How to Install SSL/TLS Certificate for Free on Your Website

Generating a free SSL certificate for your website can significantly enhance its security by encrypting the data exchanged between your server and its visitors. A popular choice for obtaining a free SSL certificate is Let’s Encrypt, a non-profit certificate authority providing free SSL/TLS certificates to make the web more secure. Another option is using Cloudflare, which offers a free plan that includes SSL protection. Below, I will guide you through both methods:

Image by Tim from Pixabay

Method 1: Using Let’s Encrypt with Certbot

  1. Check Your Server Compatibility: Ensure your hosting environment supports Let’s Encrypt. Most shared hosting providers have a Let’s Encrypt integration. For a VPS or dedicated server, you’ll need shell (SSH) access to run Certbot.
  2. Install Certbot: Certbot is a free, open-source software tool for automatically using Let’s Encrypt certificates on manually administrated websites to enable HTTPS. Installation instructions vary based on your server’s operating system and web server software. Visit the Certbot website and select your system for tailored instructions.
  3. Run Certbot: Follow the instructions provided by Certbot for your web server and OS. In many cases, the command might look similar to this for Apache on Ubuntu:cssCopy codesudo certbot --apache For Nginx on Ubuntu, it would be: css Copy codesudo certbot --nginx Certbot will ask for information during the process and then automatically validate your domain, obtain a certificate, and configure your web server to use it.
  4. Auto-Renewal: Let’s Encrypt certificates are valid for 90 days. Luckily, Certbot usually sets up auto-renewal through a cron job. Test the auto-renewal process with : arduinoCopy codesudo certbot renew --dry-run

Method 2: Using Cloudflare for SSL

  1. Sign Up and Configure: Create a free account at Cloudflare. Add your site to Cloudflare by entering your site’s domain. Cloudflare will scan your domain’s DNS records.
  2. Update DNS Servers: Once the scan is complete, Cloudflare will provide you with new nameservers. Update your domain’s nameservers to the ones provided by Cloudflare through your domain registrar’s dashboard.
  3. SSL Configuration: In your Cloudflare dashboard, navigate to the SSL/TLS section. Cloudflare offers several SSL modes. For most users, the “Full” or “Full (strict)” mode is recommended.
  4. DNS and Proxy Settings: Make sure your DNS records are correctly set up in Cloudflare and that the proxy status is enabled (orange cloud icon) for the records you want to be protected by Cloudflare’s SSL.
  5. Wait for Propagation: DNS changes might take some time to propagate globally. Once done, your site will be accessed through HTTPS via Cloudflare’s SSL.

Both methods are effective ways to secure your website with a free SSL certificate. The choice between Let’s Encrypt and Cloudflare largely depends on your specific needs and whether you prefer to manage SSL certificates directly on your server or through a third-party service that also offers additional benefits like CDN and DDoS protection.

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