SSL Activation

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When you activate SSL on your web server, you will be prompted to complete a number of questions relating to the identity of your website and company. Your web server then creates two cryptographic keys - a Private and Public Key. The public key which as the name implies does not have to be a secret. It is placed into a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) - a data file containing your details. The next step is to submit the CSR. During the SSL Certificate application process, the Certification Authority will validate your details and issue an SSL Certificate. Your Web Development server will match your issued SSL Certificate to your Private Key, allowing you to establish an encrypted link between the website and your customer's browser.

Because of the widespread use of SSL, you will be hard pressed to find a web host that does not offer the ability to install your own certificate. cPanel hosts allow you to install a certificate manually giving you full control over activation.

Many hosts also offer the ability to use a certificate that is shared among their customers. In this case it is the web host's responsibility to renew the certificate once the expiry date has passed. The advantage of using a shared certificate is that it won't cost you a cent! The disadvantage that the management of the certificate is out of your hands. If your host does not renew the certificate once it expires, your site will not pass the SSL handshake procedure and your users sent a warning message through no fault of your own. Another disadvantage is that to access the certificate you will have to use an ugly URL name comprising of your host's domain and your user name. If you install your own certificate, your actual domain name can be used which looks much more professional. Bear in mind that many hosts who offer shared SSL, do not advertise it as it's normally an extra service. Also bear in mind that when you use your own certificate for SSL, a dedicated IP is required and that pages will load much slower through SSL.

There are many types of certificates on the market at many different price levels. While companies will try and convince you that customers are wary of all but the best known certificates (and more expensive), in truth all SSL certificates are all essentially the same and the average customer is not web literate enough to know the difference. Some won't even mind if you use none at all. A cheap certificate like RapidSLL will probably suit most people's needs.

The SSL Store

White Belt
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