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Can a non-technical person install an SSL certificate?

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

So you bought an SSL certificate and are eager to install it? Congratulations, you’re one step closer to a secure website. Protecting visitors’ sensitive data is of paramount importance. With online cyber-threats on the rise, encrypting your site is the least you can do for your audience.

Getting an SSL certificate is quick and easy nowadays. With so many options available, you can pick an SSL product within your needs and budget and, depending on the validation type, receive the installation files anywhere between 5 minutes and a couple of business days.

The tricky part starts when you have to install an SSL certificate on your server. As it turns out, one-click installation is not an option. If you’re not a technical user and haven’t installed a cert before, chances are you will struggle.

Of course, you can read an installation tutorial and follow it step by step, but there are no guarantees you’ll get it right from the first time, especially with technical jargon involved. A badly configured cert spells trouble for your site and traffic. Browsers will instantly flag it as not secure. To avoid the dreaded SSL connection errors, leave the SSL installation to a pro.

You may wonder if every site needs an SSL certificate these days, why the installation part isn’t more user-friendly? The reason lies in web servers. Each server has its own specific SSL configuration rules. The web interfaces differ, and on some platforms, you must use OpenSSL command lines to import your certificate.

OpenSSL is a utility tool that helps you install and manage SSL certificates. If you don’t know how to use it and your server requires it, the likelihood of installing the cert correctly by yourself is slim.

You need to be comfortable around your server’s dashboard and menus to upload your SSL certificate the right way. Things can go wrong during SSL installation. Below are the two most common missteps:

Missing intermediate certificates

Intermediate certificates are essential for browser compatibility. A missing intermediate disrupts the SSL chain of trust and creates problems, especially on mobile devices. According to Google, 36% of validation issues across Android devices are caused by insufficient intermediate certificates. Instructions on how to upload intermediate certificates vary from server to server. It’s a task better suited to seasoned system admins rather than SSL rookies.

Old protocols still enabled

Most of the websites use the TLS 1.2 protocol, which was introduced over a decade ago. While TLS 1.2 is safe and reliable, the new TLS 1.3 protocol eliminated obsolete ciphers and introduced a faster TLS handshake. Its adoption is still slow with only 26.5% of Alexa’s top 150,000 websites using it according to SSL pulse. What’s worrying is the number of websites (60%) still supporting the older TLS 1.0 protocol. Not to mention then 6.8% of sites still on now-deprecated SSL 3.0 technology.

Older protocols are vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, that’s why it’s imperative to ensure your server supports the latest TLS protocols. Again, this is technical stuff, which should be handled by pros who know what they’re doing.

As you can see, installing an SSL certificate is not a stroll in the park for inexperienced users. It’s better to hire a developer or a system engineer and get your certificate up and running in a matter of minutes, than trying to install it by yourself and waste precious time and effort.

If you have no other choice but to configure the cert yourself, we’ve written over 50 SSL installation articles for various servers and email clients. Please note,  our tutorials are for intermediate and advanced users.