HTTP vs HTTPs: What You Need to Know
HTTP is almost as old as the Internet’s popularity itself—but you’d be surprised how few people know what it stands for. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is essentially the “language” of the Internet—it’s how two computers communicate with each other so you can download information from a website and view everything it has to offer.
Nowadays, you’re just as likely to see “HTTPS” on your browser as “HTTP.” What gives? As it turns out, the differences are massive—and they’re differences you need to know about as you build your web presence.
What the “S” Stands For—And Why It Matters
The most obvious difference between the two: HTTP vs. HTTPS. That “S” stands for secure. That means the “hypertext transfer protocol secure” communication is more suited for ecommerce and the open exchange of information than regular old HTTP.
The basic difference here is encryption. Through the use of an SSL Certificate (Secure Sockets Layer), this exchange creates what Entrepreneur.com calls a “secure encrypted connection” between a server and your browser.
But as hackers and viruses around the world grow more sophisticated, this level of security is fast moving beyond a “luxury” for today’s data-driven websites. It’s now a necessity. Critical data like email addresses and passwords need to be exchanged through HTTPS rather than HTTP to ensure full trust between user and server.
Why Your Website Needs HTTPS
It’s simple: you need to protect you and your customers’ data. Any data that passes through HTTP—that can include passwords, confidential information, and even credit card information—is exposed. Switching to HTTPS will give both you and your users the protection of encryption.
If it sounds intimidating, don’t fret. Building a secured system is a highly technical process, but you’ll only have to perform a few basic steps to ensure a quality transition. Here’s what you’ll want to concentrate on:
- Purchasing your SSL certificate directly from your web hosting company. You can also ask them how to implement this on your site.
- Edit your links. Stop linking to HTTP pages and incorporate the “S.” Make sure you do the same for any outbound marketing materials and contact information.
- Integrate your SSL settings with any content management system you might be using.
- Set up your HTTPS site with the relevant analytics. You don’t want a small error to cause you to lose mountains of relevant data that can help you build your web presence.
Though there may be more steps, depending on the size and sophistication of your website, these are the basics. Don’t be afraid to make the switch if the process sounds intimidating. Instead, tackle it one at a time.
Why Can’t You Stick with HTTP?
HTTP has been around for a long time. That’s why so many people wonder why they can’t keep their site like it was.
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it—right?
The truth is a little more complicated than that.
The benefits of switching to HTTPS are more than just a vague notion of “security.” Here’s what you need to know:
- Minimal impact on performance. PCWorld pointed this out back in 2017 when they noted that Google only noticed a small change in performance when shifting to HTTPS for Gmail.
- Boosting trust. Trust is more important than ever. The Internet is full of all sorts of competing websites, which means that anything you put online is already competing with trust built up by large companies such as Google or Amazon. Can your trust compete with companies on that level? HTTPS is one step forward to attaining that trust.
- Search engines care about your security, too. It’s not just the trust that people place in you that matters. Search engines like Google need to trust that your website is on the up-and-up. You don’t want to be tagged with a “warning: your information may not be secure” or similar firewall simply because your site is outdated.
What HTTPS Will Not Do
When you move over to a “secure” structure for your website, it’s tempting to view your web presence as invulnerable. But you’ve only made a needed upgrade in security. And like many security upgrades, that should make you more protected—but it won’t necessarily protect you from every threat that comes with publishing online.
You may also find that in certain demographics, HTTPS won’t have the impact you might have imagined. For example, PCWorld notes, B2B websites don’t gain as much from a switch over to HTTPS when it comes to tangible business gained.
That doesn’t mean that you should avoid HTTPS, however.
HTTPS is a step forward for your website. It’s a new way to think about interacting with your potential customers. It’s a way of demonstrating that you care about your information—whether that’s outgoing or incoming information. If you don’t already have a content management system like WordPress in place that can make HTTPS easy for you, consider tackling a manual upgrade. Call your web hosting provider and let them know what you want to do. Your users will thank you for it.