SSL certificates are an important part of safe and secure internet usage. While SSL certificates do not themselves perform the encryption of traffic between a browser and a web server (that is done by the SSL protocol itself), they do establish the trust needed to verify the identity of the web server being communicated with.
Certificate Authorities, or CAs, are trusted third-party organizations (often businesses) that issue SSL certificates. In the web hosting industry, these organizations are commonly referred to as SSL providers.
Web browsers and other software that can communicate over SSL, such as email apps, reference a list of trusted CAs, or SSL providers, to verify that a given SSL certificate was cryptographically signed by one of them. Once the validity of a certificate is confirmed, encrypted communication is established and all data passed back and forth is secured from any snooping third parties who might be monitoring or trying to interfere with traffic.
From an internet browser’s perspective, a certificate issued by one trusted CA is just as valid as a certificate issued by another. But this does not mean that each provider is as good as the next. CAs are a critical part of the web’s security infrastructure. If one of them were to be compromised, it could undermine the validity of any number of certificates it has issued, including yours. For that reason, you should always choose a reputable, well-known SSL provider that is likely to take its internal security seriously, and one that is located in a country whose government is unlikely to compel it to issue false certificates for surveillance purposes.
The following three providers offer customers what I consider an ideal combination of company prominence, security, and affordability.
Readers should note that prices may vary with these providers over time. A simple DV SSL is typically adequate for most peoples’ needs. See my previous article for an in-depth explanation of the various SSL types.
Network Solutions is one of the oldest internet companies around. Known primarily as a domain registrar, they also offer SSL certificates. Their cheapest option, called “Xpress,” is currently $54.99 per year when purchased for three years. Click here to visit Network Solutions’ SSL offerings.
GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain registrar, and web hosting provider sells SSLs at very competitive prices. Their cheapest certificate is currently available for $62.99 per year, with prices increasing depending on the certificate type. Click here to visit GoDaddy’s SSL offerings.
Comodo is the largest Certificate Authority in the industry, with more than 33% of all SSLs on the internet today issued by them. Their current cheapest option is a DV SSL for $76.95 per year for three years, which isn’t quite as cheap as what other providers are offering. They are, however, offering EV SSLs for a shockingly low $99 per year. Well worth the price.
In addition to the above three, other industry leaders include Symantec, GlobalSign, DigiCert, Entrust, and IdenTrust. In general, however, the SSL certificates offered by these companies are significantly overpriced. Prices for a simple DV SSL range anywhere from around $150 to upwards of $700. As I noted before, a certificate issued by on CA is just as valid as one issued by another, so there is little reason to choose an overpriced provider.
As a final, but important note, many of the prominent web hosting companies have entered into partnerships with SSL providers and offer their customers SSL certificates at a greatly discounted price. NameCheap, for example, currently offers a DV SSL from Comodo for as little as $9 per year. Be sure to read our web hosting reviews for any deals that may be offered for SSL certificates.