A few days back I made an attempt at installing SSL to my WordPress site hosted on Hostgator (Shared Hosting). If you don’t know what SSL is, it stands for Secure Sockets Layer and basically encrypts the connection between the user and your host server. Sites with SSL show a green https:// instead of http:// in the URL bar. It is a must if you are receiving sensitive data from users (like credit card information) on your website. But even if you have a simple site an HTTPS will give a sense of additional security to the user which is good. Moreover Google has officially said it MAY give ranking benefits to sites with SSL. I found these reasons sufficient enough to install SSL on my site.
Now it was time to research on price. the prices of SSLs range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. The green box with company name that you see on the URL bars of some reputed sites cost hundreds of dollars and require verification of website and organization. But obviously I didn’t want that. I just wanted a damn green lock sign and https in my URL, that was all. So, I started looking for the cheapest SSL. To my surprise there were SSL certificates available for less than $5. The average price of the most basic SSL was approx. $10. But then I got to know that Hostgator doesn’t allow you to install SSL on shared hosting plan. But.. But they can do it for you if you pay them $10. If you don’t want to pay them $10 you can buy the SSL certificate directly from them as well. Now, Hostgator sells the same $10 SSL certificate (Comodo Positive SSL) at $50. You also need to purchase a dedicated IP to run SSL properly otherwise some browsers will give unsafe content warning showing red crossed HTTPS in the URL which definitely you don’t want. For the dedicated IP Hostgator will charge you $2 per month.
So if you buy the SSL from some other company and got it installed by Hostgator guys it would have cost me $44 ($10+$10+$24) for the first year and $34 per year afterwards. And if you buy it from Hostgator it will cost you $74 ($50+$24) per year. I was worried if this SSL would mess up with my site. So I talked to the Hostgator support. They said that they have a 15 days refund guaranty and will uninstall it if my site had any problem with SSL. This assured me and I decided to buy the SSL from Hostgator for the sake of keeping things simple. I always had the option to move to some other company later; once I was sure things are working fine.
So I asked Hostgator to proceed with the SSL installation on my site. And that was the beginning of a horrible experience. After installing the SSL I changed the code in my .htaccess and wp-config.php file to force redirection to https and also submitted a new sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools. Everything was working smoothly and the http links were redircteing to https. But to my horror later I realized that the SSL had conflicts with two important plugins on my website – Woocommerce and WP Super Cache. The Woocommerce cart was not updating and was showing empty even after adding the product to cart. The site was also having problems with caching and was loading terribly slow.
I chatted with Hostgator support several times and they showed no interest in helping me out. They gave me answers like ‘we have finished the installation on our part. Woocommerce and WP Super Cache are third party plugins and we can’t provide you any help with them. After trying for more than 24 hours to resolve the issue I finally gave up and asked them to uninstall the SSL. To my surprise they bluntly refused that there was any 15 day refund warranty on SSL. They said they were no such warranty and I was making this up. They uninstalled the SSL but billed me for $52. I was really infuriated. Meanwhile the problem had worsened. In those two days Google had indexed the Https URLs of my site and was displaying them in the search. But since now the SSL was installed the links from Google were leading to error 404 pages. I asked for help on Stackoverflow and was told by experts that I can’d do a HTTPS to HTTP redirect unless I have SSL installed on my website. So, now I had no way except waiting for Google to reindex my old HTTP URLs. I submitted the new sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools and also used the ‘Fetch as Google’ tool in attempt to fasten the process. It took more than 4 days for Google to reindex the old URLs of the website. But there are still some pages that are appearing as HTTPS in search results and leading to 404 page. Meanwhile I created a support ticket to remove the billing for the SSL but there was no response for 5 days. And their website says the maxing waiting period for support tickets is 72 hours! I twitted about this issue to Hostgatoer Twitter handle and they removed the bill after a few hours. Overall it was a really pathetic experience with Hostgator SSL. So far I had been very satisfied with them. This was the first time they really frustrated me. I would say they are good for web hosting but avoid Hostgator SSL service like plague.