SSH vs SSL: What’s the Difference?

SSH and SSL are both technologies that help secure the data shared between two computers, making things much safer. However, they are used for different purposes, so it's important to know how they differ.

SSL: Secure Data Transfer

  • Purpose: SSL is used to encrypt data traveling between two places, like your web browser and a website’s server.

  • Usage: It ensures secure communication and is vital for activities like entering credit card information on websites.

  • Example: SSL creates the “green padlock” in web browsers, showing that the connection is secure.

SSH: Secure Remote Access

  • Purpose: SSH is used for securely logging into another computer to run commands.

  • Usage: It’s commonly used to manage servers remotely.

  • Example: If you need to connect to your website’s server to run commands or use SFTP for file transfers, you would use SSH.

Key Differences:

  • SSL is for encrypting data in transit, making sure information like credit card details stays safe while traveling between your browser and a website.

  • SSH is for securely accessing and managing a remote computer, allowing you to execute commands and transfer files safely.

Both technologies are essential for keeping data secure, but they serve different roles in the world of computer security.

What Is SSH?

SSH stands for Secure Shell. SSH offers a secure way to remotely log in to another computer and issue commands, e.g., your website’s server.

Using SSH tunneling, you can create an encrypted connection between a client (e.g., your computer) and a server (e.g., your website’s server).

To create this secure SSH tunnel, you need to authenticate using either a username/password or a set of cryptographic public/private keys.

Once authenticated, you can securely access information (e.g., your site’s files and database) and issue commands to the remote server via the command line.

What Do You Use SSH For?

SSH gives you full control over your server once connected. You can execute any commands you understand through the command line.

For example, if you’re using WordPress, you can use WP-CLI to interact with your WordPress site and plugins once you’ve connected with SSH. You can create content, apply updates, manage taxonomies, and more. Note – WP-CLI is installed by default on all of our WordPress hosting plans.

At WeWP, we offer SSH access on all plans, and you can also add your SSH keys via the WeWP dashboard. You can follow our intro guide on how to use SSH to get started.

We also have more specific guides, such as how to unzip a file in Terminal using SSH.

Beyond using SSH to manage your server via the command line, SSH also underpins another important tool – SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol), which lets you connect to your server via secure SSH tunneling and manage files using FTP as you normally would.

At WeWP, we only offer SFTP access because it is much more secure than regular unencrypted FTP access.

Or, you could also use SSH to directly access your site’s database (though WeWP also offers easy phpMyAdmin database management).

Basically, once you use SSH to connect to your server, you have a ton of flexibility because you can execute your own commands as needed, which isn’t the case with SSL.

What Is SSL?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. While most people still refer to SSL, SSL is technically the older version of the more modern Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. However, for all practical purposes, you can think of SSL and TLS as the same thing, and we’ll just refer to it as SSL.

SSL is a protocol designed to protect the transmission of data between two parties with encryption and authentication. Most commonly, this transmission is between someone’s web browser and the server of the website they’re visiting.

Key Benefits:

  • Encryption: SSL encrypts data while it’s in transit, preventing malicious actors from intercepting the information.

  • Authentication: SSL helps authenticate that data is being sent to and received from the correct server, preventing man-in-the-middle attacks.

  • Data Integrity: SSL ensures data integrity by making sure there’s no loss or alteration of data during transit.

SSL works by using certificates, which is why you’ll see phrases like “SSL certificate.”

While SSL helps authenticate the server, it does not require authentication from the client (e.g., a website visitor). This is different from SSH, which does require authentication from the client.

You can learn more about SSL in our full article on how SSL works.

An SSL certificate is a must-have for every website, but SSL connection errors can occur if it’s set up incorrectly. At WeWP, our support is always here to help.

What Do You Use SSL For?

Most people know of SSL because installing an SSL certificate on a website enables HTTPS and gets the all-important green padlock in visitors’ browsers.

Once you install an SSL certificate and enable HTTPS, data passing between your website and your visitors’ browsers will be secure.

If you have any type of website, especially an e-commerce site, you absolutely need to install an SSL certificate to get the benefits above and build trust with your visitors and search engines like Google.

To add some confusion, you can also use SSL to securely transfer files via FTP. This is called FTPS, or File Transfer Protocol over SSL. This is distinct from SFTP, though it also serves the purpose of making FTP more secure.

At WeWP, we only offer SFTP (SSH). We do not offer FTPS (SSL).

SSH vs SSL: High-Level Difference

At this point, you know there are many similarities between SSH and SSL:

  • Both help you create secure connections.

  • Both encrypt the data that passes between two devices.

The key difference between SSH and SSL is that SSH is used for creating a secure tunnel to another computer from which you can issue commands, transfer data, etc.

On the other hand, SSL is used for securely transferring data between two parties – it does not let you issue commands as you can with SSH.

For example, let’s say you’re on your laptop. Here’s an example of when you would encounter each protocol:

  • SSH: If you wanted to securely connect to your website’s server and use WP-CLI to manage your WordPress site, you would use SSH.

  • SSL: If you wanted to interact with a frontend form on your website to submit data, your server would use SSL to encrypt the form data as it moves between your web browser and your server’s database.

As long as you’ve installed an SSL certificate and enabled HTTPS, everyone who visits your website will interact with your site’s server using SSL – they don’t need to authenticate themselves to access your site.

However, the only person who interacts with SSH will be you or other technical users who are supposed to have direct access to your server and can authenticate themselves with either a username/password or a cryptographic key.

More Technical SSH vs SSL Differences


Used for securely and remotely connecting to another machine to issue commands.

Used for securely transmitting data between two parties – normally a visitor to your website and your website’s server.

Based on network tunnels.

Based on digital certificates (i.e., SSL certificate).

Runs on port 22.

Runs on port 443.

Requires the client to authenticate with a username/password or cryptographic key.

Only requires authentication on the server side (the client isn’t required to authenticate).

Is a cryptographic network protocol.

Is a security protocol.


To recap, SSH and SSL seem similar at first glance because they both help you create secure connections. However, they serve two very different purposes.

SSL is primarily used to encrypt data that moves between your website’s visitors and your server. For example, if a visitor enters their credit card or inputs their password in a login form, SSL encrypts that data and protects it from man-in-the-middle attacks.

On the other hand, SSH is used to securely log in to a remote machine so that you can issue commands, manipulate files on that machine, etc. You’ll need SSH if you want to use WP-CLI, manage your site’s files via SFTP, access your database remotely, and so forth.

The only people who can use SSH to connect to your server are those who can authenticate themselves with a username/password or SSH keys.

At WeWP, we make it easy to install an SSL certificate for your WordPress site so that you and your visitors can benefit from SSL.

We also offer SSH access on all plans and install WP-CLI by default, so that you and your team can benefit from using SSH to manage your site. We also use SFTP to ensure you’re able to securely manage your site and its files via FTP.


Both SSH and SSL are crucial for maintaining secure communications and operations in the digital world, yet they serve distinct roles. SSH provides a secure method for remotely accessing and managing servers, giving users the ability to execute commands and transfer files securely. On the other hand, SSL ensures that data transmitted between a user’s browser and a website’s server is encrypted and authenticated, protecting sensitive information from interception and tampering.

Understanding the differences between SSH and SSL can help you better utilize these technologies to enhance your website’s security. Whether you're managing your server using SSH or protecting your website’s visitors with SSL, both are essential tools in a comprehensive security strategy.

At WeWP, we offer robust support for both SSH and SSL, making it easy for you to implement these security protocols. With SSH access and WP-CLI installed by default, along with easy SSL certificate installation, WeWP ensures that your website is both secure and efficiently managed.

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