What is SSL and why do I need it?

Padlock gate security

In the world of website design and development, when Google plays a tune you have to dance. That’s if you want good search engine rankings, which we all do.

For some time now Google has been hinting that website security will influence search engine rankings, and earlier in 2017 they announced that websites that collect data through online forms will show a security message if the website is not using an HTTPS connection. Over the last few weeks webmasters have been notified formally that this is about to kick in for certain web browsers.

In Google’s words: “Beginning in October 2017, Chrome will show the ‘Not secure’ warning in two additional situations: when users enter data on an HTTP page, and on all HTTP pages visited in Incognito mode.”

That’s a lot of websites. Most, in fact, when you consider that this means contact forms, online shops, newsletter sign ups and so on. That probably includes yours.

To back-peddle a little, SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it is a standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. Having an SSL certificate is in place means that all data passed between the web server and web browsers remains private and integral – that could be your personal details, payment information and so on.

SSL security padlock on ChromeWebsites that use SSL clearly display it, the Chrome web browser for example showing a green padlock next to the web address. You’ll also notice the address begins with https (like this website) rather than the usual http.

In time, websites not running on SSL will drop in Google rankings, so while SSL is good for your users it’s also good for you. Your website visitors will expect a decent level of privacy and security – rightly so – and that little green padlock provides that added reassurance.

Downsides? An SSL certificate can cost money, normally a small annual outlay (aorund £40-50) which also covers your webmaster’s time in setting it up. Website speed is often said to suffer too, since the web browser has to encrypt and decrypt all data, but things have moved on. With improved web hosting, faster browsers and up to date coding techniques, websites running via SSL can see very speedy page load times. It’s all in the configuration – we launched an SSL website last week with a homepage load time of half a second.

So on balance we strongly recommend SSL. In fact we quote it as standard these days. Peace of mind and web security are not areas where you want to scrimp and save. If you need an SSL certificate or help with set up, drop us a line.