Let’s Encrypt Pros and Cons
What is Let’s encrypt
Let’s encrypt is a certificate authority which provides free SSL certificates with 90-days lifetime. The idea behind this innovation is to improve and simplify the process of SSL installation and make the Internet a safer place by providing certificates at no cost. While there are two main functions of SSL – encryption, and validation, Let’s encrypt is aimed at encryption only. There is a lot of discussion around Letsencrypt and I would like to shed some light on the pros and cons of going for such a certificate in 2019.
You can learn more about choosing a commercial SSL in a dedicated article.
Certbot and Other Free SSL Certificate Features
Let’s start with the new process of the installation. For a newbie, it’s really much faster and simpler to install Let’s encrypt and get SSL for free then a product of any other certificate authority. On the other hand, if you have a big experience in enabling SSLs then you will have to dedicate time and learn a completely new process. Also, such software as certbot will enable https on your website in a few clicks. I think it’s rather an advantage considering the fact that you’re using free certificate authority and aren’t paying for the certificate.
They offer only domain validation so no OVs and EVs which makes it not usable by commercial organizations. Moreover, there are no plans to implement those. However, it’s not a problem for you if the only thing you want is encryption. So, this is a disadvantage for a part of usual SSL users.
Let’s encrypt allows you to install a certificate for multiple domain names but there is no such thing as let’s encrypt wildcard SSLs. The good news is they have it on their roadmap in January 2018. So, in this regards functionality is or will be similar to paid certificates.
Support. They do not have resources to provide fully-fledged customer support but they have pretty good documentation. This may be not a problem for web pros but newbies may find themselves baffled. This is the price you need to pay for having a free SSL certificate. Commercial SSL providers usually provide good customer service so I’d say this is a significant disadvantage, especially for SSL newbies.
Free SSL Hosting
Acceptance among hosting providers. You can’t install Let’s encrypt free certificate if your hosting company doesn’t allow this. There is different stance towards Let’s encrypt among hosting providers so not all of them can allow you using such a certificate. Here is the list of big hosting companies which support Let’s encrypt:
SiteGround – they have Let’s encrypt tool in their customized cPanel
DreamHost – secure hosting section in DreamHost panel
A2 Hosting – Let’s encrypt can be enabled by contacting support
Wix – several clicks in their admin panel
WP Engine – pretty simple installation via their WP Engine User Portal
And sure there are dozens and dozens of smaller hosts which support that so if Let’s encrypt is crucial for you then you can find a suitable solution.
90-days lifetime. I don’t know about any commercial CAs which have such a short certificate lifetime. This may become a real headache but stimulates you to automate issuance which eventually will prevent you from SSL expiration. Moreover, this is great for security as you change the key once per 3 months. The other thing is that not all web servers support automated issuance. I’d call this a disadvantage for those who can’t automate the process but the increased level of security is priceless.
Letsencrypt Pros and Cons
Conclusion. While Let’s encrypt is a great initiative targeted on adding more security to the World Wide Web, in 2018 it remains rather raw for global usage and that’s one of the biggest let’s encrypt disadvantages. On the other hand, you won’t be scared by their growing pains if you are an encryption geek. I am sure it has a great future but for now, due to the aforementioned letsencrypt disadvantages we can’t call it a killer of commercial DV certificates. However, it’s already a great option to get a free https certificate for people who can’t afford a paid option which is already great. According to their data, 48 million websites already use Let’s encrypt. Also, the initiative drives more attention of the online world to encryption stimulating usage of SSLs worldwide.
Some recommended reading – What is CAA record?