Setting up Let's Encrypt and Cloudflare Universal SSL for end-to-end encryption

Cloudflare offers SSL for all sites, but Cloudflare SSL only encrypts the connection from the visitor to Cloudflare. This article shows how to provide full, end-to-end encryption for the entire connection from the visitor to the server.

For information about how to activate Cloudflare for your account, please see this article. For detailed information about how to configure Cloudflare settings, please see the Cloudflare documentation.

Step 1: Set up the domain

In order to complete the setup process correctly, Let’s Encrypt requires the domain to resolve to the server IP address. If the domain does not resolve to the server IP address, update the domain name servers to the designated A2 Hosting nameservers for your account. For more information about setting name servers, please see this article.

Please note that A2 Hosting, in order to provide consistent and reliable user experience, is switching from Let’s Encrypt to Sectigo for all newly provisioned accounts. Existing accounts will also make the change to Sectigo certificates sometime in the near future. The certificates are equal in terms of trust level, validity, and how they are used. You should see no impact on your site, and the only difference is that the padlock in your browser will now say “cPanel Cert Issued by Sectigo” instead of “Let’s Encrypt."

Step 2: Verify the Let’s Encrypt certificate has been issued

To verify the Let's Encrypt certificate has been issued for the domain, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to cPanel.
    If you do not know how to log in to your cPanel account, please see this article.
  2. In the SECURITY section of the cPanel home screen, click the SSL/TLS Status icon:

    SSL/TLS Status icon in cPanel

  3. On the SSL/TLS Status page, locate the domain in the Domain column.
  4. To the right of the domain is a green lock symbol with the label AutoSSL Domain Validated. If the lock symbol is not green or does not appear, the certificate is not installed.

    Symbol for AutoSSL Domain Validated

    Alternatively, you can use an external validation tool like https://www.sslshopper.com/ssl-checker.html to check the SSL certificate.

Step 3: Configure Cloudflare

To sign up and configure Cloudflare for your domain, follow these steps:

  1. Go to https://www.cloudflare.com, and then click Sign Up. A new page appears:

    Cloudflare create account dialog

    • In the Email text box, type an e-mail address.
    • In the Password text box, type a password.
    • Click Create Account to continue.
    If you already have a Cloudflare account, you do not need to follow this step. Log in to Cloudflare with your existing account instead.
  2. The Welcome to Cloudflare page appears. At the top of the page, click Add site.
  3. On the next page, in the Enter your site text box, type your domain name, and then click Add site:

  4. On the next page, select a plan, and then click Continue. Cloudflare scans the domain's DNS records.

    If you are unsure which plan to use, start with the Free plan.
  5. DNS analysis results appear on the next page. Review the information and correct any errors. When you are done, click Continue.
  6. The next page displays the nameservers to use for your domain. Make a note of the nameservers, and then click Done, check nameservers.
  7. The Overview page appears. Click the SSL/TLS icon, and then click the Full or Full (strict) radio button on the SSL/TLS page:

    • Full (strict) mode requires that the domain have a valid certificate issued by a recognized certificate authority (CA), such as Sectigo.
    • If you use Full (strict) mode, you may need to temporarily disable it (for example, by enabling Full mode) when renewing a Sectigo SSL certificate. Doing this ensures that the domain verification procedure runs correctly.

Step 4: Update nameservers and verify

To update the nameservers and verify the configuration, follow these steps:

  1. Use the control panel at the domain’s registrar to change the nameservers to those provided by Cloudflare.
  2. After 24 hours, verify the changes. The domain should resolve to Cloudflare IP addresses and the SSL certificate should be the Cloudflare Universal SSL certificate (sni.cloudflaressl.com).

More Information

Using Let's Encrypt with Cloudflare SSL is a great way to add security to a site quickly and at no cost. However, it may be more convenient to use a traditional CA-issued certificate. For a more complete discussion of the differences between Let's Encrypt and other SSL certificates, please see this article.

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