Setting up an SSL certificate for your website can be both a technical challenge and an ongoing investment. In most cases, you don’t have the technical knowledge to handle it on your own.
This means that you’ll need to rely on your web hosting provider to set up and maintain your website’s SSL certificate for an annual fee. For example, GoDaddy is currently charging $59.99 for a single website certificate. Comodo charges $99.95. Over time, that can add up, especially for a new business.
That’s why we’ve started using and recommending Let’s Encrypt as the preferred Certificate Authority for our web hosting clients.
A Certificate Authority (CA) issues digital certificates as a trusted third party. A common usage for digital certificates is as an SSL certificate for websites. An SSL certificate is used to create a secure connection between the server hosting the website and the user visiting the website.
In your browser, you will usually see this represented as a lock in your browser’s address bar with the website URL prefixed by https instead of http. HTTPS is considered a sign of trust that your information is secure and it is usually used on websites where there is a transfer of sensitive information (payments, passwords, etc.).
Here is our SSL certificate as it appears in Google Chrome:
However, HTTPS is becoming more popular overall. Google is increasingly encouraging the use of HTTPS and has begun using it as a ranking signal in search results. This means that sites using HTTPS may have an advantage over sites that don’t use HTTPS.
Besides search engines, browsers such as Google Chrome will actually warn users when they are visiting an http (non-secure) website and flag it as unsafe for the user to proceed.
Let’s Encrypt, a non-profit organization, is on a similar mission “to create a more secure and privacy-respecting Web” by promoting the widespread adoption of HTTPS. The way that they are doing that is by offering free SSL certificates. Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates are compatible with all of the major browsers, so you don’t have to worry that it isn’t up to par with a paid certificate.
If you manage your own server, setting up Let’s Encrypt to generate your SSL certificates is fairly easy. Once you install the necessary software on your server, you can then run some simple commands to both generate and renew your SSL certificates every 90 days. However, you can automate the renewal by setting up an automated script that runs periodically to submit the SSL certificate for renewal.
If you don’t manage your own server, you can ask your web hosting provider if they support Let’s Encrypt and they can install the SSL certificate for you.
Learn more about Let’s Encrypt