Alpha SSL is a provider of open source SSL certificates. They are on top of things in the open SSL industry and have prepared for the Heartbleed bug. The company is based out of the UK, but also has offices in New York and Japan. The company prides itself on selling "cheap" SSL certificates-we weren't quite sure how we felt about a company calling its own SSL certificates cheap. "Affordable" might be a better label.

Alpha SSL also has a marketplace for reselling SSL certificates. Though they do not directly resell SSL certificates, customers can sign up for a reseller account and offer older SSL certificates for as low as $10 in a marketplace format. It is also possible to have a bunch of certificates reissued to a new holder for a flat fee.

Alpha SSL does claim to have pretty good customer support, claiming that no certificate ticket goes 24 hours without an answer. However, this assertion was not validated by the experience we had reviewing their website.

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The Good

  • Heartbleed bug
  • Domain validation
  • Standard encryption

One of the major things that we looked into when we were reviewing open SSL certificates was the Heartbleed bug. With Start SSL, we found that this company from Israel charged a $25 fee for revoked certificates if you wanted to get a new one. With Alpha SSL, we found that the platform was secure from Heartbleed and they did not charge a fee if your certificate were for some reason revoked. This was a big deal for us and we might choose Alpha SSL because of this.

For us, the domain validation method of certificate issuance was a biggie and very important. It takes about 3 minutes to get your certificate issued. There are no faxes or phone calls, and, if you want, you can order 24/7. There is a risk-free refund policy for those who are not happy with their certificate within 7 days.

2048-bit and 256-bit strength are the standard encryption for this package, making it pretty secure all around. You can also get unlimited servers with an Alpha SSL certificate. The certificate serves both www. and non-www. domains. The certificate even comes with a complete clickable site seal.

The Bad

  • Liability
  • Wild card protection
  • Free certificates
  • Support
  • Label

We couldn't find an area of the Alpha SSL site that described the coverage provided for liability. However, when we were looking at some sites that "brokered" Alpha SSL certificates, we found that the liability was $1,000. For us, this was not the level of coverage that we were looking for. If we were a big business that did ecommerce on a website, we might choose a company that offered more coverage and perhaps charged a little bit more.

One of the detriments of Alpha SSL in comparison to Smart SSL was that the majority of their certificates did not provide wild card protection. However, there are wild card SSL certificates available from Alpha SSL, even though these cost a little bit more.

A lot of open SSL certificate providers do have a free certificate for their customers. We could not find one on their website and the link from the "Free SSL certificate" button was broken. A free SSL certificate might be a good fit for an open source software distributor. We did, however, find out that Alpha SSL lets you try their certificates out for 7 days risk free. This was an important feature if you didn't like the certificate.

We did have a hard time with Alpha SSL's support. There really isn't a whole lot of support and "what you see is what you get. There is an area of the support site that details how to install the certificate on your server. We found an area of the support page that talked about your site not working on https and what to do about it. However, we didn't get a lot of instructions here and there were no screenshots or videos telling us what to do in this dire "help" situation. How do we install SSL logos and seals on our site? With some of the other SSL certificates in the industry, we were able to find detailed instructions for how to embed a site seal with an easy snippet of HTML code. While there is a phone number and other contact information listed, we wanted more in terms of service from their website when it came to customer support.

Once again, we didn't like the "cheap" label on the site. We felt that this entire product was created on being a "cheap" brand. When choosing an SSL certificate for your website, you have to choose very carefully. The cheap brand pushed by this company does not do a lot to secure trust with web users.

The Bottom Line

Out bottom line? Stay away from cheap in the SSL industry. We weren't too impressed with the products that we saw listed with Alpha SSL. While the affordability may be a big "pro" to using an SSL certificate from Alpha SSL, we found that the products they offered were not all that good. With Start SSL, they at least provide a pretty robust FAQ section, but with Alpha SSL, you are largely on your own.

If you are looking for a cheap SSL certificate, for perhaps a blog or personal website, Alpha SSL may be a good choice. However, do your shopping carefully, as this service leaves many unanswered questions in terms of security and support.

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