Pros and Cons of SSL on a Forum

SSL is a technology which secures communications between your users and your website. In the case of a forum, it allows you and your members to log in without having to worry about whether your password is entirely safe or not. You can tell whether a website has SSL by checking for the green lock beside the address bar when visiting the website. However, there are also negatives to using SSL. This article discusses both the positive, and the negatives, of using this technology on your forum.


The Positives: Why to Use SSL on your Forum

There are several reasons why SSL is a good idea for your forum. Here are the reasons why.

  • Security: Using SSL, you can be certain that your members’ passwords are entirely secure. That means secure, not only from a hacker, but also from government agencies, and anyone running a program similar to FireSheep on the same wifi network as you or your users.
  • Confidence: When using SSL, web browsers will display a green padlock beside your website’s link in the address bar. This can make your website look more official and more safe. Particularly for any website which takes credit card information, this is entirely essential.
  • Search Engines: SSL is known to positively impact a website’s SEO. For example, Google has a publicly known policy in which websites which have SSL are given preference in search results to websites which do not have SSL. For this reason, a website which seeks to have good SEO should consider using SSL.

These benefits can be very important for a forum. However, there are also negatives which are very important to take into account.


The Negatives: Why to Not Use SSL on a Forum

There are several negatives to using SSL on your forum. Below is a list of the negatives which I am aware of.

  • Price: To use SSL on your website, you must have an SSL certificate. These are, unfortunately, not free. Prices generally hover around $90 per year. However, if you purchase from the right vendor, you can buy an SSL certificate for as little as $15 per year, or $25 for two years. I recommend buying an SSL certificate from HawkHost.
  • Slowness: An SSL connection takes time to initialize. This can be mitigated by generating an SSL key which is 2048 bits in length, instead of the 4096 alternative. However, connections to your site will still be slower with SSL than without.
  • Maintenance: An SSL certificate must be renewed every year (or a bit less often if you purchase in advance). It is similar to a domain name in this regard, but with one key difference. When your certificate expires, you must replace it with a new certificate. You cannot directly renew your old certificate. This is not very difficult using cPanel, but if you forget to do this, then your website will experience downtime while you figure out what to do.
  • Downtime: If you forget to renew your certificate, your website will experience downtime.
  • Advertising: When you sell advertising on your website and use SSL, people who purchase your ads will not be able to see in Google Analytics that traffic is being referred to their site from your site. This can make advertisers decide not to use your forum, because they cannot view the statistics.

Conclusion

SSL is a valuable feature for a forum, but every forum does not need SSL. If you decide to switch to it, you should evaluate carefully whether you really need SSL on your forum, or whether it will just add additional headaches for you, your members, and your advertisers.

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