Maybe you’ve heard the news about the importance of installing an SSL certificate on your site? Or, maybe your site sells goods or processes sensitive visitor information and you want to secure your site with SSL?

Whatever your reason, adding an SSL certificate to your site is close to becoming a necessity. But, how do you actually install an SSL certificate? For beginners, it might seem a little technical in nature, but overall the process can be quite simple.

Still, one age-old question remains: Do you need a dedicated IP for SSL?

The short answer is no. The long answer is below. Although it’s no longer a requirement across the board, some hosts still prefer that you have a dedicated IP address before they’ll allow you to install an SSL certificate.

Below we examine this in-depth and take a look a the history between dedicated IPs and SSL certificates, along with the different types of certificates available, and the reasons you still might want to use the two together.

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What is a Dedicated IP Address?

To understand what a dedicated IP address is, let’s first look at what a standard IP address is.

An IP address acts as a locator for any computer that’s connected to the internet. So, in the case of your website it most likely refers to your server where your website is hosted. IP addresses are then mapped to specific domain names, so in some cases, you can actually enter an IP address into your address bar and visit a website (no domain necessary).

Most people will be using shared IP addresses, which are IP addresses shared between multiple users who are using the same server. But, with a dedicated IP address you’ll have an IP address that’s dedicated to your website and only your website. In some cases, you can have a dedicated IP address and shared hosting, but typically it will be linked to a single website.


What is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL certificate encrypts any data that’s shared between a person using your website and your server. It’s a small data file that binds a cryptographic key to your organization.

This cryptographic key will bind together both your domain name (or server name, or hostname), along with the name of your company and its location. Think of it as a way to verify that you are who you say you are.

how website with secure ssl certificate appears in google chrome browser

This certificate will also enable a secure connection between your server and a user’s web browser. This connection will help to prevent data theft, and ensure your visitor’s that any information they input into your website is kept safe.

There are a few different types of SSL certificates available:


1. Domain Validated Certificates

This is the lowest level of validation available. It’s used to verify that an organization does indeed have control over a given domain. These are generally the lowest cost type of SSL certificates available, and can be installed very quickly.


2. Organization Validated Certificates

This certificate is one step up from a Domain Validated Certificate. You’ll have to verify ownership of a domain, plus there will be additional steps to verify that you are indeed who you say you are. This will show visitors who is behind the organization that owns the domain.


3. Extended Validation Certificates

This level of SSL certificate requires the most extensive form of validation. For this level of certificate, you’ll have to verify ownership of a given domain, plus go through a thorough vetting process.

You’ll have to provide proper documentation to verify things like:

  • The physical and legal existence of your business
  • The organizational identity can be proven through official records
  • The organization has the right to a given domain name

For most website owners a Domain Validated Certificate will be enough. This is the most common type of certificate that will be provided by your web host. However, some websites that process transactions, or need to better secure user data might need to upgrade to a higher level of SSL certificate.


Why is SSL Used?

Today SSL is commonly used to help secure any credit card data, personal information, or any other kind of information that’s exchanged between a user and a website. However, a recent Google Chrome update has made SSL certificates a necessity.

Per this update, without an SSL certificate installed on your site, there’s a chance it could show up as insecure when a user lands on your site. So, instead of viewing your actual site they’ll get an error message. If a visitor is greeted with this message, instead of your actual site, the chances are high they won’t come back to your website again.

google chrome warning when you visit a website without a ssl certificate installed

There’s a good chance that other web browsers will start to implement these standards as well. So, it’s not a question of do I need an SSL certificate? It’s how do I install an SSL certificate on my site?

Beyond an SSL certificate slowly becoming a necessity there are two big reasons why they’re used.


1. Securing Data Between a Browser and Server

Hacking and cyber crimes are on the rise. Thousands of sites are hacked every single month. For this reason, you should do everything in your power to protect your website. There are various ways to secure your website from hackers, but one of the first things you can do is install an SSL certificate on your site.

This will immediately add a layer of security and encryption between a visitor’s browser and your server. This will help to prevent any data theft when your visitors are entering information on your site. Helping to protect information like, their credit card details, personal email address, home address, and more.

Basically, any data that they enter on your website will be encrypted and secured.


2. Building Customer Trust

If you run an eCommerce store, or are collecting your visitors information in any way they’ll want to now that their information will be protected.

Have you ever landed on a website and were ready to buy, but you didn’t fully trust the website?

Trust is the backbone of any successful website. Without actively building visitor trust, you’re going to have a hard time turning visitors into subscribers or customers.

One of the easiest ways to start building trust is to actively secure your site with an SSL certificate. Of course, there are additional steps you’ll need to take. But, by installing an SSL certificate your users will now that your site is legit and that you actually care about their data.

As consumers grow more educated about the importance of protecting themselves online, the security of your website will only grow in importance. Adding an SSL certificate to your site is a great place to start.


Dedicated IP Address and SSL: The History

To install an SSL certificate on your site a dedicated IP address used to be a requirement.

But, if SSL certificates could only be installed on dedicated IPs a lot of website owners would be out of luck—especially with the growing importance of SSL certificates today. Luckily, there’s a technology known as Server Name Indicator (SNI) which makes it possible to install an SSL certificate on a shared server.

SNI allows a web server to use a single IP address to create thousands of virtual host environments, these individual virtual environments can then host their own SSL certificates. The SNI will indicate the hostname for a given site and refer to that instead of the shared IP address.

However, not every host will support SNI. So, there’s a chance you still might need to use a dedicated IP if you want to install an SSL certificate. Reach out to your hosting provider to see if a dedicated IP is a necessity for an SSL certificate, or if they support SNI instead.

The type of SSL certificate you require can also influence, whether or not you’ll need a dedicated IP address for SSL. For example, Domain Validated certificates are much easier to issue and install, while higher level certificates require additional steps, one of which might be securing a dedicated IP address.


Why Else You Might Want a Dedicated IP Address

Even though a dedicated IP address is no longer an absolute necessity for an SSL certificate there are still some other reasons you might want to upgrade to a dedicated IP address.

Beyond upgrading to a dedicated IP for the benefits highlighted below, you might also want to consider upgrading your web hosting with a dedicated IP. This will not only provide you with a highly customizable server environment that’s optimized for performance, speed, and security, but you’ll also get a bundled dedicated IP address.

Regardless of the type of web hosting you decide upon, here are some of the other benefits of using a dedicated IP address:


Compatibility With Older Browsers

In some cases using SNI to install an SSL certificate won’t be a perfect solution. Some older browsers have technical issues that won’t display your site properly. This might not be a deal breaker, but if you analyzed your traffic and found that you have a lot of users who prefer older browsers, then you might need to use a dedicated IP address.


Visit Your Site by IP Address

With a dedicated IP address, you can access your website without a domain name. This can be very useful if your domain name hasn’t propagated yet, or you want to start building out your website, but you haven’t decided on a domain name. Having the ability to access your site via IP isn’t a common need, but you might fall into the small group where it’s a requirement.


Run a Gaming Server

If you’re interested in running your own gaming server for your favorite online game, then you’ll probably also need a dedicated server for games. This will help you hurdle common issues like gameplay lag and lack of bandwidth and memory.


Reduce the Chances of IP Blacklisting

IP blacklisting is rare, but it’s something that could happen to your site if you’re using a shared IP address. IP blacklisting occurs when someone else on your shared IP is undertaking activities that could be classified as spam. This often occurs when people are sending emails through the host. All it would take is a single user on the same shared IP to affect your website and email abilities.


Run an FTP Server

Running an FTP server can be a great way to share files with team members, clients, family, and friends. But, it can be difficult to run your own FTP server without a dedicated IP address. You probably won’t be using FTP if you have a small and simple website, but as your site grows, it might be something you’ll want to add to your overall workflow.

As you can see there are a variety of reasons to consider using a dedicated IP address, along with dedicated hosting, even if an SSL certificate isn’t the main deciding factor.


Closing Thoughts

Dedicated IP addresses used to be a necessity if you wanted to install an SSL certificate on your site. But, with changing technology it’s no longer a requirement. Typically, if you are using a dedicated IP address this will be because you’re using a dedicated web server.

However, some hosts might not support SNI, so you’ll need to utilize a dedicated IP address if you want to install an SSL certificate. It all comes down to the dedicated hosting you’re using and the technology they support.

Most users today will end up upgrading to a dedicated IP address, because they want the other features a dedicated IP offers, not simply for SSL compatibility.

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how dedicated IP addresses and SSL certificates are related, along with the history they share. Learn more about how to compare cheap dedicated server hosting plans from the experts at Hostgator today.

Kevin Wood writes about technology and human potential. You can find him at his virtual homes Wooden Writing and Counter Culturist.