SSL Certificates. I suppose you know what these are since you arrived on this page. But to get a better understanding of this article’s topic, I’ll give you a quick overview of what an SSL certificate is and how it’s used. After that I’ll introduce you the Let’s Encrypt free SSL certificate provider. This way, it’s going to be easier to grasp the process of renewing the certificate provided by Let’s Encrypt.
First of all, what is an SSL certificate? Basically, an SSL is a tool that encrypts your user’s sensitive data, so nobody can access it, just you and the destination server. For a better understanding, think about this example: let’s say you are the owner of an online market. Any online market intends to sell products or services online. So, one of your visitors finds an item and decides to purchase it. What happens next?
Most online stores will ask the buyer to first pay for the respective item. This can be made in a multitude of ways, but for this example we’ll stick with the traditional credit card payment method. When the site asks for the payment, the visitor will see a request form that must be completed with his/her credit card information. When the required information was entered correctly, the form will send that data to be processed for payment.
But how do you make sure nobody will access that sensitive information, while on its way to the payment processor? This is the point where the SSL comes into the picture. If you have an SSL installed, this will encrypt your buyer’s data, not letting anyone to access it while being sent. The only one who’s left to see the buyer’s information is you (the website) and the destination server (payment processor). This way the payment can be done in a safe environment without anybody steeling this important information.
You may be thinking that if your site is not an online store, do you still need an SSL? Yes, of course you do. There are all kinds of data transfers being made, no matter the type of your website. So, an SSL certificate is a must. Besides, if your visitors see that you have this certificate installed, they will feel safer there, and trust you more.
But owning one has another great positive as well. Since you have a website, you want people to be able to find it, right? Well, an SSL can be of help in this situation. When someone is searching online for some information, Google (or other search engines) will give priority to the websites that have SSL certificates installed on them. This is understandable, because they want to keep the web a safe environment, thus giving more advantage to those sites that own SSL certificates.
And since your site has one, you might very well be able to get on the first page of Google if it’s well configured. Yes, there are other variables that play a big part here as well, but this is a good start for your online career.
Now that we’ve seen why an SSL is a must for any website, I’ll talk about the reason why you’re here: Let’s Encrypt free SSL and how you can renew it.
Let’s Encrypt – How to Renew SSL Certificate
Let’s Encrypt is a free to use service that grants you an SSL certificate for your website. They provide SSL certificates for any site owner for free. That is actually their goal: to let anyone have a secure website free of cost. How are they achieving this goal?
For instance, the software comes with 2 types of encryption methods: 2048-bit or 4096-bit. Both of them are highly secure and efficient when protecting your sensitive user data. After all, this is the reason for installing an SSL in the first place. But there are other perks that come with the use of this software. I’ll list some of them right now:
- Cooperative: This platform is based on the joint effort of many developers that worked on it. The whole world can benefit from this program, without being under the control of one organization. Because Let’s Encrypt is open-source, you can change the code as you like and tweak it to the highest level specifically to your site’s needs. This really is a cooperative effort.
- Secure: Let’s Encrypt helps its users properly secure their web servers to stand up to any threats that may come in the future.
- Community: Just like any other open-source platform, Let’s Encrypt also comes with a community. If you stumble upon a problem that needs solving, there’s a high chance that someone else has already dealt with it. So, just look around in the community forums, you should find your answer there.
- Documentation: If you somehow can’t find your solution in the forums, the documentation’s always there to help you out. We’re talking about a detailed documentation here, that covers every aspect of the software.
Let’s Encrypt is considered a competitor among the other players in this field. And for a good reason: it gives your site top notch security that some time ago only paid services could. Something interesting about this software is the fact that even some hosting companies make it available in one or more of their hosting plans. Yes, you’ve read that right. They are so sure about this tool’s efficiency, that they give it to you for free in their hosting plans.
But let’s move on and see how can you renew this SSL certificate provided by Let’s Encrypt. You should know from the start that Let’s Encrypt comes with 90-day SSL certificates. This means that every 90 days you need to renew your certificate if you want to have a safe website. There are 2 methods for doing this: manually and automatically.
I’ll start with the automatic renewal. If you’re not a really techy person, this could be your best bet for renewing the SSL certificate. The easiest way to renew the certificate automatically is to go with a hosting provider who has integrated Let’s Encrypt support. This comes in 2 versions: there are those hosts who automatically enable Let’s Encrypt by default and redirect HTTP to HTTPS (means that you have an SSL installed on your site). This is the simplest solution.
The second one consists of hosts who only give you support when setting up your Let’s Encrypt SSL. The list of these companies is larger, but I only recommend to do this, if you know what you’re doing. That is because using their support you can set automatic renewal from the beginning, but this requires some technical knowledge.
The method that most people use is to manually renew the certificate once it expires. This is because most website owners use a shared hosting package that won’t let you use shell access (SSH). These only come with a traditional cPanel or some other kind of control panel to manage your website. Now I’ll show you how to do this manually.
You need to type in some commands to make this happen. It is not as complicated as you might think. For start, you should know that
certbot is the name of the program that does the renewal. The command they recommend you use to renew the certificate is:
certbot renew yes, pretty self-explanatory. This command will look around through all your SSL certificates, and check if any of them comes close to expiring. Once it finds one, the command will renew it by itself.
But if you want to renew a specific certificate, not all of them, this is the command that should be use:
certbot certonly – force renew, Once you type this in, you write –
d and enlist all the domains names you want to renew the SSL for. Here’s an example:
certbot certonly – force renew –d
-d domainname2.com etc. You can write as many domain names as you have SSL installed for.
If you want another way to this manually, you could run the command
certbot certificates. Doing this, you’ll get the names for all your SSL certificates and then you can specify these names instead of the domain names:
[code]certbot certonly – – force renew – cert-name example.com[/code]
You can go either way, it won’t make any difference. The most popular method that is used by many is to manually renew your expired certificate. This is a lot more handy, because you may already own a website at a hosting company who doesn’t support Let’s Encrypt SSL. In this case you can use the manual renewal no matter the circumstances.
If you’re looking for a way to make your website(s) secure for your visitors, then Let’s Encrypt SSL is a good choice. As we’ve seen, you can easily install it on your website, and you’ll have full security guaranteed by the service. It also comes with great perks like I mentioned above.
But keep in mind that this is a service that needs to be renewed periodically if you want to have a safe environment for your daily visitors. Now you know how Let’s Encrypt can be renewed automatically and even manually with only a few simple commands.