Hostgator Free SSL is Here! GoDaddy Still the Laggard

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Major development. Hostgator announced that they’re providing free Let’s Encrypt SSL for ALL their shared hosting plans! This follows close on the heels of Bluehost announcing the same. The message is clear – SSL is a necessity that’s too closely tied up with web hosting to treat it as a separate package.

Here’s a screenshot of Hostgator’s shared hosting plans with the SSL option:

Hostgator Free SSL for Shared Hosting

I must say I’m impressed. I didn’t think the EIG companies would be willing to give up such a strong source of revenue. GoDaddy for example still charges exorbitant prices for basic SSL products that other companies like SiteGround, DreamHost, and InMotion have been giving free for years! But now that Bluehost and Hostgator have finally bowed to the inevitable, GoDaddy must follow suit.

I must take a moment to praise companies like SiteGround who were way ahead of the curve. They’ve supported Let’s Encrypt SSL for years – long before any of the others. I personally recommend them for shared hosting. This website is hosted on SiteGround, and their plans starting at $3.95/month are some of the cheapest overall.

Is Let’s Encrypt SSL Good Enough?

Both Hostgator and Bluehost are providing Let’s Encrypt certificates. This means that:

  1. Your traffic to and from visitors is now encrypted
  2. All your subdomains are SSL enabled as well!

The latter point (2) wasn’t always the case. This is called wildcard SSL and it’s only recently that Let’s Encrypt announced support for it. InMotion for example, provides free AutoSSL which doesn’t extend to all subdomains. However, they create a separate SSL certificate for each individual subdomain, so it’s the same thing.

How Do I Install Let’s Encrypt Certificates?

Once you’ve purchased your hosting plan, you can install Let’s Encrypt SSL via cPanel. It’s a simple process and takes just a few minutes. The procedure for InMotion’s AutoSSL is a bit different.

Technically however, you can install Let’s Encrypt certificates on any hosting plan – even those that don’t support it as part of their package. The procedure is a bit technical and complex, but it’s possible. However, you should AVOID this whenever possible.

The reason is that free Let’s Encrypt certificates automatically expire every 90 days. If you install them via the supported cPanel method, they will renew automatically. So no danger. But if you install them manually, you have to remember to do it over and over again. If you forget even once, you’re in deep trouble.

So get a web host who provides in-built support for SSL. Don’t do it yourself!

Does this Mean you NEVER Need to Buy an SSL?

I would say that most of the time no – you’ll be perfectly fine using the free Let’s Encrypt or AutoSSL certificates. This must come as a bitter pill for web hosting companies who were raking in a ton of cash. Sometimes the cost of SSL can overshadow the cost of hosting itself!

However, here are a few situations where purchasing an SSL is a good idea:

  1. You want extra trust from your customers
  2. You want the warranty insurance in case of fraud

Some companies like PayPal and other financial institutions need that extra bit of reassurance that a green SSL bar provides. With an Extended Validation (EV) certificate, you’ll not only have the green padlock, but your website name will be displayed on the URL bar as well. Here’s what PayPal’s address bar looks like:

PayPal Padlock

Customers can be assured that they haven’t accidentally typed in the wrong URL. Though recently scammers have cleverly bought their own misleading EV certificates. It’s not really a substitute for being careful!

Why Isn’t GoDaddy Following Suit?

They will. They HAVE to! Hostgator was just about the last major web host to capitulate and GoDaddy can’t hold out for much longer. But it’ll be really hard for them. While GoDaddy’s plans are really pretty cheap, their SSL prices are outrageous. They were poised to make a killing when Google announced that they’re enforcing SSL on everyone. But now? It’s just a matter of time.

Hostgator Subsidiaries Haven’t Switched Over Yet

The country specific operations like Hostgator India haven’t yet made the switch to Let’s Encrypt. They’re typically less responsive than their global counterparts. I expect them to make the change as well, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. I’ve queried them over Twitter regarding this, and no response so far.

So we finally live in a world where basic SSL is practically free. That’s great news!

About Bhagwad Park

Bhagwad has been writing WordPress tutorials for years. He also creates tutorials on Linux server administration, and has a ton of experience writing about and using web hosting products! Send me an e-mail!

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