SSL – Should Your Website Use It?

For many people having their own business to run is a dream scenario. And for the few who achieve that dream, there is no greater joy than being able to be independent setting their own rules and choosing their own schedule.

But when you own your own business you will likely find that there is a downside too, namely the amount of hard choices you have to make and the awkward questions you have to ask yourself.

For instance, you will need to consider just what it is that your business is going to concentrate on, and how you are then going to promote and market that business in order to get its name out there and, ultimately, turn a profit.

Once you have the basics down, you will then need to consider the internet which is such a big part of business activity these days.

I could write much about the security aspects of running a website but today I will consider just one facet which is SSL. Deciding whether to use SSL or not is a big decision for a smaller company as it is another up-front cost, so do you choose to employ it in order to have a website that is as secure as possible or not?

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is also known as TLS, which stands for Transport Layer Security, and they are the ways that you secure your website when you are online. Whilst the names might sound like gibberish to someone who is not familiar with online security, I assure you that the job that they is far from trivial. According to Wikipedia, they are cryptographic protocols which enable the secure transmission of data back and forth over the internet. It is not important to go into the exact details of how they work but I guarantee that if you need to be secure when you are conducting internet transmissions then you will need to use these protocols.

So why doesn’t the entire internet use them?

That seems to be a reasonable question. If protocols like these exists, and with all of the cyber security problems that we have regarding the internet, why don’t we use them all of the time? The simple answer to that is that like anything else in life there is a cost when you decide to take an action such as this. You give up some of the speed of your website and the portability of it as well. It would also be harder to get your website to run as well on mobile devices. So that is why you have to make big decisions when it comes to choosing whether to implement this type of technology or not.

When it comes to your own business website, the question becomes what type of website do you have? Some businesses only have what they call a portfolio website. This means that the website is only available online to give a presentation of the business. It is there to display the services that the business provides and that is it. Besides giving information on how to contact the owner of the business there are no other transactions done on the site.

If you find that your business website is like that then there is a very good chance that you are not going to need to use any type of cryptography solutions to secure it. Now do not misunderstand me, you still need to make sure your website is secure, but just not with cryptography.

But if you have a website which undertakes actual monetary transactions then you are most likely going to need some sort of cryptography to protect you. If you are using a third party solution to conduct your transactions, such as Stripe or Paypal, then there is a good chance that the cryptographic solution is already baked in. But if you are creating an ecommerce solution from scratch, or you have someone developing it for you from scratch, then the use of SSL comes highly recommended.

Overall, if you are going to be building a website that does financial transactions then your best bet is to use a third party solution that has been tested thousands of time. But if you are going to go custom then you should really be thinking about the security of your website and whether to use SSL effectively or not (but be sure to watch out for faked certificates).

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

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