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What is Private SSL Hosting?

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a protocol designed to secure communication online. Shared SSL and Private SSL are used to encrypt data when it travels between an internet-connected device and a server, thus allowing users to protect confidential data like credit card credentials.

Shared SSL uses the hosting company's SSL certificate to authenticate users and secure data, while private SSL requires the user to employ a dedicated IP address to run an SSL server. Private SSL certificates are purchased individually and they are more costly than shared SSL certificates.

One benefit of using a private SSL certificate is that it allows you to display your own domain name in the URL, thus enhancing the credibility of your website. For example, the URL to your website with shared SSL would look like this - https://secure.hostingprovider.tld/~yourcompany. However, with private SSL you can end up with a much more attractive and professional looking URL, such as https://secure.yourcompany.com/.

Private SSL is not just about appearances

SSL uses double encryption to secure communications. The public key is available to everyone, but the private key is only made available to the recipient of the message, providing an additional layer of security. Data transmitted between your browser and server is encrypted and includes information about the certificate holder.

A private SSL certificate is also helpful to users forced to rely on public or unsecure networks to access your website. In addition to adding credibility, private SSL can also help your website attain higher search rankings by offering superior security. The site will rank higher because it is certified by a trusted authority and a private SSL certificate with a neat URL is good for marketing.

SSL certificates have evolved over the years and two decades ago 40-bit keys were standard, but they eventually gave way to 128-bit keys and today 1024-bit keys are the norm, although 2048-bit keys are starting to replace them.

Poor deployment can compromise security

Regardless of the complexity of the crypto key, it is important to stress that proper deployment of private SSL is crucial to maintaining security. Outdated standards such as SSL v2 are practically useless today.

SSL v3 and TLS v1.0 can be vulnerable depending on how they are deployed, so they have to be configured carefully. TSL v1.1 and v1.2 are considered secure, but many platforms still lack support for these protocols.

Since SSL is used by countless financial institutions and online retailers, there is never a shortage of white hat and black hat developers trying to beat the standards, which is why they always need to evolve and address new exploits.

Hosts see SSL as a competitive edge

The rise in the volume of encrypted internet traffic has prompted many hosting providers to start marketing SSL services, which is a positive development - hosts can save you time and offer invaluable expertise.

Many hosts provide free shared SSL, which provides them with a couple of benefits.

Firstly, their domain name ends up in your URL, as we explained earlier. Since they secure their main domain and an unlimited number of sub-domains at a flat fee, it doesn't cost them much to offer the functionality, yet their name is displayed in thousands of URLs, like an ad.

The second angle involves marketing - deploying private SSL can be prohibitively expensive for a lot of small companies and most individuals, hence they are more likely to choose a host that offers free shared SSL, regardless of what it does to their URL.

The cost of private SSL

Purchasing a private SSL certificate with a certificate authority (CA) can cost a few hundred dollars a year, without the added cost of deploying the certificate.

Private SSL certificates can also be purchased via hosts, who act as resellers and usually offer discounts and other incentives, such as technical assistance or even free setup. Others charge you for the setup and you should always inquire about the combined cost of purchasing and deploying a private SSL certificate.

If you are already a hosting customer, buying a private SSL certificate from a CA probably doesn't make much financial sense, as your host should be able to provide significant discounts and you could eventually end up paying just a fraction of the cost compared to a direct CA deal and in-house deployment.

Private SSL Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the primary difference between private and shared SSL certificates?

    Both private and shared SSL certificates encrypt sensitive information exchanged between a website and its visitors. On one hand, a private SSL certificate uses a dedicated IP address to run an SSL server while a shared SSL certificate uses a hosting company's own certificate for authentication.

  • What is the advantage of using private SSL certificates?

    Using a private SSL certificate can help bring credibility to your website because it will allow you to use your own domain name in the URL rather than the hosting company's. As a result, your website will look more professional and make your users more confident in making sensitive transactions on your website. Moreover, your website's rankings in major search engines such as Google can also increase.

  • When should I consider using SSL certificates?

    Many website owners just post information about themselves, share a portfolio, or provide information on specialized topics. Sometimes, website owners may collect information such as name and email address to join a mailing list. In these cases, it probably does not make sense to deploy an SSL certificate.

    However, if a website owner needs to collect payment information and wants to have a self-hosted payment gateway (versus a shared gateway like PayPal), then using an SSL certificate is required to ensure that customer data doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

  • What is the advantage of using a shared SSL certificate?

    Though shared SSL certificates display the hosting company's URL, they have a number of advantages including a lower cost (in some cases included as part of the hosting package) and no need to deploy or maintain an SSL server. Deploying an SSL server can be quite complex and may involve a great deal of technical support as well as constant updates to ensure maximum security.

  • What hosting companies provide private SSL certificates?

    Some hosting companies that provide private SSL certificates include HostGator, GoDaddy, and Shopify along with many other companies reviewed by WhoIsHostingThis.

  • What type of pricing should I expect with private SSL certificates?

    Using a private SSL certificate will definitely be more expensive than a shared one. The factors that add to the cost are the certificate itself along with the requirement to have a dedicated IP address.

    In general, private SSL certificates can cost a few hundred dollars annually if purchased directly from a Certificate Authority (CA). Besides the basic costs, you should consider the cost of deployment in terms of time and level of technical support needed in case your hosting company does not include support for SSL server setup.

  • How can private SSL certificates be purchased?

    Private SSL certificates can be purchased through an existing account with a hosting company or through a CA. Purchasing an SSL certificate through a hosting provider will make more sense if you have a hosting account since hosting providers can offer deeper discounts versus buying directly from a CA. In addition, purchasing through a hosting account may allow you to get the support you need to properly configure and maintain an SSL server.

  • How does SSL secure transactions I make online?

    The SSL protocol uses multiple layers of encryption which involve a public and private key. The public key is available to anyone while the private key is only available to the device on the receiving end of the transaction. In addition, SSL uses varying key lengths to enhance security. For example, older SSL certificates used 40 bits while current implementations now use 1024 and 2048 bits. The longer the keys, the harder to break the encryption.

  • What factors should be considered when deploying private SSL certificates?

    Improper deployment of private SSL certificates can create more security risks so it is important to consider factors such as SSL and TSL versions as well as server configuration.

    For example, SSL v2 is considered outdated and insecure while SSL v3 and TSL v1.0 can be vulnerable depending on the server configuration. Before deciding on a configuration, check the latest documentation to see what versions are the most secure and compatible with the most platforms. This is especially important because many security specialists are constantly trying to break the current standards and find vulnerabilities.

  • What benefit does a hosting company have to provide a shared SSL certificate?

    Since shared SSL certificates use the hosting company's own domain in each certificate, any certificate deployed on a hosting account's domain or subdomain will use the host's domain. This basically acts as a free advertisement for the hosting company which is one of the reasons why shared SSL certificates are offered at a discount. In addition, offering shared SSL as an option serves as a means for attracting new customers especially those who want to set up ecommerce stores.

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