by Atlantic.Net (8 posts) under VPS Hosting

SSL/TLS certificates are an essential security detail of any trusted website and a crucial business requirement for eCommerce websites that expect to generate revenue via a trusted website platform.

The basic function of an SSL certificate is to provide secured communications between the web server and the website user. The SSL certificate gives you the padlock at the top of the browser. It guarantees that the data being served is the data intended by the provider.

However, if you look closer, you will see that there is more to SSL certificates than their surface-level function.

What kind of SSL/TLS certificate do I need?

There are several different kinds of SSL certificates available. Each has a different use case scenario. Some are free, and some incur charges. The most basic certificate type is an unregistered private trust certificate, which is a certificate generated by the user to encrypt a private website with HTTPS.  These certs are commonly called self-signed certificates.

If you need a registered certificate, you can create a domain registered SSL/TLS certificate. There are three trust levels that can be used:

Basic trust is a domain-validated certificate that creates a private security session for the user. These are usually free of charge, and you can use applications like Let’s Encrypt to create rolling 90-day certificates.

Enhanced trust is available at an organizational or individual level using validated certificates that also create a private security session for the user. Business information is hard-coded into the enhanced certificate.

Complete trust is an Extended Validation certificate that creates a private secure session with the user and typically displays the business details, usually in a green color next to the padlock. These types of certificates are usually used by banks and large multinational organizations.

Free vs Paid Certificates

All SSL certificates provide encryption of website data when in transit and display the padlock next to your website URL. The main difference between free and paid certificates concerns validation and authentication.

A paid SSL certificate requires the Certificate Authority (CA) to validate the website and company details prior to issuing the certificate. This gives the consumer the utmost confidence that the website is legitimate and safe to use.

There are many scenarios where a free SSL certificate is perfectly adequate for a website because it ensures your site will be encrypted! Free SSL certs are great for personal blogs such as WordPress sites or internal intranet pages.

Free certificates are Domain Validated (DV) and can be created by anyone who has admin access to the domain name. This does create an element of trust; however, it’s easy to circumvent these protections, making it possible for unscrupulous entities to create a secure connection to an untrustworthy site.

Site Validation

A paid SSL certificate from a trusted certificate authority guarantees the users that they are visiting a secured, encrypted, and genuine website. It also guarantees that the website owner and website have been vetted and tested.  This creates a level of trust between the consumer and the website that is vital for all revenue-generating websites or sites that exchange personal information to be validated.

There are three types of validation available for paid certificates:

  • Organization Validation (OV) – an OV certificate verifies the identity of the organization. This might be a business, non-profit, NGO, or government organization.
  • Individual Validation (IV) – this validates an individual’s website or someone that is not registered as a business.
  • Extended Validation (EV) – an EV validates the identity of the organization at a deeper layer, representing a higher level of trust as more rigorous checks are required by the CA.

Benefits of a PAID SSL

While an OV or EV certificate validates the owner of a website, the sender of an email, the digital signatory of executable code, or that PDF documents are trustworthy, there are other important reasons why you should opt for a paid SSL.

Paid certificates have a longer certificate lifetime. Free certs typically last from 90 days, but usually, no longer than 1 year before they must be renewed. Paid certificates typically last for a minimum of 3 years, however, they can last for much longer, and it depends on what policy the certificate authority follows.

Your system admins will thank you for longer certificate lifetimes, as renewing an SSL is not the simplest of tasks to complete. Other perks of a paid SSL include a warranty that protects you financially in the event the certificate caused website errors resulting in the loss of revenue. Regardless of the implications of this warranty, you can rest easy, as SSL certificates are incredibly reliable and it’s almost never the certificate causing issues.

You also get 24/7 support from the CA, especially useful if you have a certificate expiring in the next few hours. The CA support team will be available to generate you a new certificate in next to no time.

Provider Certificate Name Validation Type
Comodo SSL Domain Validated
Comodo EV SSL Extended Validated
Comodo SSL Wildcard Domain Validated
Comodo Instant SSL Organization Validated
Comodo Instant SSL Premium Organization Validated
Comodo Premium SSL Wildcard Organization Validated
Comodo Positive SSL Domain Validated
Comodo Essential SSL Domain Validated
Comodo Essential SSL Wildcard Domain Validated
DigiCert SSL Plus Organization Validated
DigiCert SSL Plus Wildcard Organization Validated
DigiCert EV SSL Plus Extended Validated
Thawte SSL 123 Domain Validated
Thawte SSL Webserver Organization Validated
Thawte SSL Webserver EV Extended Validated
Thawte Wildcard Organization Validated
Thawte Code Signing Certificate Organization Validated
GeoTrust Quick SSL Premium Domain Validated
GeoTrust True Business ID Organization Validated
GeoTrust True Business ID EV Extended Validated
GeoTrust True Business ID Wildcard Organization Validated
Trustwave Domain-Vetted SSL Domain Validated
Trustwave Premium SSL Organization Validated
Trustwave Premium SSL EV Extended Validated
Trustwave Wildcard SSL Organization Validated
RapidSSL RapidSSL Basic Domain Validated
RapidSSL RapidSSL Wildcard Domain Validated

To request an SSL with Atlantic.Net, please call 1-888-618-DATA (3282) or email [email protected].

Atlantic.Net offers VPS hosting as well as managed hosting services which include a layer of business-essential managed services to your hosting packages. Contact us today for more information.

Learn more about SSL by visiting the following resources:

SSL, VPN, and Compliance: Frequently Asked Questions

Why All Small Business Owners Need to Install SSL Certificates Immediately

Install LAMP Server with Let’s Encrypt Free SSL on Ubuntu 18.04

How to Generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) for an SSL

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