If you found this article, then you are either new to SSL Certificates and wondering whether you need to pay for one, or already have one and wondering why you paid for it. Don’t worry, your website can be secure irrespective of whether it has a paid certificate or not. Both of these types of certificates are valid and are offered by many vendors.
There are many differences between free and paid SSL Certificates. We’ll be looking at them in detail in this article and we hope that it will help you to identify whether you need a paid SSL Certificate.
Do you really need a Paid SSL Certificate?
Let’s first understand what SSL Certificates are, you can learn more about them here.
So the first thing to understand is that all SSL Certificates are similar. They provide a means for encrypting the data being transmitted between your users and your website. In addition, they provide some data that can validate your domain. It is the level of validation and the reputation of the issuing authority that can change with different free and paid services.
Talking about free certificates, there are two variants that you need to be aware of. The first is the self-signed certificate and these are signed by the organization itself. There is no involvement from a Certificate Authority (CA).
The main issue here is that users have no assurance as to how secure the certificate is, or whether any external parties have access to their data. This risk is mitigated to a certain extent if users are aware of the organization that provides the self-signed certificate and that they are able to protect the keys themselves and the data being transmitted.
The second type of free certificates consists of those signed by a Certificate Authority (CA). These are similar to paid SSL in the sense that they are signed by a reputed authority. Depending on the type of your website, this type of digital certificate can be the right fit for you, let’s find out if you really need a paid SSL in the next section.
Why is a Paid SSL Certificate better for some organizations?
Like we discussed in the previous section, the differences between free and paid certificates are in the details. While they may not be too obvious at first glance and any SSL Certificate that gives your website the HTTPS status may seem fine to you, there are many important aspects of digital security that you need to consider when purchasing one.
The Level of Trust offered
The trust offered by a well-known and reputed Certificate Authority (CA) is the most important aspect of an SSL certificate. This is true irrespective of whether certificates are free or paid. Such CAs are able to instill a sense of trust and security in your users so that they are assured about transmitting personal data via your website.
To more savvy users, this trust comes with the knowledge that these CAs have robust security in place to protect their private and public keys, security servers and other assets. This provides a sense of security, not only in the transmission of data but also in that the CA is able to counter any malicious attacks.
While it is not possible to measure the level of trust offered by CAs, it is more of a perceived value based on reputation and historical data.
The Type of Certificate offered
This is another important aspect of digital certificates. Many free services offer only Domain Validation. This type of validation can only tell your users that your domain has been validated and that data is being submitted with encryption.
Paid SSL certificates can provide more in the forms of Organization Validation and Extended Validation. Organization Validation provides information about your organization so that users can identify who they are sharing their data with. This adds an extra layer of trust.
Extended Validation provides more security, especially for organizations involved in financial transactions and credit card payments. These industries required a higher level of security and EV is one way of assuring users that your website adheres to these standards.
Read our article about SSL, TLS, and HTTPS to learn more about these types of certificates.
The Level of Validation offered
Irrespective of whether your SSL certificate is free or paid, it is important that some organizational information is provided to users.
This is where paid SSL certificates gain their advantage. SSL certificates will be deemed meaningless in certain industries and within certain user groups if Organization Validation is not available. This can also be true regarding the absence of Extended Validation.
So ensure that you understand the level of validation that you require before selecting an SSL Certificate. It is also important to assess the perceived value assigned by users in this regard.
Validity Period and Renewal
Free SSL certificates are usually made available for shorter periods like 30 – 90 days and have to be renewed regularly. This can be fine for a short period but can become troublesome for organizations with on-going businesses.
As such it is important to consider the validity period when purchasing an SSL Certificate. Paid services usually offer a validity period of about 1 – 2 years.
Support for installing and managing certificates becomes very important in cases where the organization does not have the know-how to manage their certificates on their own. This is especially true for organizations with a large number of certificates. A good support mechanism can make this process very smooth.This type of service is provided by most paid SSL vendors and we highly recommend getting such a certificate if you require support. Use our Hosting Finder tool to find a good hosting deal with SSL and premium support.
Who would need a Paid SSL Certificate?
So do you need a paid SSL certificate? Let’s look at your options.
You can use a self-signed certificate, but that’s more suited for organizations where data is transmitted within an internal network, or when the data isn’t that sensitive. The next degree of security can be considered as a free certificate signed by a Certificate Authority. These types of certificates can offer more security and instill trust in the minds of users and can be a good fit for most organizations.
However, for larger organizations, which deal with sensitive data of users and/or financial transactions, it is of the utmost importance to obtain a paid SSL certificate that offers the highest possible degree of validation. This is especially true if you are in an industry that requires standards such as Extended Validation and PCI DSS.
The added benefits of added security, convenience, and online support become definite advantages.
The differences between paid and free SSL Certificates should now be clear to you. The type of SSL Certificate that suits your website is a decision that needs to be made by you with much care, and we hope that we have pointed you in the right direction.
If you need more information, HostingReview has many articles that can help you.