Let’s Encrypt TSOHost SSL Now Available – Get Your Free SSL Certificate

by | Jan 11, 2017 | Tips and Tricks | 0 comments

TSOHost have just announced support for the Let’s Encrypt free SSL certificate initiative. Great news today for the many customers of TSOHost – one of the UK’s largest web hosting providers.

I’ve been a fan of TSOHost for my various online ventures for over 6 years, and it’s an encouraging sign that they’re still keeping up with the times by issuing support for free SSL certificates via Let’s Encrypt.

What is Let’s Encrypt?

Let’s Encrypt is a nonprofit, free to use SSL certificate authority backed by the likes of Mozilla, Google Chrome and Facebook. It allows access to free, easy to use SSL certificates for websites, and your website will then have a https:// URL prefix.

Why does this matter? Because it has never been more important to run a safe, secure website. By having an SSL certificate on your website it ensures information such as passwords and credit card details are encrypted when transmitting between your users and your website.

It also means the big G (Google) will look favourably upon your site in the search rankings. And we ALL know how important that is. Here’s the proof: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2014/08/https-as-ranking-signal.html

Traditionally you’d have to pay for an SSL certificate on an ongoing basis, but now authorities such as Let’s Encrypt give them away for free. And when combined with support from your website host – like TSOHost is doing now –  it makes it easier than ever to implement.

Let’s Encrypt on TSOHost

As a customer of TSOHost myself, I noticed this morning there was a brand new option in my hosting dashboard called ‘Let’s Encrypt’. Could it be that they’ve finally implemented this great resource?

Heading over to the TSOHost blog to explore further, there it was, confirmation that TSOHost now support Let’s Encrypt! Read the original blog article here: https://www.tsohost.com/blog/cloud-update-free-lets-encrypt-ssls-now-supported

So naturally the first thing I wanted to do is test it out. I manage quite a few websites of my own, so for the remainder of this post I’m going to run through an example of how to enable Let’s Encrypt on TSOHost on one of my own WordPress websites (this process will differ if you’re using an alternative CMS).

This will only apply to those who host websites using the TSOHost Cloud Platform. There are always risks involved when editing your website, so a thorough backup in place is always recommended. I take no responsibility for any damage done to your site following these instructions. You follow these instructions at your own risk.

Enable Let’s Encrypt in the TSOHost Cloud Platform

  1. Login to your TSOHost Cloud Hosting Platform at https://control.gridhost.co.uk/members/
  2. Choose the website you wish to enable the Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate on
  3. Select the ‘Let’s Encrypt‘ icon under Advanced Management Tools
  4. An automated check will then need to be done to ensure your website is compatible. Click ‘Check My Domains‘. Unless you have any funky DNS settings, this should go through smoothly
  5. If successful, you’ll be given the option to ‘Request SSL‘. This will take a moment, and once confirmed you’ll be given a notice that your site’s IP address may have changed
  6. That’s it! Your free SSL Certificate has been automatically generated.

Head back to your website’s Home page, and change the address in the browser from ‘http://’ to ‘https://’. Press return, and the page should update. It should look no different, but you’ll notice there’s now a padlock in the browser.

Orange Let's Ecnrypt SSL Padlock

There’s a very high likelihood it’ll be orange like in this image, or depending upon your browser, it may show an ‘unlocked’ icon. This means your SSL certificate is installed and working, but there are issues with the content of your website.

If it’s showing a green padlock, that’s perfect.

But we’ll get back to this later.

Add the HTTPS Redirect

Now we need to add some code to the website that will automatically redirect any non-secure pages (http://) to the SSL secure variant (https://).

There are WordPress plugins out there that can automate this process for you, but I like doing things the manual way for proper bulletproof implementation.

You’ll want to open up your .htaccess file at the root of your website installation (via FTP for example) and paste in the following code right at the top:

# Force https redirect
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]

Now save and upload back to your site. To test this, try and visit a page of your website by typing the http:// URL prefix. If implemented correctly, it should now automatically redirect you to the https:// prefixed page.

Change the WordPress Address and Site URL

Now login to your WordPress Admin Dashboard, and head to Settings > General. You’ll see two editable fields with your website URL present in both.

What we need to do now is change the URL’s here to add the https:// declaration. I like doing this one at a time as a safety precaution, so first I change the Site Address and save changes using the button on the page.

Then I update the WordPress Address field and save changes again. There’s a chance once you save the changes this time, you’ll be logged out of the Admin Dashboard and will return to the Login page.

That’s perfectly normal. So login again, and return to Settings > General. You’ll hopefully now see both fields have been updated to https://.

Change to https SSL URL

Easy!

Get that Green Padlock

Proper implementation of your Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate is now pretty much complete, but there are a few loose ends we need to tidy up.

Remember I mentioned that browser padlock icon above? We need to turn it green. And it needs to stay green when you visit every single page of your website.

Green Let's Ecnrypt SSL Padlock

So open up your website and have a good look around at each page. If you find the padlock is already green on every single page, then you’re finished. Good job, enjoy your new secure website! Proceed to the ‘Final Steps’ header below.

If the padlock is orange or showing as unlocked, then your website is having difficulties with something called mixed content. What this means is that the content on your website may not be being delivered in a secure way.

For example, you may have an image within a blog post that is being served using the ‘http://’ prefix rather than https://. Just small little issues like this can stop a page from being properly secure.

Fix Mixed Content Warnings

Thankfully there are many free tools that can help identify which content needs to be fixed on your site, such as SSL-Check and Why No Padlock?.

You can use these to identify the problem resources, but you will then need to manually fix these yourself. 9 times out of 10 it really is just as simple as editing your page content and changing any links of images or other embeddable objects (videos, iframes) from http:// to https://.

Any other instances would probably stem from the fact your website is calling CSS or Javascript files from a http:// URL. Again, adding the https:// in its place will probably solve this for you.

You could even use something called a Protocol Relative URL, which is simply replacing any instances of ‘http://’ with two forward slashes ‘//’. This is a safer option should you ever wish to revert back to a non SSL secure site at any time in the future. It just means the browser will load the resource using whatever protocol the website is currently using – either http or https – automatically.

Of course, if you are having any difficulties at this stage of the process, do get in touch and we’ll see about getting it resolved for you.

Final Steps

Okay, so now your website on TSOHost is successfully using a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate. The hardest part is done, but we’re still not quite finished.

We need to tell search engines and visitors that our site now lives on a secure https foundation.

The first thing I recommend you do is head to all of your social profiles where a link to your site may be, and change the link to your https URL. Social profiles such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.

If you’re using SEO tools such as Google Search Console, go ahead and create a https variant of your website in there too. Plus, submit your new https XML sitemap.

Also make sure any Analytics software you use is recognising the https switchover too.

In time, you’ll start noticing that Google and other search engines are picking up on your new secure site, and will start displaying links prefixed by the https.

Job well done.