Holy crap, Let's Encrypt is super easy!

Well, I just set up Let's Encrypt on my home server for the first time.  When I was finished, my first thought was, "Damn, that was awesome!  Why didn't I set that up a long time ago?"

Let's Encrypt logoIf you're not familiar with Let's Encrypt, it's a non-profit project of the Internet Security Research Group to provide website operators with free SSL certificates.  The idea is to make it easy for everyone to have SSL properly enabled for their website, as opposed to the old days when you had to either buy an SSL certificate or use a self-signed one that browsers would complain about.

I didn't really know much about Let's Encrypt until recently, other than then fact that they provide free SSL certs which are actually trusted by browsers.  And really, that was all I needed to know to be interested.  So I decided to try it out on my home server.  I was already using them on this website, that that was a slightly different situation: my web host integrated Let's Encrypt into their control panel, so all I had to do to set up a cert for one of my subdomains was click a button.  Super convenient, but not really any learning process there.

It turns out that setting up my home server to use the Let's Encrypt certs was pretty painless.  The recommended method is to use certbot, which is a tool developed by the EFF.  It basically automates the entire process of setting up the certificate.  Seriously - the entire process.  It's actually way easier to set up a Let's Encrypt cert with certbot than it is to make your own self-signed cert.  You just need to run a command, answer a couple of questions, and it will get the certs for each of your sites, install them, and keep them updated.  The only catch is that you need root shell access and your web server has to be accessible via port 80 (for verification purposes).

Compared to the old self-signed cert I was using, this is way easier.  You don't have to generate any keys, or create a CSR (Certifiate Signing Request), or edit your server config files.  Running certbot takes care of everything for you.  So if you haven't tried Let's Encrypt and you're running a site that could use some SSL, I definitely recommend it.

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