Understanding SSL

When you are selecting a web hosting company, the term SSL will arise quite frequently. It is essential to have SSL if you plan to process credit card numbers on your site. This article will explain what SSL is and why you will need it for your site.

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. It is a protocol that encrypts information, making it safe to transmit on the Internet. Once this information is encrypted, it is impossible for a third party to read it, should they able to steal it from your site.

In addition to encryption of data, SSL works to ensure a client that the server they are connecting to is the same server that they were shopping on. Whenever you send your clients to another server, there is a risk that their data could be taken. By ensuring them that they are staying on the same server, you are increasing their level of trust in your site.

At the same time SSL is working to ensure that a client is staying on the same server, it is also blocking unauthorized access from a third party, making it very difficult to “lift” the information that is being processed.

Now that you understand what SSL does, how is it used? When you set up your shopping cart, you will be asked to provide a SSL key. This is a string of information that is provided by your server, that contains your SSL certificate data. Once this is installed, you will be able to process secure transactions.

Depending on your server, your secure url will look something like: https://www.yourstore.com. Note the addition of the “s” at the end of the http. This signifies that the area associated under this url is secure.

Anyone who enters this area will receive an alert from their browser that the area is secure. They will also receive an alert before leaving a secure area. This is a great benefit for online stores who want to assure their customers that the data they are about to enter will not be able to be read by anyone else but your company.

Why do you need SSL? Currently, there are many valid concerns about Internet privacy. Identity theft is running rampant and can be quite costly if a hacker gets someone’s credit card number. By providing this secure area you are telling your customers that you are committed to protecting their information and that it is safe to shop in your store.

Most Internet users have been trained to look for a secure area before placing an order. If you don’t have an SSL certificate, you could be losing potential customers and placing current customers at risk.

Many web hosting companies offer a free SSL certificate with the purchase on an ecommerce hosting package. If your current host does not offer this ability, you may need to purchase your own certificate, which can cost as much as $200 per certificate.

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Posted on 12/14/05 10:01 PM

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