What is SSL & why do I need it?
First of all I guess we have to know what an SSL certificate is. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer it provides a secure connection between the user and the site or service they are connected to. The information transmitted is encrypted between the user and the site and it provides a private connection, for example when using an online form the information cannot be viewed or hijacked by a third party. If a website has an SSL certificate a padlock icon will be displayed in the address bar of the browser and the website will be using the “https” prefix rather than “http”. An SSL certificate is only valid for a short period of time and you can view the certificate and check that it is valid before using the site. A website can be assigned an SSL certificate which has been issued by a Certificate Authority (CA). The CA authenticates the website and establishes that the website is owned by the person requesting the certificate.
So why do I need an SSL certificate?
An SSL certificate is not a legal requirement by installing the certificate it will create trust between you and the person using your website. It shows that you care about their security and the information they provide to you while they are using the website. Although an SSL certificate is not a legal requirement most browser developers have adopted it as a standard and either do not allow users to continue to un-certified or require the user to confirm they understand the consequences of continuing. If you want to be PCI compliant then you will need to install an SSL certificate on your website (www.pcisecuritystandards.org) SSL can also effect the way your website is seen by search engines and some SEO tools like Google Analytics will not be available if your website is un-certified.
To have a website these days for any reason it is pretty much a requirement for it to be certified by SSL. With so many website exploits to go unprotected is foolish and it will be echoed by the lack of traffic as users will not trust your site.
If you are unsure whether your site has an SSL certificate you can run some security tests from www.ssllabs.com