September 14, 2019

HostGator SSL: What You Need to Know

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HostGator offers a free SSL certificate with every hosting plan. But is it secure enough for your website? Read on before you enable SSL.

An SSL certificate is especially important if you're collecting sensitive information. This could be things like your visitor's credit card information and login credentials.

SSL certificates also verify a site's identity. It makes sure that a site's owner is who they say they are and that the business behind the site exists.

HostGator offers a free SSL certificate when you sign up with them. Here's everything you need to know about it.

The Basics: What is SSL?

You may have have that most of websites start with HTTPS instead of HTTP. There may also be a padlock icon to the left of the URL. This means you're visiting a site with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certification.

More specifically, having an SSL certification means that the communication between the server and the person visiting the website is encrypted. Anyone hacking into the connection won't be able to read the information.

This is important for site owners, especially if you're collecting sensitive information like user credit card details.

You'll need to get SSL certification for your site if you're planning on accepting credit card payments. It's part of making your website PCI compliant, which is a standard requirement from all major credit card companies.

It's not just credit card details, however—your visitors may check to see if your site is secure before entering any sort of sensitive information. This includes things like home address or login credentials.

Without an SSL certification, you can easily lose your visitors' trust. In fact, Google Chrome marks any site without SSL as "not secured," which is enough to scare off potential visitors!

What Else Does SSL Do?

SSL certificates do more than encrypt your traffic. Some even verify a site's identity.

A Certificate Authority, or CA (the company issuing the SSL), will ask for various documents from the owner of a website to prove their identity. Once verified, they issue an SSL certificate for the site.

Depending on the kind of certificate, it may have the verified domain name, company name, address, city, state, and country. SSL certificates expire after a year or two and must be renewed.

In other words, certain types of SSL certification tells the user that your business exists, and that you are who you say you are.

SSL certifications can cost from as little as $10 to several hundred dollars per year, depending on the type and the company issuing the certificate.

Why is SSL Important?

  1. You need SSL to secure your connection
    We've briefly mentioned that you need SSL to be able to process credit card payments. However, this also applies if you'll be collecting any kind of personalized data. This includes login credentials, personal data, email addresses, etc.

    You don't want hackers to be able to steal data from your users while they're on your site. SSL encrypts the connection, keeping the data secure.

  2. Building customer trust
    Even if you don't collect any kind of personal information, an SSL certificate will go a long way to building customer trust.

    Google Chrome now warns users whenever they visit a site without SSL. Practically, this means that users won't ever enter an unsecured site.

    The good news is that anyone can get a basic SSL certification for free, so there's no excuse for not using it.

  3. Increasing your Google rankings
    Google now uses HTTPS as a ranking signal, which means that having SSL certification will help increase your site rankings on Google search.

    While this won't trump quality content as the primary ranking signal, it's still important. If you want your site as visible as possible, you need to have an SSL certification.

  4. Increasing your conversion rates
    If you're running an online business, customer trust is crucial. After all, if there's no trust, your customers won't buy anything.

    Having an SSL certification assures the user that their information is safe. Showing your customers that you're doing everything you can to prevent fraud will make them more likely to deal with you.

How Does HostGator's SSL Work?

HostGator offers a free SSL certificate for all its plans through the Let's Encrypt SSL. It's automatically added to every domain for new and existing cPanel platform customers.

If you're using platforms other than cPanel, you can still use the free SSL. HostGator offers a guide on how to activate it here.

What is Let's Encrypt SSL?

Let's Encrypt is a free open certificate authority (CA). It's provided by Internet Security Research Group (ISRG).

Applying for an SSL with Let's Encrypt is quick and simple. You can simply request an SSL and Let's Encrypt will grant it after verification. It's valid only for 90 days, but it has an auto-renew feature.

While this is great for web owners, Let's Encrypt does have limitations. Because it's free and automated, it can only offer basic encryption only/Domain Validated (DV) SSL certificates.

That means it won't be as good as more advanced SSLs like Extended Validation (EV) or Organizational Validated (OV), which vets your identity and business information.

You can buy more advanced SSLs from HostGator's partner, Comodo, which is a Certificate Authority (CA).

Read on for the different types of SSL certificates Comodo offers and how to pick the best one for your site.

Which Type of SSL Certificate Do I Need?

HostGator offers a variety of SSL certificates provided by Comodo. Here's a list of SSL certificates they offer.

Domain Validation Certificate (DV)
The most basic type of SSL. The CA only checks that you are the owner of a specific domain using the information in the WHOIS. It can be issued almost immediately with no paperwork.

A DV SSL certificate provides encryption for your site, but it doesn't verify that you're the owner of a legitimate business. Still, it's enough to secure your site until you need a more advanced SSL certificate.

A DV SSL certificate is perfect for companies that simply want to secure their website. Although it's the most basic form of SSL, it's great for small sites and e-businesses looking to get started.

HostGator is compatible with Let's Encrypt, which is free and valid for 90 days (but can be auto-renewed).

Comodo also offers a paid DV SSL certificate. Look for their Positive SSL and Comodo SSL for single domains.

Positive SSL vs Comodo SSL
When you visit HostGator's support page on SSL, you may see the words "Positive SSL" and "Comodo SSL." Don't be alarmed—they're both Domain Validated (DV) SSL certificates.

The difference is that the Comodo DV SSL costs more, but has a bigger warranty level. You can read more about it here.

Should you pay for DV SSL?

Since Let's Encrypt offers a DV SSL for free, why should you pay for a DV SSL from other providers? Well, the answer is, you shouldn't.

DV SSL certificates are all essentially the same—there is no human verification, and the process is automated.

Other CAs that offer paid DV SSL certificates may offer extra perks—things like customer support, longer certificate duration, and warranty—but there's a chance you may never need these anyway.

Organization Validation Certificate (OV)
A step up from DV, because it verifies the company's identity. The CA will confirm that the business associated with the domain name is registered and legitimate.

They check details such as name, location, address, and registration information.

On top of activating the browser padlock and HTTPS, the OV certificate will also show your (verified) corporate identity. Your visitors will be assured that the website is operated by a legitimate company and not an imposter web site.

The OV certificate is a good option for public-facing websites, which represent companies or organizations.

Comodo offers "Instant SSL," which is an Organization Validated SSL certification.

Extended Validation Certificate (EV)
Extended Validation (EV) SSL is the highest-security SSL available. It uses strict authentication methods to assure a web site's legitimacy. The owner must prove that they own the domain, as well as the existence of the business and its operations.

An EV SSL certificate also stands out more compared to OV and DV certificates. All the verified information will be available on the certificate.

Basic information like business name and country are also displayed directly in the browser window.

The green HTTPS address bar is exclusive for EV SSL certificates, assuring visitors that they're visiting a verified business on a secure domain.

EV SSL certificates are great for sites who need the strongest identity assurance and trust. High profile websites that are often copied by phishing sites (like banks and financial institutions) would benefit from an EV SSL certificate.

However, any websites collecting data, processing logins, and online payments will also benefit from having an EV SSL certificate.

Wildcard Certificate
A Wildcard SSL certificate lets you encrypt unlimited subdomains using a single certificate. The subdomains must all have the same second-level domain (e.g., example.com).

In other words, example.com, blog.example.com, store.example.com and billing.example.com can all use the same Wildcard SSL certificate.

Multi-domain SSL Certificate
A Multi-domain SSL certificate lets you secure up to 210 domains with a single certificate. You can mix different second level domains (e.g., example.com, example.net, and otherexample.com).

However, bear in mind that these are still DV SSL certificates. For EV and OV SSL certificates, you'll need to register those for each individual domain.

How Do I Order an SSL Certificate from HostGator?

You can order an SSL certificate from HostGator in three ways:

  • HostGator billing portal
  • HostGator SSL order form
  • Live Support

HostGator Billing Portal
The fastest way of ordering an SSL certificate from HostGator. For their Shared plans, you can order either the Positive SSL or Extended Validation SSL directly from the Billing portal.

This method is only for HostGator's Shared hosting packages. For more detailed instructions, use their step-by-step guide here.

HostGator SSL Order Form
If you want a wider range of SSL certificates for different hosting types, use HostGator's SSL order form. This form allows you to buy SSL certificates for the Windows, reseller, VPS, and Dedicated server packages.

You can pick from these SSL certificates:

  • Positive SSL (Domain Validated)
  • Comodo SSL
  • Positive Wildcard SSL
  • Extended Validation SSL

For more detailed instructions, read the full guide here.

Live Support
Finally, you can also contact their customer service to buy an SSL certificate.

However, take note that this method is only for the Hatchling, Baby Cloud, Business Cloud, and Optimized WordPress package. And you can only purchase a Multi-domain SSL.

Simply contact them via phone or Live Chat, and they'll help you purchase a Multi-domain SSL certificate.

Bottom Line

With Google's emphasis on HTTPS everywhere, not having an SSL certificate can be disastrous for your site. You'll need at least a basic Domain Validated (DV) SSL certificate, if only to improve your site's search rankings and secure your connection.

The good news is that you can get a DV SSL certificate immediately and for free with Let's Encrypt. HostGator automatically applies the certificate for cPanel users. For other content management systems, they offer a step-by-step guide on how to activate it.

If you're interested in more advanced SSL certificates like OV and EV, you may also buy them from Comodo, HostGator's partner. Prices range from $40–$270 per year.

The kind of SSL certificate you need really depends on the nature of your site. If you're hosting an online business, you may need an OV or even EV SSL certificate. However, if it's just a personal site or a small business, then the free DV SSL certificate is enough.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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