The benefits of HTTPS web hosting
When you choose a web hosting package, you should consider whether or not you need your website to run over HTTPS.
In this blog, we will look at some of the main benefits of HTTPS web hosting.
If you are running a content management system (CMS) with sensitive data, running an ecommerce website, receiving job applications via your site, or using a CMS with customer relationship management functionality, this article may be of particular relevance to you.
What is HTTPS?
Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol which sends data between your web browser and the websites that you browse. The 'S' at the end of HTTPS stands for 'Secure'. It means that all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted.
HTTPS web hosting requires an SSL certificate which acts as a guarantee that the website is who it says it is. Websites running over HTTPS display a padlock in the address bar of most browsers. This may be green or not depending on the browser and the type of SSL certificate.
The SSL certificate will act as a 'seal of approval' which most web browsers will highlight in some way, signifying to visitors that your site is secure and can be trusted. This mark of approval can make a big difference to how your site is perceived.
Are there good and bad SSL certificates?
Features of SSL certificates are scalable. If you go for a premium SSL certificate, you would usually pay more and receive extra benefits. Benefits include the level of encryption used for transmitting data, the guarantee offered against loss of data and the level of assurance offered to web users.
In terms of price range, near the top of the scale you are looking at an Extended Validated Certificate (EV), which are provided after a thorough review of your organisation by a certificate authority. An EV certificate gives you the feature of a green address bar when visitors land on your site. This is the pinnacle of SSL reassurance.
At the bottom end of the spectrum some organisations offer free SSL certificates and intermediaries such as Cloudflare offer hosted SSL certificates.
Free SSL solutions do not generally provide the same level of assurance or security. For example a free certificate may not require any validation to ensure it is used by the correct owner of the domain name. Similarly services such as Cloudflare ensure data his encrypted between the browser and Cloudflare, but not between Cloudflare and your web server, thus providing an unencrypted data interception risk.
What does Google think?
Google have stated a preference for websites which run over HTTPS and have confirmed that their search algorithm is adjusted to favour HTTPS websites. It is widely believed that this benefit is not highly significant however, so HTTPS should only be considered for search engine optimisation (SEO) purposes on sites where SEO is key.
So do I need HTTPS web hosting?
We suggest HTTPS web hosting in the following cases:
- If your CMS holds personal data of customers.
- If your website has contact forms on which people are transmitting sensitive personal information.
- If your CMS saves data submitted by forms on your website.
- If you are selling anything or accepting donations through your website.
- If you run a website for which SEO is key.
If you would like to discuss whether you need HTTPS web hosting for your website, please get in touch.