by Luca Britton
What Is Let’s Encrypt?
To start things off Let’s Encrypt is a certificate authority (CA) that’s fairly new and only launched back in April last year. The whole aim behind Let’s Encrypt is to try and make the online world a more secure place by encrypting more and more web traffic. For those that don’t know, ‘encrypting’ something essentially means that you’re concealing data. If you encrypt web traffic, you conceal the data of all the different web users on a site – simple!
Let’s Encrypt give out free SSL certificates as part of their growing initiative. Normally, these certificates have to be paid for but Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates are the first free ones of their kind. By offering these certificates for free, it should enable more and more sites to secure their connections and encrypt their web traffic as they don’t have to pay a penny.
What’s An SSL Certificate?
At this point, you might be wondering what an SSL Certificate is. For starters, they’re not actually physical certificates, they’re data files. Furthermore, you install SSL Certificates on your web server, which helps secure the connection from your server to the user’s browser. By doing this, it means a website will appear with that little padlock and ‘Secure’ to the left of its URL (which you can see if you look at the top of your page right now). It also means that the site will start with https instead of the standard http – the ‘s’ simply stands for secure.
So, a Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate will give your website http!
Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates
Of course, it makes sense to learn as much about these certificates as possible seeing as they’re a fairly new introduction to the online landscape. First thing’s first, they’re available in any major web browser, this includes Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge; and many more.
Secondly, they only last for 90 days. The main reasoning behind this is to push people to automatically renew their certificates. So, when one runs out, another one is automatically issued and renewed, which ensures there’s no period where your site doesn’t have SSL encryption.
Also, you can only register 100 sites to one certificate – it’s safe to say most people won’t have a problem with this. You can also only register 500 every 3 hours. Let’s Encrypt do this purely to protect their servers and prevent a serious overload from happening.
Why Use A Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate?
So, now you know what a Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate is, whywould you use one? What benefits would it bring to your website? The obvious benefit has been mentioned a few times already; they’re free! So, we’ll ignore this one and look at all the other benefits instead:
The most important benefit is that it allows your web server to be completely secure. Let’s Encrypt have given you an easy way to encrypt a domain name and secure your connection. This means that all the web traffic going to your site will feel safe knowing that all their details are safe and protected. To put it simply, if you want to keep up with modern web security practices, then you need an SSL certificate.
Another benefit of the Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate is that everything is automatic. You don’t have to worry about getting a new certificate issued, it’s all done for you. It’s so simple, you really have very little to do on your behalf. All you need to do is register your domain name, and that’s pretty much it.
Is There A Difference Between Free Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates And Commercial Ones?
As we know, the big selling point of Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates is that they’re completely free. However, does this make them any different from the other commercial SSL certificates out there? In short, yes, it does. There are a few differences between a free and paid SSL
The first difference is that paid certificates can be valid for much longer. Instead of only having a 90-day validity, they can remain valid for over a year. Let’s Encrypt will argue this doesn’t really matter as their certificates may only last 90 days but they renew automatically every 60 days. So, it’s not like you have to keep physically renewing them, which is the case for a lot of paid certificates.
Commercial certificates can also boast a warranty with every purchase. So, if something goes wrong with the certificate, then you can have it fixed free of charge or re-installed without paying anything. There’s no warranty on the Let’s Encrypt ones, but, why would there be? They’re free, so a warranty isn’t really needed.
With paid SSL certificates you can use the same certificate to cover both your domain and any of your subdomains too. With a Let’s Encrypt one, you’d need a certificate for your domain, and then one for your subdomain too.
Finally, there is no real support offered by Let’s Encrypt to help you install your SSL certificates. For a lot of people, this isn’t much of an issue as the process is extremely straightforward. But, for the select few that might struggle, it can be a problem. With paid certificates, companies will always offer support if you need it. Largely, this is because they earn money from their SSL certificates as people pay for them, which means they can afford to employ support staff. Let’s Encrypt only get money from donations, so they rely on existing users to help out others with problems.
In conclusion, Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates are a free way of securing your website and encrypting all your precious web traffic. Hopefully, you’ve learned something by reading this, and it’s answered any questions you might have on this topic.
We hope you found this post useful on what Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates are and its benefits.
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