Free vs Paid SSL Certificates: Which should you choose?

Free v Paid SSL certificates

As SSL certificates are now considered best practice across the internet, it can be difficult to decide between Free vs Paid SSL Certificates for your school website.

Which SSL certificate should you choose?

An SSL certificate is critical for the security of your school website. It will authenticate your website and encrypt any information your users enter, so that it cannot be intercepted by malicious third parties. As we move closer to a more secure internet, an SSL certificate is becoming essential for anyone wanting to be taken seriously on the web.

See our recent post, Does your school website need an SSL certificate?, for the reasons why we are recommending an SSL certificate to our clients.

Knowing which SSL certificate is the most suitable, and cost-effective, for your school website can be confusing. There are many options available, from free to pretty pricey, and the implications of incorrect installation or lapsed certificates can have a detrimental effect on your school website.

What are Free SSL certificates?

Organisations, such as the non-profit Certificate Authority (CA), Let’s Encrypt, do offer free SSL certificates. The incentive behind this initiative is to lower barriers and make secure communication via HTTPS available to everyone and the encryption you get with a Free SSL is generally the same as what you get with one that you pay for.

However, there are some important differences to consider when deciding whether a Free SSL or Paid SSL certificate is best for you.

Why choose a Paid SSL certificate over a Free one?

Paid SSL certificate v Free


A Paid SSL Certificate Authority will be able to provide technical support with installing and configuring your certificate, troubleshooting any potential problems, and ensuring your certificate is both working properly and is adequately secure.

Let’s Encrypt is a non-profit and simply cannot offer the level of support you get when you are backed by the resources of an established and paid for service. The certificate may be free, but it will be up to you to get it working properly. Without direct access to your hosting server and advanced technical knowledge, you could spend countless hours, and additional money, manually installing, configuring and troubleshooting.

Level of Trust

A Paid SSL certificate will be issued and signed by an established and trusted Certificate Authority (CA) such as Symantec, or Thawte, and will carry a strong brand name recognised by most web users. They will invest in security infrastructure to help prevent issuing certificates to fraudulent websites, thereby strengthening the validity of those they do issue.

Free SSL CAs have only minimal safeguards and can inadvertently issue certificates to illegitimate or even malicious websites. They therefore carry a much lower level of trust with web users.

Length of Validity

Paid SSL certificates are valid for at least 1 year. Services that automatically renew your certificate each year ensure you never have to worry that your certificate has lapsed or that your website is secure.

Free SSL certificates are generally only valid for 90 days. Without the support of a paid for service, the headache of managing a repetitive renewal process will be your responsibility, as will the task of troubleshooting and reinstalling should the certificate lapse for any reason.


Paid SSL certificates will come backed by a warranty so that if anything goes wrong on the CAs end, you are covered.

Free SSL certificates, simply do not.

How can Cleverbox help?

See our recent post, Does your school website need an SSL certificate?, for details of our SSL certification service.

If you are interested in this service and require further information, please complete the form below.
Alternatively you can talk to one of our friendly advisors on 020 8466 7222 or email [email protected]

We’d love to keep you updated with latest news, trends and exclusive offers related to our services.

Please let us know if you would like to receive information in the future, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yes please, I would like to receive information in the future from Cleverbox.No thanks. I do not wish to receive information in the future from Cleverbox.

We’ll always treat your data with the utmost care and will never sell your data to other companies, it’s part of our Privacy Policy.