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You options are basically limited by how you run your site. If you are virtually hosted, then you can see if your host provides SSL or secure server hosting. If you have your own server, then you can either modify or use your existing server software. Believe it or not, depending on where your server is located also limits your options!

If your web site is located on a server with a bunch of other sites, then your site is a virtual one. Your best bet in this scenario is to check with your hosting company to see if they can provide you with a secure server. Please be advised that most hosts charge for this service to at least offset their additional operating costs.

Since you are sharing the server with other users, please be sure to have a look at the risks of SSL page.

If you own your own server, or have a dedicated server you have a few different ways to set up a secure server.

If you are technically competent, or at least able to compile the Apache Server for your platform, here is the freeware solution:

Apache SSL from
Here is where things get tricky! If you are a citizen of the United States please read this. Due to the RSA patent on the encryption method used by SSL, you cannot legally deploy this server in the United States until the patent expires in September 2000. The legal complexities outway the technical ones...

Of course, I would never do anything illegal, so if I had in fact tried setting it up, I do not believe I would have run into any problems with it. ;-)

If you really want to use Apache, check out Raven from This is a module you can purchase for about $357.00 to use with Apache and stay legal!

For those of us in the United States, there are commercial options available to you. If you are outside the US, most of these companies have export versions of their software available.

The servers I have personal experience in working with are:

  • Stronghold from C2.NET
    Based on the Apache Server, Stronghold is a snap to install and configure. The documentation is better than 2" thick and very complete. I have used this package on Sun UltraSparc II servers and have found it to be fast and stable. The server also comes with a nice browser based administration utility that helps with those various chores. Available for just about every Unix variant including Linux. $995.00 (USD).

  • RedHat Secure Server from Redhat
    Available for Redhat Linux, Secure Server was originally sold as a standalone product. Now with Release 6.1, the Secure Server 3.1 is included with the Professional Version. Version 2.0 was easy to install and setup, but the documentation was somewhat spartan. $179.00 (USD) including Redhat 6.1 Professional!

  • Netscape Servers from Netscape
    I have worked with Enterprise on Solaris. The Java administration tool makes managing this beast very easy. Available for a wide variety of Unix platforms as well as Windows NT. Documentation is outstanding. Pricing is concurrent connection based. Pricey, but hey, this is what the biggest sites run on.

  • Microsoft IIS 4.0 from Microsoft
    Despite rumors to the contrary, I also use Microsoft products. Internet Information Server is available with NT Server. It is easy to set up and maintain. It is obviously well integrated with the rest of the MS product line, but you can also do regular CGI scripting and SSI (server side include) pages. Remote administration can be a hassle. Well supported and documented. If you are on NT, or considering NT- this is the way to go. Last time I checked, free with NT Server via Service Packs.
In order to really conduct e-commerce you will also need to obtain a certificate from a Certificate Authority. This allows you to prove your site is operated by who you say it is.

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