The SSL protocol is designed to be as efficient as securely possible. However, encryption and decryption are computationally expensive processes from a performance standpoint. It is not strictly necessary to run an entire web application over SSL, and it is customary for a developer to decide which pages require a secure connection and which do not. Pages that might require a secure connection include login pages, personal information pages, shopping cart checkouts, or any pages where credit card information could possibly be transmitted. Any page within an application can be requested over a secure socket by simply prefixing the address with https: instead of http:. Any pages that absolutely require a secure connection should check the protocol type associated with the page request and take the appropriate action if https is not specified.
Using name-based virtual hosts on a secured connection can be problematic. This is a design limitation of the SSL protocol itself. The SSL handshake, where the client browser accepts the server certificate, must occur before the HTTP request is accessed. As a result, the request information containing the virtual host name cannot be determined before authentication, and it is therefore not possible to assign multiple certificates to a single IP address. If all virtual hosts on a single IP address need to authenticate against the same certificate, the addition of multiple virtual hosts should not interfere with normal SSL operations on the server. Be aware, however, that most client browsers will compare the server’s domain name against the domain name listed in the certificate, if any (this is applicable primarily to official, CA-signed certificates). If the domain names do not match, these browsers will display a warning to the client. In general, only address-based virtual hosts are commonly used with SSL in a production environment.