SSL certificates are instruments used for security purposes on individual and corporate websites; they are absolutely necessary to secure transactions, especially when a customer must provide credit card information. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates insure the security of a transaction’s information. The certificates primary function is to ensure that the corporation’s customers have secure and private information located in the company’s data banks that will not be shared or compromised.
SSL certificates are therefore somewhat limited in their marketability, since they mostly are held by a few international/multinational companies. Achieving an SSL certificate for one’s corporation means that their business transactions are near-guaranteed; the providers of these endure annual security audits. This is a small price to pay, most of them agree, for secure providers enter exclusive listings for web browsers, those of trusted businesses and corporation authorities.
SSL Certificate Prices
Numerous websites offer Standard SSL certificates, beginning at around $50-70 annually for a single domain. Additional domains per annum increase the SSL certificate cost exponentially; package deals for Standard SSL certificates can reduce the price, much like multi-year subscriptions to more prosaic services
On GoDaddy, for example, 5 domains, secured on a yearly basis, run approximately $90 a year; 10 increases to $165; 20 will cost an annual fee of approximate $315 to $340. 3 year plans typically lower the SSL certificate cost—5 domains for $75 per year for three years, 10 domains at $135 annually, 20 domains at $255 to $265, etc.
SSL Certificate Providers
There are approximately 50 root certificate types on the “trusted” availability lists, so there are a number of certificates to be had; however, the providers themselves are quite a small group. Most fully trusted of these is VeriSign and its sister companies Geotrust and Thawte. These hold over 47% of the market for certificate providers. Other providers, less prolific but no less trusted in the website hierarchy, include Comodo and GoDaddy.
In comparing prices, SSL certificates from GoDaddy are among the cheapest (quoted in the previous paragraphs). Thawte is a bit more expensive because of its excellent authentication procedure—about $1000 for a two year plan with extended validation, $260 for an economy plan for one domain, two years.
Verisign charges approximately $2700 per annum for its most advanced security site pro with EV (2 year plan); Comodo is the most variably priced of the bunch, offering plans from $99 (one year one domain) to $285 plan for 3 different domains, with additional hostnames at the SSL certificate cost of $35 each.
Comodo SSL Certificate
Comodo’s plans are rated “good to terrible” by most shopper comparison websites; they compare fairly well nationally, but are expensive for single domains. The worst deal available on the Comodo plan is the single domain/sub-domains plan with a wildcard–$429 as opposed to $199 from GoDaddy and GeoTrust. The best plan is probably the Comodo positive SSL, $49 a year for a single domain, which is the preferred package for most new businesses that operate with expenses on a yearly basis and operate paycheck to paycheck until they are better established.
Shared SSL Certificate
A shared SSL certificate will usually be a “wild card” certificate assigned to a sub-domain that points at the root for the customer’s document. For example, it may guide the customer’s information to a separate secure directory, or allow a business’ shopping cart (from the host company) to secure orders with the wild card certification in place. These shared certificates can range from $4.95 per year (BlueHost) to $12.95 per year (GoDaddy).
Wildcard SSL Certificate
These certificates are often in the “shared” category, since the internet business operating with one can encrypt all its subdomains to the certificate as long as there is a common factor in the subdomain names. The problem with the wildcard is that if one subdomain has had its security breached, they all have; similarly, if you must revoke the certificate for a single subdomain, you must revoke it for all. Wildcard SSL certificates average between $200 (GoDaddy) and $430 (Comodo). The wildcard SSL certificate price reflects the subdomain availability that is the most attractive feature for multiple businesses.
128 bit SSL Certificate
This certificate is for websites with the 128 bit key used for secure encryption. Public key encryption allows the exchange of a session key between client and server, by which the client’s personal information travels; each of these exchanges uses a different key to ensure the maximum difficulty to an intruder attempting to break their encryption code. A 128 bit key is nearly impossible to break; a French cryptographer once broke a 40 bit key in a week’s time, and few if any transactions ever take that long.
128 bit encryption certification is available on all SSL certifications from the trusted providers; all the plans also accommodate 258 bit encryption. The plans range from an SSL certificate cost of $70 a year (InstantSSL) to $475 per year (Comodo).
Trial SSL Certificate
Many companies offer trial SSL certificates at little or no charge to a company just beginning its online transactions. RapidSSL is the most popular of these, since it gives a fully functional certification in a few minutes to a prospective customer and maintains it for 30 days, the largest “free trial” in the paradigm of SSL certification (GoDaddy and Verisign offer the free trial as well, for 20 to 30 days, but an annual plan locks into place without a cancellation).
SSL Certificate Types
Numerous types of SSL certificates exist. A web server authentication certificate, for instance, is the classification for all SSL certificates, indicating that they secure web site traffic and data connections. A Unified Communications certificate would allow the security for multiple domain names and server names; a wildcard, on the other hand, would secure only first level sub-domains on a single domain name (which would need a common factor—mail/website.com, secure.website.com, www.website.com and so on).
Extended validation was created in response to “phishing” expeditions from intruders, and requires extended validation of the business to obtain the certificate, a process that can take several weeks. Lowassurance certificates are economic models that have only a single personal domain name, while an email certificate encrypts and guarantees that your email is sent by you and no one else. Finally, shared SSL certificates are subdomain-shared on one specific hostname, so multiple sites can share the same IP address.
SSL certificate authorities are the entities that issue the SSL certificates; these corporations, such as GoDaddy and VeriSign, are given annual security audits (WebTrust, for example) to maintain their inclusion on the web as trusted authorities. There is also an SSL Checker, a sort of SSL certificate Consumer Reports, featured on sslshopper.com, which collates certification information and insures correct installation and validation of a business’ certificate.
Businesses wanting an SSL certificate can expect SSL certificate cost to be anywhere from $50 for a single domain single use to $450 and more for multiple domains; many providers (such as RapidSSL and Verisign) offer free trial certification for periods up to 30 days. The business owner should watch that time carefully, as a one-year or more plan will instantly go into effect upon the expiration of the free certificate.