The quick answer is that it's simply a lock icon that creates a warm and fuzzy feeling in a web surfer's brain. The geeky answer is that they are small data files that digitally bind a "key" to your business website. When activated (purchased), you get a nifty little lock icon at the top of the URL bar. Go ahead, look at the top left of your browser... our website has one. Feel warm and fuzzy yet? Feel Safe and secure? HA!
By having one, all we've done is activated the https protocol to allow secure connections between our web server to a browser. This means any information you pass along to us via this website (like our contact form) is safe from being hacked or stolen. Years ago, an SSL Certificate was only necessary for those people who ran online stores or sites that gathered sensitive data. The job of SSL is to provide safe passage of credit card transactions, data, and user login information. However, recently it has become the norm on pretty much every site out there. Why? We're pretty sure it's just another ploy to make money.
Well, you don't NEED one... it's not like your website won't work if you don't have one. You will still be ranked and found on search engines, but know that Google ranks sites with an SSL slightly higher than those without. If you do opt-out of having one, know that your website will trigger that ugly no SSL Certificate warning pop up we all hate seeing. This is the only real stinker of not having an SSL Certificate.
When this warning pops up, it creates an uneasy feeling to the person viewing your website. Not only do they now have to work and actually read something, but they are also presented with a menacing icon with a giant red 'X' in it. Ouch! Unfortunately for you, the average web surfer will run for the hills when they see this on their screen. Especially since the browser's red icon is recommending they leave your site for safety reasons.
But, how can this be? You know that statement is absolutely false. Your website is plenty safe! In reality, your website is actually vulnerable to attacks... it's not secure. There will be a certain percentage of people who will leave your site immediately. If you're OK with that, then don't bother with an SSL Certificate. But, if you are wary that you may be losing a potential whale of a client, then just fork over the money and buy one today. The only problem is that they need to be renewed each year, just like car registration. Damn the man!
Well, if you decide to fork over your hard-earned money for an SSL Certificate, then you would call your hosting company for that. They will quote you a price and probably either charge you to install it or walk you through how to do it on your own. But that's not it. Next, you need to head over to the search engines and tell them you have one so you can choose a default display version of your site so they can then re-crawl and index your website properly.
If we lost you back in the first sentence, then it may be best to let a professional handle this for you.
However, if you're in the market for a new website, all of our websites receive a free SSL Certificate as long as you host on our servers.