What Is an SSL Certificate?
In this day and age, online security and trustworthiness is more important than ever. And having an SSL—short for “Secure Sockets Layer”—certificate is an intuitive and admirably simple signal you can send to your visitors that tells them that your website is safe to browse. Even if you don’t know what it is, you’ve seen the SSL certificate icon before: The little padlock icon that appears to the left of trustworthy URLs in browser tabs.
That padlock icon signifies that the website is hosted on the HTTPS—that’s HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure—rather than the less secure HTTP protocol. And it means that the representative of the website has demonstrated to the hosting entity that they are the valid owner of the property.
In plain English, it means that visitors to the site have better protection from common web scams like phishing, data breaches, and other such threats. The common analogy—a bit rough, but useful enough—is that when you browse a website with the padlock icon denoting a valid SSL certificate, it’s like putting a letter in an envelope before you mail it. It’s not a step you’d want to skip when you’re doing things like entering sensitive information into online forms.
How big a deal is this? Google’s popular Chrome browser now labels sites that lack an SSL certificate as “not secure.” Is that the message you want to be sending potential customers? Plus, it considers it as a ranking factor for search results. So if you want to rank higher on Google, you need to have one as part of your SEO strategy.
That’s the nuts and bolts of SSL certificates. But…how do you go about getting an SSL certificate yourself? It’s not difficult.
How to Get an SSL Certificate for Your Dispensary Website
To a large degree, the question depends on which company hosts your website. Some all-in-one services offer SSL certificate registration and setup with subscription plans, for instance.
Because those options tend to be fairly intuitive to set up and use, we’ll skip to a DIY scenario in which you need to apply for an SSL certificate manually. Don’t worry: It’s still a fairly straightforward process. Here are the rough outlines
Start by initiating a CSR (certificate signing request). A CSR is a block of encoded text that is given to a certificate authority—a company or organization that validates the identities of websites, email addresses, and other entities—when applying for an SSL certificate.
It’s typically generated on the server where the certificate will be installed and contains information that will be included in the certificate, such as:
- Organization name
- Common name (domain name)
We’ll get into more specifics in the section below. What’s important to know is that the process involves creating a pair of encrypted keys, one private to be held by you, the other one public. In this brief tutorial, Step 1.1 covers the key generation process.
This means that you have one copy—the private key—and the certificate authority has the other. This is how you’ll verify your identity and ownership of the website later on.
You’ll need to keep your private key secret. The certificate created with a particular CSR will only work with the private key that was generated with it. So if you lose the private key, the certificate will no longer work.
Once you submit your CSR to a certificate authority, the company will validate your company and domain identity, and issue a certificate. If you need to find a reputable certificate authority, try this curated list of ten for a starter.
What You’ll Need to Get an SSL Certificate for Your Dispensary Website
We’ve covered the process of applying to a Certificate Authority, but what do you need to have before then? Here are a few specifics.
- A unique IP address: Because of the way the SSL protocol was set up, you’ll need a separate IP address for each certificate you want to buy. If you don’t, some older devices and browsers won’t be able to browse your site.
- An Up-to-date WHOIS Record: For the certificate authority to ensure that you actually own the domain name you’re getting the certificate for, it will check the WHOIS record (the ownership and contact information associated with each domain name) to make sure it matches the company name and address that you submit with the CSR. To make sure your WHOIS record is correct, check with your domain registrar.
- Business / Organization Validation: While each certificate authority has slightly different requirements for validation, they often check government databases to verify that your company is registered. Your certificate provider will let you know what you need to provide after you place your order.