A Complete Guide to Web Hosting with Free SSL
Owning a website is like running a shop or a mall. To keep and attract possible clients, not only do you need to keep up its appearance, but you also need to keep it secure.
A secure website will help clients feel free, safe, and at ease while doing business with you. It also builds up your credibility as a marketing specialist. And you'll possibly get endorsements from your past clients based on their great experience on your website.
You may be wondering: What can I do to keep my website secure? The answer to that is SSL.
In this article, you will learn all about SSL, free certificates, and web hosting that includes a free SSL certificate.
What is SSL?
SSL means "secure sockets layer." It is an encryption protocol you need to use to secure your internet connection. This was first made in 1995 by Netscape. It was later on replaced by a more secure protocol called TLS or "Transport Layer Security," but the term SSL is still widely used as of today.
It ensures that the connection between your client and your system will not be intercepted and read by others. It does this by giving a unique key that you and your client will use to decrypt and encrypt the data that you will be sharing with your client. They call it the "handshake," it is like one of those secret codes or inside jokes that only you and your friends can understand.
As a casual user of the internet, you may wonder why the need for data encryption. Isn't it just a signal or pulse that passes through cables and wires? How can somebody intercept it?
Well, you are partly correct that it travels through cables and wires. But these data that you and your client are sharing pass through many routers and computers before reaching your client's system. These points of data repeaters and senders make data theft possible.
You might be thinking now: "Yeah, yeah, I get the point that I need security. But how secure is it?"
Read further as we talk briefly about it further below.
How Secure is SSL?
To understand how secure it is, we need to answer these two questions: How does it encrypt data? Can the best technology that we have today break the encryption?
SSL uses asymmetric and symmetric cryptography in its encrypted link between the server and the browser of the client. It is a one-time algorithm based encryption key generated for use by your hosting server and your client's browser.
There are two main algorithms used for SSL encryption: RSA and ECC.
- Rivest Shamir Adleman (RSA) - This uses a factoring method on big prime numbers to generate keys for encryption. Mostly 2,048-bit keys are used for RSA.
- Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) - This method of encryption uses points of the elliptic curve to generate keys for encryption. Mostly 256-bit keys are used for ECC.
A 2,048 bit RSA key is almost equal in difficulty to a 256-bit ECC key.
Can our current technology break this code?
Theoretically, yes. Realistically, no.
How long does it take for our best computer today to crack a 2,048 RSA key or its equivalent?
It would take around 300 trillion years based on computations.
So, is it secure? Without a doubt!
And with how it has stood firm as a standard for over 20 years now, you can be sure of it.
Related: Free web hosting for nonprofits
Does my website need SSL?
Yes! You need SSL as a means of security.
Aside from the sure protection that it brings, we will talk about how it impacts you as a website owner.
First, is that it builds up a credible image as an online entity. Because last July 2018, Google has required all of the websites to have SSL encryption. What happens if you do not? It would flag your website as unsafe and would bring down your rankings in the search engine.
Low rank in searches would mean lower traffic to your website and would badly impact your brand.
Second, if your website features an online shop, the Payment Card Industry or PCI requires SSL. So no SSL would mean no online payment methods for possible clients in your online shop. For a complete list of PCI requirements to be qualified for online payments, you can find it on their website linked here.
Third, if your target market includes Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR has requirements that will only be met by using SSL.
In other parts of the world like the US, they don't hold data holders liable for stolen data during online transactions. But having SSL, as means of security, will greatly increase their trust in you as an online entity.
So you are now convinced that you need SSL, and you might be thinking: "How do I get one for my website?"
The answer to that is SSL certificates.
What is an SSL Certificate?
SSL certificate or license is a code that you install on your web server or host server to enable SSL encryption of your website.
These certificates can be bought from certificate authorities or CA. They can be costly, but there are free SSL certificates, and we will talk about them further in this article.
When you buy SSL certificates, you'll also receive root and intermediate certificates along with it. These are called certificate chains and will need to be installed as well. These certificate chains form a digital sign of trust that the SSL certificate you receive can be trusted.
So what happens after installation?
When your client enters your website through a browser, your host server initiates a "handshake". What this means is that your client's browser will send a message to your server asking for its SSL certificate. Your server will then send its certificate to your client's browser. Then your client's browser will check the sent SSL certificate with a certificate authority.
After a successful checking of your certificate, your web visitor on your site will see this "lock" on their browser.
But before you can get an SSL certificate, you need to undergo checks by the CA you have applied to, and what types of certificates are there. Keep reading because we will talk about it further.
Types of SSL Certificate Validation
To be able to obtain an SSL certificate, you must undergo a series of validation. They are listed below:
- Domain Validation - The easiest and the basic way to get a certificate. You only need to prove that you own a domain name to get the certificate. An e-mail can suffice as proof, and this is why it is less costly than other types of validation. A practical type of validation for WordPress hosting users.
- Organization Validation - More intensive than the previous checking method. This requires you to prove that your organization is a real and legal entity. Your company's name and address are required.
- Extended Validation - The highest level of checking. It involves a complete check of your organization. The CA that you applied for a certificate will do this manually. It's more costly, but it gives your website more worthy of trust.
A high-level validation means a high level of trust that you can get from your clients.
Types of SSL Certificate
You can choose from the types of SSL certificates listed below. Each has different scope covered.
- Single Domain certificate - This only covers one domain name and does not cover your subdomains.
- Wildcard certificate - This will cover your domain name and its subdomains. Subdomains are usually those URLs address that changes the "www" part of the address.
- Multi-domain certificate - This will cover other domain names that you own. It depends on the application that you will make.
Basic vs Premium SSL
When choosing the SSL certificate that you need, you might be worried about what you should choose. Do you go for a basic or a premium package? The answer will depend on what circumstances you are in.
A basic package usually is made up of a domain validation and single domain certificate. So a basic package is suited for you if you are just starting up your online brand on the web since this will mean less cost for you. This basic coverage is suitable for users of WordPress hosting.
On the other hand, a premium package is usually a multi-domain certificate and has an extended type of validation. So if you are a large company that has a diverse market and business, this is the one to go for. This will ensure the maximized coverage and support that your company needs.
But I feel like I know what you're thinking right now. "I read in the title about free SSL, what's that all about?"
Keep reading because we will talk about SSL cert for free. Also, hosting providers that support and include free SSL certificates.
Free SSL Certificate
You heard it correctly! Free! Free! Free! In a world where everything has a cost, you'll rarely get something of value that is free.
Usually, SSL certificates would cost around $40 to $1,500 per year, depending on the vendor and the package they offer. This would free up a large portion of the operation cost, whether you are a big or small company or WordPress hosting users.
You might be worried because usually if something is free, there is a catch. Also, do these free SSL certificates have the support of CA?
Keep reading because we will talk about further how a free SSL certificate was made possible and web hosting providers that support it.
Free SSL made possible by Let's Encrypt
Let's Encrypt is a free and open certificate authority. It is a free service made possible by the Internet Research Group or ISRG. So if you're looking for the best free SSL certificate, Let's Encrypt is the place to go.
Let's Encrypt has the support and funding from big companies and many web hosting services providers like Google and Cisco. It's not surprising that Google gave their support. Because as we've talked about previously, they've required all websites to have SSL.
The ultimate goal of Let's Encrypt? A safe and secure web.
I've linked their website here. You can support their effort by giving donations.
Now let's move forward to these awesome hosting providers that include free SSL certificate in their hosting plans.
4 Awesome Hosting Providers with Free SSL
We've created a shortlist below of web hosting providers with great feedbacks and reviews from their clients because of their excellent support. Some of these include free hosting with PHP and a money-back guarantee in their hosting plans. All of the hosting providers below have a free SSL certificate option in their hosting plan.
A2 Hosting - One of the top hosting providers that include a free certificate. You can even get a web hosting free Cpanel or free control panel as part of their hosting plans. They also have WordPress hosting services. Their high ratings and reviews are also due to having excellent customer support, free domain protection, and even has a money-back guarantee if you are not happy with the service. You can visit their site here for more hosting plans.
BlueHost - An excellent hosting provider. They have a free Cpanel web host or free control panel in their hosting plans that you can use to easily manage your hosting account. You can also get a free domain or free transfer in their hosting plan. They also have WordPress hosting. If you are not happy with their hosting service, they have a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can visit their site here for more hosting plans.
SiteGround - A highly recommended hosting provider, especially those who need WordPress hosting solution. Their pricing are cheap and includes a free certificate. All of their plans include a free control panel to manage your website and hosting settings. Their customer support is highly praised as well. You can visit their site here for more hosting plans.
HostGator - One of the best hosting providers that offer great hosting value for your money. It even includes a free domain if you subscribe to their hosting plan. They also have WordPress hosting plans. So if you are still a small brand looking to start, HostGator is one of the best places to get free inclusions in your hosting plan. If you are not happy with their service, they have a 45-day money-back guarantee. You can visit their site here for more hosting plans.
See Also: What is shared web hosting
Security comes with a great cost. But with free SSL certificates from Let's Encrypt, your websites' security is assured while having little to no cost.
So get your free SSL certificate now and reduce your operational costs.
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