What do I look for when purchasing SSL certificates?

An increasing number of SSL branded certificates are appearing in the market place today. However, not all SSL certificates (or Certificate Authorities) are created equal.

A number of factors you should examine are:

  1. Browser Acceptance – Your certificate should be accepted by many different browsers. Typical acceptance rates range from 96% to above 99%, though some certificates may only have an 80% acceptance rate. A 1% drop in browser acceptance can mean 7 million potential customers not recognizing your certificate. Browser compatibility is determined by the root certificate used to extend trust to your issued certificate.
  2. Ease of Installation – This is directly reflected in how many certificates you must install in order to establish a chain of trust. Premium SSL certificates require only installing the certificate that was issued to you. Other SSL certificates may require that you install additional intermediate certificates in addition to the certificate issued to you. This can complicate and delay the installation process.
  3. Turn Around Time – Today’s expectations demand that turn around time be less than 24 hours or sometimes even minutes. Years ago, 48-72 hours was a commonly expected turn around time.
  4. Trust Process – Make sure your provider doesn’t display you as ‘not validated’ in the subject field of your SSL Certificate.
  5. Customer Support – SSL can be a complicated technology to implement. Be sure to allow for ample time to install SSL properly. A certain level of support should come with your initial SSL purchase, and support be offered via email or telephone. If need be, purchase additional support to include reissues and 24 hour coverage in the event of server crashes or migrations.
  6. Certificate Strength – Most commercially issued certificates are 128 bit in length and are considered “string”. They offer a very high level of security. 40 bit length certificates are “weak” and be can be compromised with today’s computing technology. Use 40 bit length certificates in cases only where backward compatibility with older software is required.
  7. Warranty – The warranty is basically a guaranty that the SSL provider will not mis-issue a certificate. This is basically insurance and enhances your credit-worthiness to your customers
  8. Pricing – Prices for SSL certificates can range widely. The factors listed above will almost certainly have a bearing on pricing and, ultimately, which SSL certificate is right for you.