HTTP vs. HTTPS
HTTPS is a secure version of HTTP with an SSL Certificate. With HTTPS all data is encrypted between your browser and the website that it is connected to. HTTPS stands for ‘Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure’. A secure connection should always be used to protect highly confidential online transactions such as online banking, ecommerce and data processing. Any data that is sent over a regular HTTP connection is transmitted as plain text, and can be read by a hacker if he manages to break into the connection between your browser and any unsecure website that you may be visiting.
There is a clear danger in using an unsecure web connection when completing an order form that includes your credit card details, any personal information including your birthdate or social security number. With a HTTPS connection, all communications are securely encrypted. This means that even if a hacker managed to intercept your data, they would be unable to decrypt any of the data that is transmitted between you and the website.
Why is an SSL certificate a necessity in 2017?
There is a lot of talk around the internet that you will rank higher with Google if you have an SSL certificate. My personal research has shown that Google will slightly rank your site higher but only on organic searches.
The most popular web browser to date is Google Chrome and is being used by 44.5% of users. Since the release of version 56, Google Chrome will list any site without an SSL certificate as unsafe and inform the user regardless of the type of website or data that is being transferred. This might make your site appear to be unsafe and deter traffic.
SSL Certificates were originally created for websites where sensitive data is being transferred. This would include data such as credit card information, social security numbers, birthdays, etc. If you have an informational website where no personal data is transferred, do you need an SSL Certificate? In short I would say that you do.
Free SSL Certificates
There are many ways to get a free SSL Certificate. One company is Cloudflare. They offer a free SSL Certificate and many benefits are included in this free service. They will cache your entire website on their server which will make your website load faster. This will help keep your site online even if your server goes down and protects you from malicious attacks. Setup is simple and well documented. With all the benefits and zero cost, the question is why aren’t you using an SSL certificate?