Installing an SSL certificate is not only recommended but is necessary for many websites – especially online stores. Up until now, most website owners hesitated from purchasing and installing SSL certificates simply because of the heavy costs linked with them.
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Fortunately, things are (much) different now. A number of SSL certificate authorities have emerged that make it incredibly easy to switch over to a secure, encrypted connection – for free!
With this in mind, in this post, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular SSL certificate authorities that offer free SSL certificates and cover the main features they offer. We’ll also enlist the WordPress hosts that offer free SSL certificates in their hosting plans and discuss them briefly. But before we begin, let’s quickly cover the basics of SSL certificates.
An Overview of SSL Certificates
For those of you who don’t already know, the HTTP protocol is the foundation of any information exchange on the Internet – whether it’s viewing a web page or completing an online transaction. However, the HTTP protocol isn’t encrypted by default making it vulnerable to hacking attempts.
The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a collection of protocols that can be used to encrypt information exchange when paired with the HTTP protocol. A combination of both these protocols gives us HTTPS – a secure protocol that ensures that all communication between your browser and the website you’re interacting with is encrypted.
Simply put, SSL certificates are used to help your site’s visitors rest assured that your site is validated and encrypted. If you’ve been browsing the Internet lately then you might have noticed that some websites have http:// in their URL while others have https:// preceded by a green padlock. As you can probably guess, the https:// ones have an SSL certificate installed.
SSL certificate authorities are charged with the responsibility of validating site ownership to varying degrees (using domain validation, organization validation, or extended validation) before issuing you a certificate that’s most suitable for your website. Once you get your SSL certificate and install it, your site will now run over the secure HTTPS protocol (instead of the unencrypted HTTP protocol) and the connection between your website and the user’s browser will be encrypted.
Having an SSL certificate installed on your website can help your site’s visitors and customers rest assured that they are interacting over a secure connection and that the information they provide don’t risk being intercepted or tampered with. As an added benefit, it can also boost your site’s ranking in Google! From an online store owner’s perspective, SSL certificates allow their site’s customers to complete transactions and fill out forms securely.
5 SSL Certificate Authorities That Offer Free SSL Certificates
As we mentioned above, getting started with an SSL certificate was fairly difficult in the past. Not only were the SSL certificates expensive but installing them wasn’t exactly easy either.
In this section, we’ll run the rule over five of the most popular SSL certificate authorities out there that offer free SSL certificates and make it simpler for the average website owner to get started.
Let’s Encrypt is a free and automated open certificate authority that’s run by the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG) and, as of this writing, they’ve issued more than 100 million certificates. With the goal to create a more secure and privacy-respecting web, Let’s Encrypt makes it easy for users to acquire domain-validated, digital SSL certificates to enable HTTPS for their website. Additionally, Let’s Encrypt is completely open-source which means it’s entirely possible to extend its core functionality.
- Simple, easy to understand two-step process.
- Automates the process of acquiring, configuring, and renewing SSL certificates.
- Allows users to get a domain-validated SSL certificate using the ACME protocol.
CAcert is a community-driven certificate authority that issues cryptographic certificates to the public (after thorough validation) free of charge. The service offers several different types of certificates that can be used to validate and authorize users connecting to websites, encrypt and digitally sign email, and secure information transmission over the web. When you sign up with CAcert, they will send a CAcert Assurer over to review your government-issued identification documents before issuing you a certificate.
- Face-to-face validation is necessary to acquire a certificate.
- Offers a number of different kinds of certificates.
- Applications supporting SSL or TLS can use CAcert authorized certificates.
Symantec’s FreeSSL service offers free SSL certificates to non-profits and startups. While it isn’t publicly available yet, this free SSL certificate authority aims to provide website security and customer transaction privacy. They offer extended validation certificates that come with Norton Secured Seal. In addition to offering both SSL and TLS certificates, FreeSSL also lets you check your SSL certificate’s status and look for vulnerabilities.
- Offers SSL certificate vulnerability scans.
- Gives you a free extended validation (EV) SSL certificate.
- Comes with Norton Secured Seal to boost conversion rates.
The StartCom Certificate Authority is the sixth largest certificate authority in the world. Under their StartSSL service brand for the company’s digital certificates issuing division, they offer free SSL certificates and free email encryption certificates to their subscribers. Just by subscribing you can get access to an unlimited number of Class 1 domain validated SSL certificates in addition to an S/MIME certificate that are valid for two years.
- Offers free, Class 1 domain validated SSL certificates.
- S/MIME email encryption certificates are included.
- All certificates are valid for up to two years.
SSL for Free
SSL for Free generates free, domain validated SSL certificates using Let’s Encrypt’s ACME server. The certificates you can get from this website are guaranteed to be trusted by all major web browsers. As far as web security is concerned, SSL for Free generates private keys in your browser so that it is never transmitted over the web.
- Allows users to add up to 100 domains and sub-domains per certificate.
- Trusted by 99.9% of all major web browsers.
- Generates private keys within your browser to ensure security.
7 Hosting Companies That Support Free SSL Certificates
According to a post on WP Tavern, WordPress has announced that it will only recommend hosting companies that offer SSL by default. So, in this section, we’ll take a look at seven hosting companies that support free SSL certificates offered by the service providers we covered in the previous section.
A2 Hosting offers a number of different SSL certificate options to its customers including free certificates from Let’s Encrypt and premium options for single site SSL, wildcard SSL, and advanced SSL. While users who opt for the Shared hosting and Reseller hosting plans get Let’s Encrypt automatically applied to their accounts for free, Managed VPS and Managed Dedicated users are required to add a Dedicated IP in order to leverage Let’s Encrypt’s free SSL certificates.
In addition to all of this, A2 Hosting’s Guru Crew Support team will help you get the free SSL certificate set up on your website if you’re not sure how to do it on your own.
SiteGround is one of the most popular hosting providers out there that focus on delivering exceptional speed and offering unique security solutions. The company offers free SSL certificates from Let’s Encrypt to their customers on all of their hosting plans. Starting from as little as $3.95 per month, you can host your website with the StartUp plan that comes complete with All Essential Features including a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt.
Along with the essential feature pack, you’ll also get access to 10 GB worth of storage space on the server and support for up to 10,000 unique monthly visitors.
If you’re not particularly keen on having a personal SSL certificate for your website then you can opt for InMotion Hosting’s Shared Hosting plans instead. The Shared Hosting plan comes with a shared SSL certificate on the server. And while the SSL certificate doesn’t use your domain, it’ll help you bypass the requirement of buying and setting up an SSL certificate on your own.
WP Engine offers four different options for getting set up with an SSL certificate – Let’s Encrypt, RapidSSL, importing new certificates, and importing existing certificates. The Let’s Encrypt option is available free of charge for all WP Engine hosting plans. Additionally, it comes with automated installation and automated renewal so you can sit back and rest assured that your SSL needs are taken care of.
For those of you who are just starting out, the Personal plan starting at $29 per month gives you 10 GB local storage and supports up to 25,000 unique monthly visitors. Once you’re signed up with a hosting plan from WP Engine, all you have to do is log in to your WP Engine User Portal to install the free SSL certificate in a few clicks.
As one of the three hosting providers recommended by WordPress, DreamHost complies with the content management system’s requirements including that of offering SSL certificates. The hosting provider includes free SSL/TLS certificates from Let’s Encrypt with their hosting plans.
Starting from $7.95 per month for the Shared hosting plan, you can get started with a secure, encrypted website right off the bat. In addition to the free SSL certificate, you also get free domain privacy protection, access to raw log files, server side includes, and free email hosting.
All of Bluehost’s hosting plans come with support for free SSL certificates from the get-go. Once you’re set up with your hosting account, all you have to do is simply log in to your cPanel and enable the Free SSL Certificate option. It’s as easy as that!
Its Basic plan starts at $2.95 per month and is ideal for anyone who’s looking for a secure hosting plan within budget. The plan also comes with 50 GB worth of website space and unmetered bandwidth.
Pressable offers free SSL certificates from Let’s Encrypt on all of their hosting plans. After you get set up with your hosting account you can login to Pressable’s cPanel and select the option to install your very own SSL certificate. And if you already have an SSL certificate or would like to switch over to the free one offered by Let’s Encrypt then Pressable’s helpful support team will take care of it for you. Pretty neat, right?
Starting at $20.83 per month, you can host your website and get access to a free SSL certificates, content delivery network, SFTP access, and much more.
If you’re running an online store or a niche site where your customers are required to enter their personal data then installing an SSL certificate is absolutely necessary.
Thankfully, there are a number of certificate authorities (like Let’s Encrypt) and even more hosting providers that offer free SSL certificates. Hopefully, you’re in a good position now to take things further yourself.
Which SSL certificate authority did you get your free SSL certificate from? Are you thinking about switching over to a hosting company that offers free SSL certificates? Let us know by commenting below!