Free SSL Certificates using Certbot

What is SSL? Secure Sockets Layer is a cryptographic protocol that provided communications security overa computer network. Also makes a domain name reflect HTTPS on your browser address.

SSL is currently succeeded by TLS (Transport Layer Security) which aims majorly on providing privacy and data security between 2 communicating applications.

Setting up SSL for your domain is relatively easy and free.

Requirements: - Linux Server Access through SSH (Secure SHell) (sudo access) - Registered domain and configured DNS


1. SSH into your server:

    ssh username@server-ip

2. Install Certbot:

    sudo apt update && apt upgrade
    sudo apt install certbot

    sudo dnf install certbot python2-certbot-apache

  Arch Linux:
    sudo pacman -S certbot

3. Create folder in web root

mkdir -p /var/www/your_site_name/.well-known/acme-challenge

4. Create a certificate for the domain

certbot certonly --webroot -w /var/www/your_site_root_directory -d -m [email protected]

Certificate: fullchain.pem and Key: privkey.pem will be generated in the path: /etc/letsencrypt/live/your_domain/

5. Add SSL configuration to web-server:

Nginx: - open config with vim /etc/nginx/sites-available/your_site_config or vim /etc/nginx/sites-available/default - Add the following lines, editing your_domain variable:

    server {

        # SSL configuration
        listen 443;
        listen [::]:443;

        ssl on;
        ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/your_domain/fullchain.pem;
        ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/your_domain/privkey.pem;

        root /var/www/your_domain;

        # Add index.php to the list if you are using PHP
        index index.html index.htm index.nginx-debian.html;

        server_name your_domain;

        location / {
            try_files $uri $uri/ =404;

            proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
            proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto $scheme;
            proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
            proxy_set_header Host $http_host;

        location ~ /.well-known {
                allow all;
                default_type "text/plain";

        client_max_body_size 50m;
    # Redirect HTTP requests to HTTPS
    server {
        listen 80;
        listen [::]:80;

        # **www** domain is VERY important for renewal purposes
        rewrite ^ https://$server_name$request_uri? permanent;

        root /var/www/your_domain;
        index index.html;
        location / {
            try_files $uri $uri/ =404;

6. Restart your webserver:

Nginx: systemctl restart nginx

7. Setup Auto-Renewal of Certificate

Perform a dry run of the renewal process.

sudo certbot renew --dry-run This will ONLY attempt a certificate renewal process on your domain relying on the URL: http://your_domain/.well-known/acme-challenge/some_random_key

If not dry-run fails, fix any issues especially with 404 return pages before proceeding.

Create cron job to check and autorenew your certificates before expiry.

If dry run is successful, proceed to create a cron job below.

sudo crontab -e

Select from the list of command-line editors: ed, nano, vim-basics or vim-tiny:

Add cron job below at the bottom of the file.

15 3 * * * certbot renew --quiet

Checkout more about Crontabs and how to write them here:

More reads on using certbot and letsencrypt:

Why Use LetsEncrypt? + The connection between the user and your server is directly secure.

Comparison to Cloudfare’s Flexible SSL: + Flexible SSL by Cloudfare recieves all your traffic, decrypts the requests and passes them to your server unencrypted. The connection between Cloudfare and your server is not secure.

Why Crontabs? + 3 months certificates, free and unlimited renewals. Crons help to automate that renewal process for us.

Good Luck