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Free SSL Certificate vs Paid SSL: What Is It & How It Compares?

  • Apr 10, 2020
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  • by Brad Litwin

These days, website encryption is no longer reserved for only e-commerce and enterprise sites. With security remaining a top concern among users and search engines alike, it’s important you let people know your site is secure. Plus, it’s never been easier to obtain and set up a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate.

That’s where a free SSL Certificates comes in. You get to protect your visitors’ security, they get more peace of mind, and you don’t have to spend a dollar while you’re at it. It’s a winning proposition.

In this article, we’ll discuss free SSL Certificates, what they can offer you, and how it compares to other SSL in the field. Let’s jump right in!

What Free SSL Offers You

As mentioned, the major goal of free SSL is to simplify the process of obtaining and installing an SSL certificate. If you’ve done this through other CAs in the past, the major benefits of using free SSL are evident – not only does it save you a lot of hassle, it also means you won’t have to pay for yearly renewals.

On the other hand, if you haven’t dealt with SSL certificates before, here are some of the most important features a free SSL can offer you:

  1. Heightened security. An SSL certificate enables you to use the HTTPS protocol throughout your site.
  2. Less micromanaging. Obtaining and renewing certificates is usually a hassle, but a free SSL keeps things simple.
  3. Better Search Engine Optimization (SEO). These days, search engines are strongly encouraging website owners to use the HTTPS protocol on their sites. In practice, this may translate to better SEO results.

At this point, a free SSL might sound like the perfect option if you’ve never dealt with SSL certificates before, but let’s see how it holds up against other authorities.

How Free SSL Compares to Paid SSL

Of course, while there are clear benefits to using free SSL, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider other options. In this section we’ll talk about three major differences between free SSL and other CAs, including where it shines and where it falls short.

1. The Number of Options Available

The biggest difference between free SSL and other major CAs is that the former only provides its users with DV certificates. These are fine for most simple websites, but they’re not the only type available, and they aren’t enough for certain operations. For example, if you’re running an e-commerce or enterprise site, you’ll probably want to opt for an Extended Validation (EV) certificate, which comes with higher verification standards.

2. Issuance and Renewal Processes

The process of setting up a free SSL certificate is a lot simpler than with other DV options. Also, many web hosts offer to set things up on your behalf, which isn’t the case for many others CAs. A free SSL does require you to renew your certificate each 90 days, although the process can be automated. On the other hand, other CAs typically offer certificates with much longer durations (up to three years in some cases).

3. Price

It’s difficult to compete with a $0 price tag, especially when other CAs charge arguably high rates for similar certificates. Here are a few examples:

  • GeoTrust’s RapidSSL: $17 for a one-year certificate
  • GoDaddy’s Standard SSL: $69 for a one-year certificate
  • Comodo: $49 for a one-year certificate

With those kinds of prices, it’s no wonder that free SSL is gaining traction quickly among web hosts and users alike. It’s worth noting however that since free SSL certificates are complimentary, you don’t get access to any type of insurance to cover you in the event of a security breach, which is something other CAs offer.

In short, as long as you’re happy with a simple DV certificate, free SSL is a reliable option.

Conclusion

A free SSL may not be the perfect solution for every website, but it’s a great alternative for many of them. Furthermore, this service makes setting up an SSL certificate remarkably easy, which means you have no excuse not to do it. Not only will it enable you to keep your visitors’ information safe, it may also help with your SEO efforts.

Best of all, obtaining a free SSL certificate obviously won’t cost you a penny. With other CAs charging up to hundreds of dollars per year for some types of certificates, opting for a comparable free alternative might be the smart choice.

 

Image credit: Pixabay.

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