How to get a free SSL certificate for a website?

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On most shared hosting plans and on all VPS plans, when you buy hosting for a quarter or more at once, you will receive a Let’s Encrypt certificate for free.

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Option number 1 – Let’s Encrypt
The most popular certification authority in the world. According to statistics from the official website of the company on April 13, 2021, there are 174 million active certificates in the world.

Site Seal: no
Validity: 90 days
Compatibility: high (not supported on older platforms)
Wildcard support: yes
Support for IDN domains: yes
Automatic renewal: yes (if the certificate was not received manually)
The easiest way to get a free SSL certificate for a website from Let’s Encrypt on shared hosting is if your hosting provider has added such functionality to the control panel. In this case, the issuance and renewal of the certificate will be automatic.

If the provider has not added such functionality to the hosting control panel, you can install Let’s Encrypt manually. But this is a little more complicated and will need to manually renew the SSL every 90 days.

On a VPS or Dedicated Server, you can install the certificate from the command line using the Certbot program. She will also do everything for you and additionally set up automatic renewal.

We have discussed both processes – in the hosting control panel and the command line – in a separate article: how to install the Let’s Encrypt certificate.

Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates are no longer recognized on older devices
Starting September 30, 2021, on some devices, sites with Let’s Encrypt certificates will open with a warning that the site is unsafe. This is due to the fact that the company switched to a new root certificate, which some devices do not yet trust. Because of this, a site with Let’s Encrypt may appear to be unreliable. Even if in fact everything is fine with him.

Option # 2 – Free SSL Space
Site Seal: yes (Sectigo or GoGetSSL)
Validity: 90 days
Compatibility: Maximum
Wildcard support: no (each subdomain needs its own SSL)
Support for IDN domains: yes
Automatic renewal: no
These free SSL certificates use the root certificate of a major paid certificate provider, Sectigo (which owns Comodo’s certificates). Due to this, they have maximum recognizability.

You can get such a certificate on the Free SSL Space official website. Install and renew – only manually: in the command line or in the standard interface for installing a certificate in the hosting control panel.

Instructions for installing the certificate: in the hosting control panel cPanel, DirectAdmin, ISPmanager; at the command line on Apache or Nginx.

Option # 3 – Cloudflare Universal SSL
Site Seal: no
Validity: Unlimited (as long as the domain uses DNS Cloudflare)
Compatibility: high (not supported on older platforms)
Wildcard support: yes
Support for IDN domains: yes
Automatic renewal: yes
The largest provider of CDN and DDoS protection in the world. If you connect to their service, the free Cloudflare Universal SSL certificate will automatically be enabled for the domain.

The only thing is that Universal SSL will only protect your site on the way from the visitor to Cloudflare. On the way from Cloudflare to your server, traffic will be transmitted over HTTP. That is, using only such a certificate is not 100% safe. In theory, if someone cheats Cloudflare and pretends to be your server, they can read the data.

For a completely secure HTTPs connection, you should still install an SSL certificate on the server where your site is stored. You can get it for free from Cloudflare. It is called the Origin Certificate.

For more information on connecting a website, setting up a free SSL certificate, and other benefits of the service, read our Cloudflare setup guide.

How a free SSL certificate differs from a paid one
Protects a free SSL certificate as well as a paid one. But those who choose a free SSL certificate for their website are faced with a number of nuances that make a paid certificate more convenient.

A free SSL certificate needs to be renewed more often than a paid one. Usually once every 90 days, and the paid certificate is once a year. Some free SSL certificates may have automatic renewal, but if, due to specific settings on the server, it does not work, the site will remain unprotected and stop opening. You will have to renew the certificate manually.
A free SSL certificate can even be on a fraudulent site. Nobody checks if there is a real business behind the site. And among the paid certificates there are those that can only be obtained by officially registered companies. This can be an additional argument in favor of the fact that your site can be trusted.
A free SSL certificate needs to be installed and renewed by yourself.


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