What is an SSL Certificate?

If you’re just getting acquainted with SSL certificates, this post is for you. Read on to learn more about the basics of SSL certificates, what they do for your store and the differences between brands.

SSL Cert

SSL certificates. You’ve probably heard the term before in relation to your site’s security, but what are they exactly? What do they do? And more importantly, why do you need them for your online business? In this post, we’ll take a look at the basics of SSL certificates, what they can do for you and the difference between different providers.

Let’s begin by answering some basic questions:


What is an SSL certificate? How does it work?

SSL stands for “secure sockets layer,” and an SSL certificate is a security measure that protects sensitive information as it’s being transferred between a browser and a server.  The SSL certificate does this by encrypting the data that’s being transmitted, therefore preventing any third party from intercepting or stealing the information.

More in-depth, the process looks something like this:

  1. A browser attempts to connect to a website with an SSL certificate, and asks the server to identify itself.
  2. The server sends the browser a copy of its SSL certificate, and the browser verifies that the server’s certificate was issued by a trusted certificate authority (otherwise known as a CA).
  3. If the certificate is legitimate, the browser sends the server a message confirming that it trusts the server and the server starts an SSL encrypted session.
  4. Encrypted data is then shared between the browser and the server.

In short, the SSL certificate’s job is two-fold: Telling browsers that your store is trustworthy and protecting sensitive data via encryption as it passes to and from the browser and the server.


Why do I need an SSL certificate for my online business?

There are multiple reasons to have an SSL certificate, but here are three main ones:

  • Keeps sensitive information safe: The SSL certificate encrypts important data, like credit card information, to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. With the threats of fraud and identity theft online, this added level of security is a boon to ebusinesses.
  • Increases customer trust and brand reputation: When your customers know their information is safe, they’re much more likely to buy from your online business. In fact, a majority of online shoppers will bypass purchasing from a store that doesn’t have any indication of security measures.
  • PCI compliance or certification: Being PCI compliant or certified is a huge win for an online business in terms of security. And in order to be PCI compliant or certified, your business must first have an SSL certificate.


What are the differences between different brands of SSL certificates?

There are two main areas in which SSL certificates can differ: the level of encryption and the certification standards. The industry standard for encryption is 128-bit, so any SSL certificate with 128-bit or above encryption is a secure SSL certificate.

In terms of certification standards, it is the job of the company issuing the SSL certificate, the CA, to verify that the business requesting the SSL certificate is legitimate. Each CA has its own certification standards and has to be deemed trustworthy by most browsers for an SSL certificate to be valid.

When it comes to your Volusion store, there are also the additional differences of whether or not there will be an installation fee, and whether or not you’ll need to submit a ticket to Billing. Volusion SSL certificates have no installation fee and require no further ticketing, whereas third party SSL certificates have both.


How do I know if my SSL certificate is installed and functioning properly?

To check if your SSL certificate has properly installed, go to your store, look at the URL and change the “http” to “https.” If a yellow lock appears in the bottom right corner of the browser and the browser does not send you a security warning message, then the certificate is functioning properly.


With the added security SSL certificates provide, you and your customers can have both peace of mind and a positive shopping experience. If you’re looking to purchase an SSL certificate, be sure to compare both Volusion SSL certificates and third party options to get the right fit for your online business.

Happy selling!
-Gracelyn Tan, Volusion


Gracelyn was a Communications Specialist at Volusion. She has a BA in English and Philosophy from Rice University, and when not reading or writing, she's dancing, meeting new people or winning staring contests with her cat.

9 Responses to “What is an SSL Certificate?”

  1. Jay

    Hi I have a payment gateway with Authorize.net on my volusion site, do I still need an SSL certificate? Thanks

  2. Kelvin

    Hello, I have SSL certificate, but where can I get the logo to show on my website?

    • Jason Ferguson

      Hello Kelvin,

      You can add an SSL seal by following the instructions in “SSL Seals” section on this page. Let us know if you have any problems getting it to display!

  3. Arunroj

    Hi, I’m receiving payment through my website, but via Skrill, because my region is in Asia. Do I need an ssl certificate? Thanks

    • Gracelyn Tan

      Hi, Arunroj. An SSL isn’t required for Skrill, but we do highly recommend that you get one. Better to be safe than sorry. 🙂

  4. Ran Moore

    I tried to use Pay Pal Pro on My Shopify website of http://www.thegranddiva.com and nothing happened. I tried to use pro, but they said I couldn’t because I had the PRO. I HATE IT! That’s why I signed up for Volusion. can you tell me if that could be the reason after three months I have received NO ORDERS but had plenty of visitors??

    • Gracelyn Tan

      Hi Ran,
      Our tech support professionals will be able to help you out with that question. Get in contact with them here. Thanks for reading and best of luck!

  5. Lisa

    Do I need an SSL if I am only accepting payments via PayPal?

    • Gracelyn Tan

      Hi Lisa,
      If you’re using PayPal Standard, you won’t need an SSL. However, if you’re using PayPal Pro, you will need one. Thanks for reading!


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