Why you need to know about Let’s Encrypt if you need an SSL certificate

Nathan WrigleyNewsLeave a Comment

[browser-shot url=”https://letsencrypt.org/” width=”800″ alt=”Lets Encrypt for free SSL certificate”]

If you have a web site, then you really need to think about getting an SSL certificate. Last year Google made it clear that they were going to start giving a Search Engine ranking boost to sites that use https. In plain terms this means that your web site needs to have an SSL certificate to establish a secure connection between your server and the people who access your site.

This has always been a complex and difficult process. You needed your server to issue something called a CSR, which you would then send to a certificate authority such as Digicert or Comodo. They in turn would supply you with a few files, which contain massive amount of random text. You upload these to your server in the correct order, and if you are lucky you get this whole process correct, your visitors will be able to see your website with a little green padlock in the URL bar at the top of the browser, and the page will show as being served over https, and not http.

This is a massive oversimplification of what is going on, but in broad outline, it’s accurate.

So, if you want to rank well in Google, you are going to have to get an SSL certificate and go through the complex steps above. You will also have to pay the certificate authority to issue the certificate. The more that you pay, they more thorough the checks that they performs to establish that you are who you claim to be. You can pay quite a lot for an Extended Validation certificate, but you really only need this if you are really worried that people will question your authenticity and want people to see your credentials in the URL bar. You can see an example of an Extended Validation (EV) certificate on this children’s fitness video site that Picture and Word made by looking in the URL bar where you will see the name of the company.

So to rank well in Google you have to pay money, and jump through a set of complicated hoops. Not nice!

Enter Let’s Encrypt. A new open source project designed to make getting an SSL certificate simple, and FREE! It’s backed by some really heavyweight companies such as Cisco, Facebook and Mozilla. This is not going away!

The idea is that you completely cut out the expensive certificate authority and get an SSL certificate immediately. The ACME protocol is complex and frankly, we don’t need to explain it here. You just need to know that this protocol is going to become a standard that all web browsers will adhere to, so it’ll work.

You will only be able to get a basic (Domain Level) SSL certificate, not the EV certificate that I mentioned above, but in most situations this will be fine for your web site and will boost your reputation with Google and get your site ranking higher.

If you want an SSL certificate, or have any questions, just reach out and get in touch.