What is an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate and will you need one if you are selling online? These two questions are explored in this post.
First let’s discuss the SSL certificate. You will only need an SSL certificate if you are setting up and ecommerce website or a website you intend to sell products and services with. When you set up your ecommerce website you will select a company to host your website so that it is accessible from the internet. Once hosted, all of your individual webpages are then accessible to your visitors via a non-secure connection to the webserver where your website is hosted. Presumably your visitors will shop your site and place the items they wish to purchase into your site’s shopping cart. Once the visitor decides to checkout this is where the SSL certificate comes into play. The checkout page asks the customer to provide their credit card information to complete the purchase. This information must be encrypted before it is sent to the merchant account for processing. The ecommerce SSL certificate is the encryption service that makes sure the information collected from your customer is secure while it is communicated to and from your merchant account.
The SSL certificate is set up by your hosting company and is a requirement if you intend on processing your customer’s payments on your website. You do have the option to process the payment on your merchant service provider’s website. In this scenario the customer is redirected to your processor’s website (secure website) when they decide to checkout. The credit card payment information is gathered on the secure site and transmitted to your business’s merchant account for processing. Upon completion the customer is redirected back to your company site.
Both of these processes ensure your business is PCI DSS compliant. The decision is whether you want to provide a seamless checkout process for your customersor not.
If you are interested in selling your products and services online, check out our helpful guide - Sell your products online – A guide to ecommerce.