Which SSL Certificate is Best for my Business?

Ardi Coetzee

Installing an SSL Certificate is absolutely crucial to every modern website. Google will penalize you for not having one and you will severely downgrade the security of your users. By not having an SSL certificate installed, users of your website will be sending their data across the internet without any encryption. Anyone snooping can see exactly what information is being sent (usernames, passwords, credit card info etc) and use it for all kinds of nefarious reasons. Whereas with an SSL Certificate installed, that information is first encrypted before being sent across the internet. 

Some Web Hosting Companies, like Namhost, offer free SSL Certificates with all hosting accounts. But you also get paid SSL Certificates which can have hefty price tags attached. So why is there such a huge disparity in prices and is it really worth spending the extra bucks?

This article will look at the different types of SSL Certificates available today and why you would consider opting for a paid SSL Certificate over a FREE one. ​

1. Different Types of SSL Certificates

There are three types of SSL Certificates:

  1. Domain Validation (DV)
  2. Organization Validation (OV)
  3. Extended Validation (EV)

The main difference lies in how much effort is needed to get validated to obtain the SSL Certificate.

For Domain Validation, very few checks are done and essentially anyone with a domain can get this type of SSL Certificate. This makes DV Certificates very easy to obtain and can generally be installed in a matter of minutes. If you need SSL fast, then this is probably the route to go. You will still get the benefits of an encrypted connection, but people who look at the details of your SSL Certificate might notice it is Domain Validated and therefore easier to obtain and ultimately less trustworthy. 

Organization Validation does more advanced checks before issuing the certificate and also shows more verified information when viewing the certificate. OV SSL Certificates, therefore, offer a greater deal of trust and will take slightly longer to obtain.

Extended Validation is the most time-consuming SSL Certificate to obtain. The company applying is thoroughly verified and supporting documents will be required to complete the sign-up process. EV SSL Certificates, therefore, offers the greatest level of trust.

advertisement

2. SSL Features

Each type of SSL Certificate can also come with other features:

  • Number of Domains Supported
    A typical SSL Certificate can support one domain name, or at least two combinations (e.g. www.namhost.com and namhost.com without the "www"). Other SSL Certificates can support multiple domain names and some can even support an infinite number of domain names (known as "Wildcard SSL certificates")
     
  • Warranty
    Some SSL Certificates offer huge warranties of as much as 2 Million USD, while others offer no warranty at all. The warranty will cover you should something happen at the Certificate Authority that results in a loss to you.

If you are planning on having lots of domain names for the same company, who each require an SSL certificate, then a wildcard SSL Certificate might be the solution. But keep in mind, you generally don't get Extended Validation certificates that can work across multiple domain names and the highest Wildcard SSL certificate offers less protection than the highest Extended Validation certificate. 

3. SSL Brands

Namhost offers SSL Certificates from 7 different brands, namely: Comodo, Symantec, Thawte, GeoTrust, RapidSSL, DigiCert and Certum. That's a huge variety to choose from. So which one should you choose?

If you are unsure, you can't go wrong with Comodo. They have been around since 1998 and they still do a phenomenal job to this day. Check out these SSL Certificates offered by them:

Deciding on a brand is tricky. You essentially want a reliable name, but also one that people recognize. I think for that reason, GeoTrust might also be a good choice. People should at least know GeoTrust is security related. They haven't been around as long as Comodo, but they certainly are recognized.

Your choice will ultimately boil down to your personal preference. I've worked with almost every brand mentioned and the only difference at the end of the day was the brand's name that appeared on the SSL Certificate. The level of service and warranties offered by all of them were world-class and I could not set them apart on those grounds. 

advertisement

4. So why not just use a FREE SSL Certificate?

FREE SSL Certificates are great for websites where you only care about having a secure connection. These certificates will work well for that purpose as just about all SSL Certificates provide 256 Bit Encryption, even the FREE ones. But they won't provide confidence to the user. It would make sense to use an OV or an EV SSL Certificate for your client-facing websites, but no problem using a FREE or DV Certificate for sites that clients will never see (such as a backend portal or a control panel for administrators). 

Free SSL Certificates also don't come with any warranties. For example, the EnterpriseSSL Pro with EV SSL Certificate comes with a whopping 2 Million USD Warranty. This warranty is specifically for if something goes wrong on the Certificate Authority's end. It does not, for example, allow you to claim if you are negligent and the Certificate Authority fulfilled all their obligations.

I, therefore, recommend only using FREE SSL Certificates where the website is not client-facing or at the very least, does not have forms where users can submit information. For example, for Namhost.com, we choose the Comodo EV SSL, but for most of our non-client facing websites, we use either FREE SSL Certificates or OV Certificates.

6. Conclusion

For me personally, an SSL Certificate forms part of branding. If you are serious about coming across as a professional company that takes security seriously, then getting an EV SSL Certificate is important. It shows that you are willing to go the extra mile to prove to your clients that you are who you say you are and gives them the maximum level of trust when interacting with your website. 

But for some, especially new businesses, the price tag isn't justified. Especially if the site doesn't have e-commerce features and even more so if the website doesn't even have the ability for users to log in or submit forms. In those cases, a FREE SSL Certificate can do the trick, but it might also be worthwhile considering OV and DV SSL Certificates, as the warranties and multi-domain support could be useful to your specific case.

If you are at all in doubt, please do contact us and we'll do our best to assist. 

advertisement

About the Author
Ardi Coetzee
Ardi Coetzee
Ardi is the Lead Developer at Namhost.com. Ardi has been involved in the implementation of various technical projects that cover a wide scope of technologies and solutions. Ardi is also an avid supporter of Drupal and its open source community.