Secure Sockets Layer, mostly known by its acronym, SSL, is a security protocol that provides security by creating an encrypted link between a web browser and a web server. Generally, SSL ensures that data flow between the web server and browser is private and confidential.
By extension, SSL certificate is a data file that is hosted on the server of a website to provide SSL coverage. The information contained in an SSL certificate includes: Domain name, public key, person name or organization name, digital signature, issue date, expiry date and issuer.
An SSL seal (padlock) on the browser tells the public that a website is using SSL. And SSL is HTTPS instead of HTTP.
When you use SSL, you protect the data of your users. Users will most likely not visit your website if they know that their data is not secure. Especially if you run an eCommerce website that users may have to provide confidential information such as credit card details. Users take security serious and so should you.
Search engines generally have a bad relationship with websites that do not use SSL.
There are many benefits of using SSL and you don’t need to have any money to enjoy the cover of SSL. In this article you will find the best free SSL certificate providers. Whether you are running WordPress, Magento, Joomla, Drupal or any set up, there is a free SSL solution for you.
Types of SSL certificates
There are basically 3 types of SSL certificates:
1. Domain Validated (DV SSL) Certificates
DV SSL is the most popular SSL certificate. It is the easiest to get. That is because the Certificate Authority (CA) only requires the right of application to use a domain name. There is no check on company identity information.
This type of SSL certificate is ideal for Bloggers, company websites, and small business websites. As long as they do not require customer details.
2. Organization Validated (OV) Certificates
OV SSL is a perfect certificate for businesses that do not require sensitive user information but might require certain information that are not sensitive. An example is businesses that use forms to capture leads but don’t ask for sensitive information such as credit card details.
The Certificate Authority (CA) will conduct some vetting on organization in addition to checking the right of applicant to use the domain name before issuing this certificate. The vetted information may be displayed when users click on the SSL padlock on a browser.
3. Extended Validated (EV) Certificates
EV SSL is the most powerful SSL certificate. It can handle any sensitive information. It is ideal for businesses that require credit card details for financial transactions on their website.
The Certificate Authority (CA) conducts a very thorough vetting before issuing the certificate. This is the hardest certificate to get.
The process includes verification of the legal, physical and operational existence of the entity
Benefits of using SSL certificate
There are many benefits of using SSL certificate:
1. Protection of data
This is the most important and overwhelming benefit of using SSL. Whenever someone visits your website, data is transferred. The data travels from the web server to the web browser and vice versa. If this data is not secured, it can be exploited before it reaches destination. SSL help secure the data so that it cannot not be exploited. Just imagine sensitive information such as passwords and credit card details being stolen. SSL prevent this from happening.
2. Improve search engine ranking
Just using HTTPS can improve your search engine ranking and grow your organic traffic. Why is it so? Well, Google, which is by far the biggest search engine, has long made it public that using SSL is a ranking factor.
What that means is that, when ranking a website in search results, one of the factors that will determine the position of a website is SSL.
3. Win user and customer trust
Generally, web users care about their privacy. Having the padlock on a browser is a sign to users that you take their privacy seriously.
That can boost the trust the users have for you. Many web users, when visiting a website for the first time, look for that padlock to be sure of their security on the website.
When you ask users for any information, the SSL gives them the confident to provide you with such information
4. It helps you meet PCI/DSS so you can receive payment online
To receive payment online via debit and credit cards, the standard is that you must be PCI compliant. And to be considered PCI compliant, one of the most important requirements is having an SSL certificate.
How to get and install SSSL certificate
Follow this steps to get and install SSL certificate:
1. Pick the type of SSL certificate that is suitable
The first step is to pick the type of SSL certificate that you will need. The type of SSL you need may determine the provider that you may need. Because not all SSL providers provide all types of SSL certificate.
For most people, Domain Validated (DV SSL) is enough. For some others who may require more sensitive data, OV SSL or EV SSL will do.
2. Update your WHOIS record
It is important that you update your WHOIS record to match the exact information that you submit to the Certificate Issuer. This is very important if you are looking for a OV SSL or EV SSL certificate.
3. Generating the Certificate Signing Request (CSR)
You will need to generate the Certificate Signing Request (CSR) on your server. The process of generating it depends on your web host and server panel.
The best solution if you don’t know how to do this is to ask your web host to generate this for you.
4. Submit CSR to certificate issuer
Once you have generated the CSR, submit it to the certificate user. They will use this to validate your domain and get your SSL certificate ready.
5. Install SSL certificate
After validation, you will be issued SSL certificate. You will have to install this. The process may defer by web host and server panel.
The best solution is to ask your web host to help you install the certificate.
Top 5 free SSL certificate providers
Here are the top free SSL certificate providers:
1. Let’s Encrypt
Let’s Encrypt is a nonprofit Certificate Authority that provides free SSL. It is by far the most popular free SSL provider. They have provided free SSL certificates to over 225 million websites. The certificate provided by Let’s Encrypt is forever free.
The Let’s Encrypt project was funded by tech companies including Mozilla, Cisco, Facebook, Akamai and others.
The certificate they provide is valid for 90 days. But can be automatically renewed for life.
ZeroSSL offers free SSL for life. While they also have paid plans for people who have higher SSL needs, they have a free SSL for life plan that will be enough for most people. You pay nothing. The process is fast and easy, your SSL will be ready in less than 5 minutes.
The certificate is similar to Let’s encrypt; it is valid for 90 days but can be automatically renewed for life.
3. SSL For Free
SSL For Free offers a forever free SSL certificate. They are a nonprofit making use of ACME server by using domain validation to provide certification. Private Keys are generated in the browser and never transmitted.
Cloudflare is one of the biggest CDN and web security providers in the world. As part of their security provision, they offer a free SSL solution. Many popular websites rely on Cloudflare for security and speed.
To use Cloudflare free SSL, login to your Cloudflare account or create one. Select the website you want to enable SSL. Then click on the SSL tab. Chose how much SSL coverage you want (the best option is full). Then clear cache.
FreeSSL.org offers forever free SSL certificate using Let’s encrypt and Buypass. With let’s encrypt it is valid for 3 months, while with buypass it is valid for 6 months. All certificates can be automatically renewed and they provide certificate expiration reminder service.
The best way to get free SSL
The best way to get a free SSL is to use a web hosting provider that provides free SSL. That way you do not have to worry about all the technicalities and renewals.
For a big website, Kinsta which is recommended by Google offers free SSL certificate. An alternative for big websites is Cloudways, their platform is super fast and they offer free SSL certificate.
If you have a small or starter website, Bluehost is cheap and offer free SSL certificate. A good alternative will be Hostinger.
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