SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is a protocol used for secure connections between website users and a server. Ever notice a website where the url is https instead of just http? That https stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure). This allows for secure communication between a website and it's users.
How to Create an SSL Connection
In order to create an SSL connection, an SSL certificate is needed. This certificate verifies that the website is who it says it is. Most browsers will show an icon of a lock to identify a secure connection. If the certificate doesn't match up to the website, an error will occur and most browsers will show a warning and/or an open lock.
How SSL Works
When using SSL (https), the user's browser will encrypt data entered by the user which will in turn be decrypted by the server once it's received. This prevents the data from being viewed by anyone during the transfer process between the browser and the server.
Do I need an SSL?
If you will be asking your users to submit sensitive information, then you really should either use the server's shared SSL or look into purchasing an SSL specifically keyed for your domain. Not only is it considered best practice for SSL to be used in these situations, many users will not submit data over insecure connections and are less likely to trust a website that asks for sensitive data in this manner. If you're not sure which SSL you should use, please see our article about Dedicated SSL vs. Shared SSL.