India English
Kenya English
United Kingdom English
South Africa English
Nigeria English
United States English
United States Español
Indonesia English
Bangladesh English
Egypt العربية
Tanzania English
Ethiopia English
Uganda English
Congo - Kinshasa English
Ghana English
Côte d’Ivoire English
Zambia English
Cameroon English
Rwanda English
Germany Deutsch
France Français
Spain Català
Spain Español
Italy Italiano
Russia Русский
Japan English
Brazil Português
Brazil Português
Mexico Español
Philippines English
Pakistan English
Turkey Türkçe
Vietnam English
Thailand English
South Korea English
Australia English
China 中文
Somalia English
Canada English
Canada Français
Netherlands Nederlands

The Pros and Cons of Using a Free SSL Certificate vs Paid

When it comes to securing your website with an SSL certificate, you have two main options: using a free SSL certificate or purchasing a paid SSL certificate.

Both options will encrypt traffic between your website and visitors’ browsers, but there are some key differences to consider.

In this article, we’ll dive into the pros and cons of using a free SSL certificate vs paid, and help you determine which option is best for your website.

What is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a digital certificate that encrypts data transmitted between a web server and a browser.

When a website has an SSL certificate installed, the URL will start with “https://” instead of “http://”, and a padlock icon will appear in the browser’s address bar. This indicates to visitors that their connection to the website is secure and encrypted.

There are several types of SSL certificates available, including:

  • Domain Validation (DV): This type of certificate only verifies that the domain name is registered and controlled by the person requesting the certificate. DV certificates are the quickest and easiest to obtain.
  • Organization Validation (OV): In addition to domain validation, OV certificates also verify the identity of the organization requesting the certificate. This provides an additional layer of trust for website visitors.
  • Extended Validation (EV): EV certificates involve the most rigorous verification process. In addition to verifying the domain and organization, the certificate authority also conducts a thorough background check on the requesting entity. Websites with EV certificates display a green address bar in most browsers, providing the highest level of trust and assurance to visitors.

Free vs Paid SSL Certificates

Now that we understand the basics of SSL certificates, let’s compare the pros and cons of free vs paid SSL certificates.

Free SSL Certificates

The most popular provider of free SSL certificates is Let’s Encrypt, a non-profit certificate authority.

Let’s Encrypt offers free, automated, and open SSL certificates to anyone who owns a domain name. Other providers, such as Cloudflare and ZeroSSL, also offer free SSL certificates.

Pros of using a free SSL certificate:

  1. Cost: The most obvious advantage of using a free SSL certificate is that it’s free. This can be especially appealing for small websites or blogs that don’t handle sensitive information or conduct e-commerce transactions.
  2. Ease of installation: Free SSL certificates are often easy to install, especially if your web hosting provider offers a one-click installation option. Let’s Encrypt also provides a command-line tool called Certbot that can automate the installation process.
  3. Automatic renewal: Let’s Encrypt certificates are valid for 90 days and can be automatically renewed, ensuring that your website always has a valid certificate without any manual intervention.

Cons of using a free SSL certificate:

  1. Limited validation options: Free SSL certificates typically only offer domain validation (DV). If you need a higher level of validation, such as organization validation (OV) or extended validation (EV), you’ll need to purchase a paid certificate.
  2. Lack of warranty: Free SSL certificates do not come with any warranty or guarantee. If something goes wrong with the certificate, you won’t have any recourse or support from the provider.
  3. Shorter validity periods: Let’s Encrypt certificates are only valid for 90 days, which means you’ll need to renew them more frequently than paid certificates (which are typically valid for 1-2 years). While this can be automated, it still requires more maintenance than a longer-validity certificate.
  4. No multi-domain support: Most free SSL certificates only cover a single domain name. If you need to secure multiple subdomains or different domains, you’ll need to obtain separate certificates for each one.

Paid SSL Certificates

Paid SSL certificates are available from a variety of certificate authorities (CAs) and resellers, such as Comodo, Symantec, GoDaddy, and DigiCert.

Prices for paid certificates can range from a few dollars per year to hundreds of dollars per year, depending on the level of validation and features included.

Pros of using a paid SSL certificate:

  1. Higher levels of validation: Paid SSL certificates offer organization validation (OV) and extended validation (EV) options, which provide a higher level of trust and assurance to website visitors. EV certificates display a green address bar in most browsers, making it easy for visitors to see that your website is secure and legitimate.
  2. Warranty: Most paid SSL certificates come with a warranty that protects your website visitors in case something goes wrong with the certificate. For example, if a visitor experiences a financial loss due to a problem with your SSL certificate, the warranty may cover those losses (up to a certain amount).
  3. Longer validity periods: Paid SSL certificates are typically valid for 1-2 years, which means you won’t have to renew them as frequently as free certificates. This can save you time and hassle in the long run.
  4. Multi-domain support: Many paid SSL certificates offer the option to secure multiple domains or subdomains with a single certificate. This can be more convenient and cost-effective than managing separate certificates for each domain.
  5. Technical support: When you purchase a paid SSL certificate, you’ll typically have access to technical support from the provider. This can be helpful if you encounter any issues with installation, configuration, or renewal.

Cons of using a paid SSL certificate:

  1. Cost: The main disadvantage of using a paid SSL certificate is the cost. Prices can vary widely depending on the provider and level of validation, but even the cheapest paid certificates will cost more than a free certificate.
  2. Manual renewal: While some paid SSL certificates offer automatic renewal options, many require manual renewal. This means you’ll need to keep track of when your certificate is set to expire and make sure to renew it before then to avoid any downtime or security issues.

Which Option is Right for You?

So, should you use a free SSL certificate or invest in a paid certificate? The answer depends on your specific website requirements and security needs.

A free SSL certificate may be sufficient if:

  • You have a small, personal website or blog that doesn’t handle sensitive information
  • You don’t need the added trust and assurance of organization or extended validation
  • You’re comfortable with the 90-day validity period and automatic renewal process

On the other hand, a paid SSL certificate may be a better choice if:

  • You have an e-commerce website or handle sensitive customer information
  • You want the added trust and assurance of organization or extended validation
  • You prefer the convenience of a longer validity period and manual renewal process
  • You need to secure multiple domains or subdomains with a single certificate
  • You want access to technical support and a warranty

The decision to use a free vs paid SSL certificate comes down to your budget, security needs, and personal preferences.

Whichever option you choose, installing an SSL certificate is an important step in securing your website and protecting your visitors’ information.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we’ve explored the pros and cons of using a free SSL certificate vs paid. While free certificates from providers like Let’s Encrypt offer a cost-effective way to encrypt your website’s traffic, they come with some limitations in terms of validation options, warranty, and multi-domain support.

Paid SSL certificates, on the other hand, offer higher levels of validation, longer validity periods, and additional features like technical support and warranties. However, they also come with a higher price tag and may require manual renewal.

When deciding whether to use a free or paid SSL certificate, consider your website’s specific security needs and budget. Regardless of which option you choose, installing an SSL certificate is a crucial step in building trust with your website visitors and protecting their sensitive information online.

Read also:


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)