According to Greg Apel, a web developer with 16+ years’ experience, “Many people mistakenly think that ‘making your site secure’ means simply buying an SSL certificate and you’re done. That’s not the case.” Apel continued, “Unfortunately, hosting companies aren’t helping. A hosting company recently contacted me and tried to sell me an SSL certificate for one of my domains. I informed the sales rep that he’s misleading consumers [by failing to tell business owners that they need more than a certificate]. That’s not fair to unsuspecting business owners that don’t know any better.”
Unfortunately, switching to a secure site involves more than just purchasing a certificate. It is a technical process that requires a lot of steps and a large investment of time and planning.
Here are just a few of the things you need to do to move from HTTP to HTTPS:
Database pattern changes: All instances of database entries containing the string pattern “http://” must be changed to “https://”.
CSS/PHP hard-coded http:// patterns: There may be instances where codes in CSS and PHP files have hard-coded http:// strings instead of variables representing the transfer protocol. These may need to be manually edited and uploaded back to the server for the site to function properly.
.htaccess mod-rewrite: The .htaccess file is where instructions are written and tells the server how to handle URL strings.
.htaccess 301: 301 redirects are placed in the .htaccess file in old/new URL pairs separated by new lines for each entry.
SSL certificate change, server config, WordPress config: Log into the domain host, select the certificate that changes the IP address of the website, ensure the server is properly configured for the change, modify any settings in WordPress and install an SSL plugin.
Domain propagation/resource monitoring: This involves watching for the domain change to fully propagate (go live) — which could take up to 48 hours — and checking the website for resources (images, links and so on) that fail to reflect the change to the https:// protocol. Images and files that fail to reflect the change (hyperlinked, hard-coded resources) will generate errors.
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