Haven’t you heard? SSL certificates aren’t just for eCommerce anymore. Everyone wants encryption; even Google is using it as a ranking indicator now. This has been a problem for a lot of hobby websites, sites that have no income or desire to support themselves with advertisements, and people for whom the expense of a commercial certificate is just too great.
The solution has arrived, and it’s in the form of Let’s Encrypt. A free SSL provider with a massive amount of industry support.
After doing some initial testing to make sure it would work well for our clients, we launched Let’s Encrypt across all our servers using the Plesk Extension. This allows users to create and install a free SSL certificate on their website within seconds. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for eCommerce sites, but for providing a valid SSL certificate at no cost – it can’t be beat.
For those whose sites don’t yet point to your hosting with us: Let’s Encrypt uses HTTP validation to confirm you actually have access to your website. Since you’re installing Let’s Encrypt using Plesk, this validation is able to be done automatically for you, however it also means that your site must be live (DNS updated and working) prior to enabling Let’s Encrypt. There is no way around this, however if your domain isn’t yet live with us, the following steps will ensure your Let’s Encrypt certificate will apply very quickly after you make it live:
- When ready, make your DNS changes to point the domain to us.
- Wait a few minutes *. Then flush Google DNS for the domain here
- Use the steps below to install Let’s Encrypt
* Flushing the Google DNS cache works because Let’s Encrypt seems to use Google DNS for its DNS lookups. Sometimes the DNS takes a bit longer to process (especially when its hosted with a not-so-good DNS provider), so you might have to wait 10-15 minutes. Just be sure you don’t keep trying over and over as Let’s Encrypt only allows 4-5 failures before they institute a 60 minute cooling-down period (for the whole server!) If it doesn’t work after a few minutes, wait 10 more. If it doesn’t work after that, wait 30 more, etc,
Prefer reading over watching? No problem.
- Begin by logging in to Plesk
- Once in Plesk, find the domain that you wish to secure in the list. If you don’t see a list of domains, click “Websites & Domains” in the upper left corner.
- Once you’ve found your domain settings, you may need to click the “SHOW MORE” link. It’s found roughly below the “Mail” or “Databases” icon. This provides you with a bunch more configuration options for your domain.
- Look for “Let’s Encrypt” and click on it to proceed.
- Enter your preferred email address (typically your tech contact)
- Include the www for your domain if it’s *not* being installed on a subdomain
- Click Install.
You’ve now got an SSL certificate!
Plesk automatically generates the CSR, sends it to Let’s Encrypt, retreives the certificate, installs it, then activates it for the domain.
- Now that you’ve got the cert, you may wish to force SSL to be active across your entire website.
- If you’re using a web application like WordPress, you may also find you need to adjust some of your image resources, or use a plugin to forcefully change all resource links to HTTPS. Here’s how!
Any questions or feedback? Leave them in the comments.