Free SSL For All: Interview on Let’s Encrypt with SiteGround’s Hristo Pandjarov

We recently spoke with SiteGround‘s Hristo Pandjarov about a seriously cool new feature available to all SiteGround customers: free and easy-to-install Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates.

Here’s the transcript of that interview—plus, if “SSL certificates will forever be free now!” is (really good) news to you, some background information on both SiteGround and Let’s Encrypt.

SiteGround: A Friend of WPShout

SiteGround sponsors our work through our partner program, Friends of WPShout. They’re our exclusive host for WPShout and every other website we work with, and we literally can’t recommend them highly enough, although we’ve tried.

Let’s Encrypt: Free SSL Certificates for All

You don’t have to pay for SSL certificates anymore, and Let’s Encrypt is the reason why not.

SSL certificates make communication between a browser and a web server much more secure. (If the term is new to you, here’s a quick summary.) However, SSL communication relies on trusted third-party authorities (like, say, Comodo), which have historically charged money for the service.

Until now. You don’t have to pay for SSL certificates anymore, and Let’s Encrypt is the reason why not.

Let’s Encrypt is a nonprofit collaboration among dozens of the internet’s biggest players—like the Mozilla Foundation, Cisco Systems, and Facebook, and even hometown heroes Automattic and SiteGround—to ensure that “anyone who owns a domain name can use Let’s Encrypt to obtain a trusted certificate at zero cost.” In other words, Let’s Encrypt issues fully secure and trusted SSL certificates for free.

The project is full steam ahead: it’s issued 1.7 million SSL certificates since its beta launch in September 2015, and it recently left beta—a major sign of the project’s confidence in itself as a fully secure certificate authority—as well as taking on new sponsorships to round out an already massive list of heavyweight sponsors. Secure communication was a private service and is now a public good, and Let’s Encrypt is the organization managing that change.

The Let’s Encrypt-SiteGround Partnership

SiteGround has been one of the first WordPress hosts to make Let’s Encrypt certificates easily available to its shared hosting customers.

SiteGround has been an important early Let’s Encrypt sponsor—and, in particular, one of the first WordPress hosts to make Let’s Encrypt certificates easily available to its shared hosting customers, instead of continuing to sell along other third-party certificates. SiteGround announced the availability of Let’s Encrypt certificates in early February, in a much-loved Advanced WordPress Facebook post and accompanying blog post. Since then, Let’s Encrypt certificates have been freely available to every SiteGround customer through the SiteGround cPanel.

How It’s Going So Far: Interview with Hristo Pandjarov

hristo pandjarov | wpshoutHristo leads the WordPress team at SiteGround, and spearheaded SiteGround’s partnership with Let’s Encrypt.

For you, what’s the two-sentence answer to “Why put my site under SSL?”

A short answer would be that you should use SSL because your communication with your visitors will be safer, your site can become potentially faster and now you have a way to encrypt it without having to pay extra. I strongly believe that soon the bigger part of the next will go through encrypted connections – that’s the future.

How did SiteGround come to partner with Let’s Encrypt?

We’ve been one of the early supporters of Let’s Encrypt and we backed up the project since the beginning because we thought and we still think that it’s a great initiative that will allow thousands of websites around the world to have a free SSL issued for them.

How is SiteGround working to make Let’s Encrypt certificates easy to access for customers?

We’ve developed a special tool for cPanel that allows you to issue Let’s Encrypt certificates for all domains and subdomains associated with your account.

As usual, we wanted to make the implementation for SiteGround customers as easy as possible. This is why we’ve developed a special tool for cPanel that allows you to issue Let’s Encrypt certificates for all domains and subdomains associated with that account. Basically, you need to choose a domain name and click install. That’s it. I believe that we have the simplest and most pain-free possible integration.

How do you think the Let’s Encrypt offer enriches SiteGround’s value to WordPress site owners?

It’s another piece of the whole picture that we’ve made free and easily accessible for our customers. At the end of the day we want our WordPress customers to have an easy, safe, fast and stable solution for their website so that they can focus on the actual site development and not on hosting-related issues.

How has the Let’s Encrypt program been going so far?

It’s been going really, really good, a lot of our customers are using it and we don’t have any complaints so far for bugs or problems. There are thousands of customers already using it and it’s been only love for Let’s Encrypt so far. Let’s hope it will continue that way!

It seems like a lot of hosts might worry about impact on premium SSL certificate sales. Was this a concern for you?

We have stopped providing regular SSL certificates and we now sell only the high-end ones – wildcard and EV certificates. The normal certificates should be free and available for everyone.

I like to give the example with people selling ice. The invention of the fridge completely closed their business, but that’s the progress. We have stopped providing regular SSL certificates and we now sell only the high-end ones – wildcard and EV certificates. There will be always demand for those, but the normal certificates should be free and available for everyone. Did we lose money? Sure, but we believe it’s totally worth it in the long term.

What else is coming up that you’re excited about?

There are always something new being cooked on our devops team’s stove :) I can’t share more specifics now, but I can tell you to keep a close eye on our blog. Every major change or new feature we introduce is featured there.

Next Up: We’re Moving WPShout onto Let’s Encrypt SSL!

This sounds awesome, right? We think so too. We’re going to be transitioning WPShout onto Let’s Encrypt SSL over the next week. Next Thursday, we’ll publish a guide to the process, and our own reflections on the experience.

Thanks for reading, and get excited!


7 Responses

Comments

  • David Pascoe says:

    Well if you are on SiteGround already then your transition will be just one – ok maybe 2 clicks.

  • Sallie Goetsch says:

    I’ve just implemented Let’s Encrypt on all the sites I have at SiteGround and it was dead easy. One thing to note: it doesn’t always play well with SiteGround’s CloudFlare, but you can set up CloudFlare directly and it will work.

  • Wow! Indeed it’s a really good news! Free stuff are a lot better when they make you safer. Great blog by the way, I’ve just came across it on ManageWP.org.

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