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What is Shared SSL?

A secure socket layers (SSL) certificate protects information transmitted across the Internet by encrypting it. Many hosting packages offer this valuable service in two varieties: private, which is associated with your own domain name and suitable for eCommerce, and shared, which is often used with shared hosting accounts to provide secure access for site owners to their site files.

When you’re choosing a hosting package, one of the biggest concerns you’re likely to face is security. How safe is your information? Will there be a secure way to access your site’s content for maintenance and updates? What about eCommerce; will your customers’ information be protected as it travels from your site to the payment processor?

All of these questions can be answered with the help of a secure socket layers (SSL) certificate. An SSL certificate is not a type of hosting, but rather a software encryption protocol that helps protect information being sent to and from a specific server. The certificate issued lists the domain name, company name, address, expiration date, and stated purpose of the certificate (these details are verified by customers’ browsers with the certificate issuer in order to determine whether their connection is secure; a status generally indicated by a small padlock icon in the browser’s status bar). Typically, SSL certificates are offered in two varieties: shared and private.

A shared SSL certificate is generally provided to shared hosting customers who are not planning to engage in eCommerce on their site. With a shared SSL, your certificate will usually bear the name of your hosting company’s servers, and will be limited to secured access by you to your site’s files stored on their server. With this kind of certificate, you have protected access to your host server to update your site, configure email and other accounts, etc. But it is a poor solution for eCommerce, because the associated certificate is issued to everyone on your particular server, and is not earmarked for the secure transmission of financial information.

A private SSL certificate is one you purchase yourself, and is associated with your domain. It is ideal for eCommerce not only because your business is identified (correctly) as the vendor with whom your customer is doing business, but also because your domain (rather than your host’s) is listed in the address of your eCommerce cart software, giving your customers a greater feeling of security as well as true protection for their financial information.

Shared SSL certificates are often included with the cost of your shared hosting package, but some hosting providers do charge a small fee to activate it. Private SSL certificates have associated fees and may or may not be available for purchase through your host. If your site will rely on eCommerce, you’ll definitely want to inquire with your host about the options available—both for your security, and your customers’.

Shared SSL Frequently Asked Questions

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