SSL Certificates: How to Set up Cloudflare’s Free Account
So you need a SSL Certificate. Thanks to Google’s Chrome browser changes, most websites are now adding SSL Certificates. If you want the backstory and a quick overview of what kinds of SSL certificates exists, check out our guide: The Quick Complete Guide for Business Owners: SSL Certificates.
There are a lot of different ways of adding a SSL Certificate to your website, from buying it from your website host (Godaddy, A2hosting, etc.) to installing it yourself. My personal favorite is by using Cloudflare.
There are a few reasons I use Cloudflare with my clients.
First, Cloudflare has a free account option for businesses who are looking for just a basic SSL certificate. There’s no installation setup that you need to do specifically for the SSL certificate. You sign up for the free account, set up the DNS, and your SSL Certificate is issued within 24 hours (see expanded directions below).
Second, Cloudflare’s DNS setup is clean and easy to use. I’ve dealt with numerous setups for DNS – from Godaddy to Network Solutions to Register.com. Out of all the user interfaces I’ve used, I like Cloudflare’s the best.
Third, Cloudflare provides a lot more than just an SSL certificate. They provide analytics, a firewall, minification of files for speed, caching, a CDN, and more. Of course while upgrading can get you better caching/speed, even the free account can be helpful.
How to Set Up Cloudflare’s SSL Certificate
If you’re ready to get started using Cloudflare for your website, the steps are easy!
Step 1: Get a free account. Go to Cloudflare.com and sign up for a new account. Choose a free account to get started.
Step 2: Cloudflare will automatically look at your domain’s settings (DNS settings). This may take a few moments. Once it’s done, Cloudflare will provide new nameservers.
Step 3: Log into your domain registrar’s website (where you pay for your domain). Go to “DNS settings” or “Nameserver settings”. Sometimes these are on the same page, sometimes they found in two different locations. You’ll be changing the Nameservers. If you need a quick overview of these, check out the section at the end of this article.
Double-check your DNS settings before switching the nameservers. Make sure every line on the old DNS settings (that is needed) are in the DNS settings in Cloudflare.
Step 4: Use the custom nameservers that Cloudflare provides and change your current nameservers to the new ones.
For example, your old nameserver might say: NS1.EXAMPLE.COM and NS2.EXAMPLE.COM. You’d change that to the new ones Cloudflare has provided like: BOB.CLOUDFLARE.COM and JUDY.CLOUDFLARE.COM.
Step 5: Wait. Your Nameservers can take anywhere from 2 hours to 48 hours to change throughout the world (propagate). No users will notice this change because you’re copying the DNS Settings you currently have and simply moving them to a different place. It would be like a student having “classroom rules” with a teacher. If the class moves to a different room, the rules stay the same.
Step 6: Once the Dashboard in Cloudflare says your SSL Certificate is ready (usually 24 hours), you can move your site to HTTPS and you’re good to go! Need to know how to move your site to HTTPS? Check out the “Switching Your Site to SSL” section at the bottom of our SSL Guide.
What are Nameservers? These tell your domain name where to look for the DNS settings. They look something like this: NS1.EXAMPLE.COM
What are DNS Settings? DNS Settings are the specific line by line settings that tells computers where parts of your domain where to go. Each line is called a “record”. Want to adjust where your email @yourDomainName goes? These are called “MX Records”. Want to change where your website’s files are? You can change the “A Record”.
Using Cloudflare is only one way to add a SSL Certificate to your site, but with the extras that Cloudflare provides as well as their easy to use interface, it’s my top choice.
Rather not deal with this? You can hire White Fox Creative to do it for you: Send us an email.