Free SSL Certificates vs Paid SSL Certificates: What's Best for Your Website?
The security of online transactions and data privacy has become paramount for websites. At the heart of website security lies the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate, a digital certificate that provides encryption for data in transit.
We will delve into the critical decision between opting for a free Domain Validation (DV) SSL certificate, included with cPanel hosting, and investing in a paid SSL certificate that comes with a warranty. The choice is not just about encryption but involves considering the level of trust and security assurance each option provides.
Understanding SSL Certificates
Without getting too nerdy, SSL certificates play a crucial role in securing online communications between your web browser and the website servers. They encrypt the data exchanged, ensuring that sensitive information, such as personal details and payment information, remains confidential. Beyond encryption, SSL certificates also provide authentication, assuring users that they are indeed connecting to the intended website.
Is having no SSL an option?
Although it is possible to have a website without SSL, all major web browsers will actively discourage customers from visiting your website. We are sure you have seen this screen before.
This will scare customers away instantly.
There are 4 main SSL certificates and different recommendations for each.
CPanel AutoSSL Domain Validated (DV) SSLs – Free
Free AutoSSL certificates offer a basic level of security by verifying the ownership of the domain. This gives you and your customers basic cybersecurity protections when visiting your website. These can be installed at the click of a button and automatically renew for free. It is important to note these certificates are free and do not have a warranty if compromised.
These are recommended for:
- Personal websites
- Any website that doesn’t conduct transactions or gather personal information
Domain Validated (DV) SSLs – Paid
Paid Domain Validation (DV) SSL certificates offer a basic level of security by verifying the ownership of the domain as well. The difference with a paid DV SSL is if the SSL provider has a warranty which can be claimed if they are at fault for the compromise.
These are recommended for:
- Websites that gather minimal personal information
Organisation Validated (OV) SSLs – Paid
Organization Validated (OV) certificates are authenticated with nine validation checks and are considered a mid-level business certificate. With OV certificates, the business is validated with the certificate issuer and this information is published.
These certificates are recommended for websites with
- Log-in screens
- Business sites
Extended Validation (EV) SSLs – Paid
Extended Validation (EV) certificates provide the highest level of brand identity security and are authenticated with 16 validation checks. When you look beyond the lock of an EV certificate you will immediately find details about the company or parent company that owns the website.
Best used on these websites and pages:
- Global banks and financial services
- Fortune 500 companies
- Global 2000 companies
Paid SSL Certificates and Their Warranties
Paid SSL certificates, including Domain Validation (DV), Organization Validation (OV), and Extended Validation (EV) types, come with varying levels of validation and trust. More importantly, many of these paid options include a warranty that protects the website owner financially in the event of a security breach due to a certificate flaw. These certificates often come with additional features, such as site seals and higher encryption standards, providing a greater level of security and trustworthiness.
Comparing Free SSL and Paid SSL Certificates
When comparing free DV SSL certificates to paid options, several factors come into play. The level of validation and trust differs significantly, with paid certificates often offering a more thorough vetting process and visible trust indicators to users. Warranties included with paid SSL certificates add a layer of financial protection, which can be crucial for e-commerce sites and businesses dealing with sensitive customer information.
The Importance of Warranties in SSL Certificates
Warranties in SSL certificates are particularly significant for websites that handle transactions and sensitive user data. In the event of a breach tied to a certificate flaw, a warranty can offer compensation, mitigating financial losses and protecting the website owner’s interests. This aspect of SSL certificates is often overlooked but is vital for e-commerce platforms and online services where user trust and data security are paramount.
Making the Right Choice for Your Website
Choosing the right SSL certificate for your website involves assessing various factors, including the nature of your site, the type of information you handle, and your traffic expectations. For websites that require high levels of user trust and handle sensitive data, investing in a paid SSL certificate with a warranty might be advisable. However, for smaller sites and blogs, a free DV SSL may suffice. Consulting with a web security expert can provide tailored advice, ensuring your choice aligns with your security needs and business objectives.