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If Your Freelance Writing Site Has Problems With Security Certificates

security certificatesSome of you may have discovered that you got security warnings when you came to this site recently.

I don’t know exactly what happened, but somehow the automatic renewal of my security certificates failed on this site and several others.

It took my host about a day and a half to solve the problem. The time delay was because my host has to work through a third party – the outfit that actually issues security certificates. It was their queue that was  causing problems.

What’s up with security certificates anyway?

It may help to tell you that sometime early in 2017 Google started requiring sites that collect ‘sensitive’ information to be secured. That security, which among other things, adds an ‘s’ to the http portion of the web address, is handled through  security certificates – one for each site. Without that certificate in place, Google and other search engines throw up a warning suggesting you not stay on the site lest you open yourself to having your password stolen, etc.

The idea is great – adding https to a web address adds some real safety for the folks who say sign up for a newsletter or other information or buy something through this site. But it isn’t always easy or straight forward.

Most web hosts offer a free security certificate which is sufficient for any site not doing a huge volume of transactions or transactions that are very expensive and therefor a bigger target. Normally you just have to sign up your site, but sometimes to get security certificates to work properly extra steps have to be taken – let your host advise you.

When security certificates break your site, and other web issues

I doubt there’s a website on the planet that hasn’t had trouble at one time or another. This time it was security certificates for me, but other weirdness happens too. Here’s an approach that will help you when trouble strikes:

Don’t panic – easier said than done, particularly if you’re counting on income from your site. Stay as calm as you can and call your host.

Talking with your host – Remember, the customer support agent you reach didn’t cause the problem. Although hosting companies vary about the quality of their support, they all want their customers’s sites to work. Describe the problem as you understand it, briefly and slowly. Ask if they understand. Be patient, and be willing to ask for a supervisor if you’re not getting results. Threats to move your site won’t work, neither will threats to sue.

Ask questions until you’ve got some clarity – on what’s going to happen when, and what, if anything you need to do at your end.

Let your readers know – I should have sent out a brief newsletter yesterday explaining in simple terms what was happening, why people were getting that error and what I was doing about it. It didn’t occur to me until I woke up in the middle of the night. I decided we all could wait.

Some thoughts on hosting

If you own a website you’re paying someone a monthly or annual fee to host your site. How your host handles customer service, how they help you when there’s a problem is key.

I like my host, BlueHost precisely for that reason. (Their prices are also great.) Their customer service is excellent. It’s all based here in the United States and as near as I can tell every one of the reps has a love of websites and a pretty deep knowledge of them too. They aren’t operating off a script, and I don’t have to fight to understand a foreign accent. Yes, that’s not a very politically progressive statement, but I’ve learned to live with my own inconsistencies.

BlueHost isn’t the only good – maybe great – webhost. Be particular in your choice. If you don’t get the service you should, move – it’s far less trouble to move a site to a new host than it is to put up with poor customer service.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman freelance writer

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