SSL certification at FutureQuest — and how to redirect or migrate — your former "not secure" http address to a "secure" https designation — a step-by-step "how to" guide

© 2019 Peter Free


03 March 2019



Caveat — this post is for a limited audience


It concerns redirecting existing "not secure" (http) website addresses to "secure" (https) locations.


The following specifics regard websites hosted by FutureQuest.



Any extended applicability, Pete?


Because FutureQuest's Command 'N' Control panel — called a c-panel by most other hosts — is configured differently than most, some specifics in what follows will not be accurate for other hosts.


That said, the following steps may nevertheless give you a general idea of what you need to do to shift your website, hosted somewhere else, from "not secure" to "secure".



Regarding my lack of IT credentials


I'm an IT bonehead, although proficient in a number of other technically demanding occupations.


I wrote what follows after becoming irritated that most of the online guidance regarding this subject is either incomplete, wrong, or simply not understandable.


People proficient in IT appear to avoid the redirection subject as being too simplistic. IT ignoramuses like me seem to avoid it as being above vastly above our station.


Let's change that in just this one, very narrow instance.



General statement of the problem that "we" trying to fix


At the beginning of the year, Google Chrome started putting a "not secure" advisement next to http website names.


It did not matter whether the website in question involved the transfer of personal information or money. Every non-SSL certified site got the warning attached to its browser URL.


This means that every time someone goes looking for your website, it pops up with a metaphorically big "not secure" advisement next to your URL address.




Essentially, Google's tactic forces http sites to convert to https ones.


If you do not, Google drops your http site down-page in its SEO rankings.


Double ouch.



Step 1 — get an SSL certificate


GlobalSign has done an outstanding job of explaining what an SSL certificate is, here.


And FutureQuest makes obtaining an SSL certificate easy. They have automated the process for existing customers. Certification costs only $20.


This fee is one time only. Furthermore, FutureQuest automatically renews the certificate every 90 days at no charge. Can't beat that.


For the curious, FutureQuest's certification automation uses a free SSL encryption service provided by Let's Encrypt.



How to begin SSL certification


Go to your FutureQuest Command 'N' Control panel.


Find "QuestAdmin" at the bottom of the left side menu. Click on it.


Your click will take you to this link.


Once you are logged in there, a submit click takes you to another page.


Look for the "Services" menu. It is in the middle top of the page.


Find "Place a new order" — and click on it.


As I recall, the following page provides you with the choice of getting an SSL encryption certificate. I'm unable to verify my recollection, without submitting a new order.


In any event, letting FutureQuest know what you want to do is hassle-free.



You will be asking FutureQuest to cover two URL addresses with your certification


This so, because people can get to your domain two ways. With or without putting www in front of your domain name.


FutureQuest's order process will ask whether you want both of these avenues to your site certified, or just one.


Choose both. Unless you have some peculiar reason for having one of your URLs show up as "not secure".



After submitting the order — wait an hour or less


In my case, FutureQuest and Let's Encrypt completed the certification process quickly.


After an hour, I saw that the two requested certifications had already posted to my account.



How to check your certification status


Go to the Home page on your Command 'N' Control panel.


Find Certificate Manager. Mine is in the top row of the third-from-left column. Click.


After your SSL certificate has posted, you will see that the next page is now sub-headed "Private Certificate Information".


Let's Encrypt will be listed as the source of the certification.


Click on the "View extended certificate information" line. It is located just below the Let's Encrypt notation.


The next page shows a grayish block of information. If you look toward the bottom content of the gray block, you will see "Subject Alternative Name".


Below that line, you should see two DNSs.


One will be your domain by itself. The other, your www.domain address.


This entry confirms that both domain and www.domain now have https certification.


You can also see the gibberish-like private and public "key" blocks below the gray block of information.


You do not need to do anything with those.



Check to see that your new https URLs work


Type in https://yourdomain. Enter.


Your browser should now take you directly to the new https site. The "not secure" warning will be gone.


Do the same for https://www.yourdomain.


That should also show up with an https designation. Again with no security warning.


You are now ready to begin redirecting your old http sites to the new https ones.



An overview of what you are going to do


Implementing redirection requires inserting a new file — which will contain computer coding — into FutureQuest's file manager's www folder.


To orient yourself, go to File Manager on your Command 'N' Control panel. Click on it.


You may have to verify that you really want to enter the file manager, when the next page pops up. Do so.


File Manager shows the directory (meaning list of contents) for your /big/dom/xyourdomain.


On mine, www is the last-listed folder.


The www folder is going to be your target for placing a newly written file.



The new file will have a specific title


This file's title — .htaccess — is computer language that essentially says:



Servers, look at me and do what I tell you to do — via the coding inside the file that I am naming.



If you screw up the title, or the contents of the file, redirection will not work.


Not only that, an error can result with no one being able to see your website at all.


Don't panic — because . . .



Mistakes can easily be reversed


I am approaching the IT anxiety topic now, so as to assuage fears that one can mistakenly and easily blow up one's website.


If you wrongly title the redirecting (http to https) file — or make errors in the file's coding language — you will immediately afterward delete the mistaken bad file from its FutureQuest location.


After the deletion, things will immediately revert back to what they were before you screwed up.


No worries. At least insofar as you are paying normal attention, during the process.



Two software items that you will need — for creating and placing the new file


First, you need a text editor to write the file with.



Avoid Microsoft Word. It includes hidden metadata that will not work properly in communicating with the computer server world.


Windows folk can use Microsoft Notepad. Mac users, TextEdit. There are also a host of other choices.


The text editing part of the redirection process will not pose problems for anyone accustomed to writing documents with a word processor.



Second, you will need an FTP client. Or preferably a "secure" sFTP client. The latter encrypts traffic to and from your website. The former does not.



An FTP client will allow you to upload your redirecting file to your website's www folder at FutureQuest.



Unlike text editors, FTP and sFTP clients may pose "how to use them" confusion for people who are not familiar with those kinds of software. But you can easily stumble to enough familiarity with an FTP client, to use it successfully for our purposes here.


Patience is the key.



Choosing an FTP (or sFTP) client


Most of website owners already have an FTP client. These are arguably necessary for efficiently managing what is on your websites. As well as what you have stored in the cloud.


Probably best known among FTP clients is FileZilla's free version. I have used it a number of times on a Windows system and liked it.


Unfortunately, FileZilla's free version comes with advertising malware built into it. My Mac's added virus protection program will not let me open it.


There are many alternative choices.


If you are on a Mac, Cyberduck (free) and Transmit (free trial) seem to work well. I prefer Transmit to Cyberduck, which once I had difficulty getting to do something FileZilla could do in its sleep. That difficulty probably lay me with, rather than with Cyberduck. ForkLift 3 (free trial) is also a favorite with online reviewers.


For our task today, if you are new to FTP clients, check a few online reviews and then pick a client that seems workable.


Note that these clients vary markedly among user interfaces. Some are so simplified that they inadvertently reverse intuitiveness. I would rather have something more visually complicated, which at least makes navigation a little more obvious.


Beware also, not knowing which defaults are built into the program you choose.


For example, yesterday, I double-clicked on a file in Transmit. I thought that a double click would open the file. Instead, Transmit immediately uploaded the file to FutureQuest.


In tracking down why this had happened, I discovered that the trial version's default position was set that way. That's backwards from commonly accepted file-handling procedures. Why would Transmit's designers turn an accepted procedure on its head, by default, and thereby produce a potentially undesirable action result?


Transmit's foible in doing this is indicative of the lack of common sense that occasionally characterizes every popular FTP client that I have experimented with.


If you do not have an FTP client already, you may have to decide which forms of occasional obtuseness you can live with.



Writing the redirecting file — and putting its coding into proper ASCII (plain text) format


Open your text editor.


If this is Windows Notepad, you are ready to begin. As I understand it, Notepad saves files directly into the required ASCII format.


Mac's TextEdit does not. You will need to go to the menu bar heading that is labeled TextEdit. Click.


In the box that shows up, choose the Format circle labeled "Plain text".


Looking ahead, plan to save your TextEdit file with a dot txt designation. Like this:






Writing the redirection file — proper coding


Your FutureQuest redirecting file is going to be composed entirely — and exclusivelyof the following text:



RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80

RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]



Do not make changes.


You do not need to put any specific website identifiers into it.


The above code works exactly as it is written.


I mention this because — if you have already done Internet searches regarding how to accomplish http to https redirection (migration) — you will have come across a wide variety of coding that does specify which domains are to be redirected.


Do not follow those examples. Because your coding originates from inside your www directory, FutureQuest's servers know which website is being controlled.



Naming and saving the redirecting file


This is where the process becomes a little unintuitively cumbersome. Because dots in cumputerese mean something, you generally cannot routinely dot-name a file.


FutureQuest suggests a way of getting around this issue, here.


Following this guidance, I named my redirection file — htaccess.txt — without a dot.


I saved it to my computer desktop, where there is less clutter. The lack of clutter makes it easier for me and (figuratively) the FTP client to spot.


Keep in mind that your computer command is eventually going to be named — .htaccess — with the dot and without a txt extension.


However for now, by uploading htaccess.txt (using your FTP client), you will be keeping the file comparatively innocuous, until it is exactly where you want it to be.



Before uploading your redirecting file — make sure that there are no other .htaccess files in your FutureQuest directory


If there are, you will need to figure out what they do.


Then, you will either have to delete them, or subordinate them to the one you intend to upload.


FutureQuest provides partial guidance about doing those things, here.



A possibly helpful aside — about the process of finding .htaccess files


I mentioned earlier that FutureQuest's Command 'N' Control panel is differently configured, when compared to other server hosts. Finding .htaccess files is one aspect of this difference.


At HostGator and BlueHost (insofar as I know) — to name a representative two — these files are customarily hidden. I think that's the common practice across much of the industry. At those hosts, you will need to select their c-panels' show-hidden-files option.


This difference is what confused me in looking for pre-existing .htaccess files at FutureQuest.


I could not find any, and I assumed that they were concealed. But there was no "show hidden files" menu button in File Manager. For quite a while, I thought that I was missing something that I needed to find.


I mention this because old entries in FutureQuest's Knowledgebase implicitly suggest that finding an existing .htaccess file lets one know:



(a) what to erase or add to




(b) where to put your newly created .htaccess file.



I had been unsure whether my redirecting file was supposed to go into the www directory, or into the /big/dom/xdomain directory containing the subordinate www folder. Finding an old .htaccess file would have cleared this question up.


In summary, for our purpose today, we can assume that pertinent .htaccess files in FutureQuest's File Manager will be in plain sight. And preexisting others of immediate concern will already be in your www folder.


Because my www folder had no preexisting .htaccess files, this aside ends here.



Open the FTP client that you have chosen


I usually open two panes. On the left is my local computer. On the right is the FutureQuest /big/dom/xdomain directory.


Connect the FTP client to FutureQuest.


You will need your server's address (a string of numbers in most cases).


Here, I am going to assume that you routinely connect to FutureQuest and understand the process. It is very simple.


In the local (home computer) pane, select the htaccess.txt (on the desktop) file that you have just created.


On the right (showing the remote server), you can choose your www directory at FutureQuest. It is listed as a folder under /big/dom/xdomain directory.


Transfer (upload) the htaccess.txt file.


You may have to look around the FTP client's user interface (or help section) to see how this is activated. Some clients have a visible transmit "queue" and others do not.



Go to FutureQuest's File Manager — find your uploaded redirection file


In my case (and using two different FTP clients for try-out purpose), my file went into the /big/dom/xdomain directory. Rather than into that directory's www folder.


This was actually helpful. It made initially finding and the uploaded file much easier from among that short master directory. My subordinate www folder, in contrast, has close to 2,000 webpage files in it.


The uploaded htaccess.tx file was sitting just under the www folder, inside the /big/dom/xdomain directory.


Now, you have two choices:



rename and move the file to the www folder




move — and only afterward — rename it.



I chose the latter course. Again, on the hypothesis that I would rather have an active redirection file begin working, when it was already in its proper destination folder.


If you do it my cautious sluggard's way, check the small box next to the uploaded htaccess.txt file.


Look for the row of icons at the top of your /big/dom/xdomain directory.


If you hover your mouse cursor over these, a box will pop up to indicate what each icon does.


Choose the icon that shows a blue-topped folder with a green arrow (pointing right) at the bottom. This is the "move files" icon. Click it.


The next webpage will ask you which destination folder you want to move the file to. Write www in the blank box.


Click the submit box.


This moves the file.



Open your www folder — find the file that you just moved there


The www folder is alphabetically ordered. Scroll down to its H group of files names.


Click in the little box next to the htaccess.txt file to choose it.


Look for the icon row at the top of the www directory. Find the "rename" icon. It shows a page with a vertical bar splitting it. Click on it.


A new webpage shows up. On its left is the htaccess.txt filename. On the right, is a box in which you can write the new file name.


In the new-name box, write:






That's all.


This puts the necessary dot at the beginning of the name. And it drops that txt extension that would otherwise keep the instruction from working as it should.



Testing what you have done


Open your computer browser. Type your domain's name only — without http or https or anything else — in the URL box. Hit enter.


If everything went well, https//:yourdomain will open up.


The "not secure" warning will be absent.


You're done.





If something went wrong — the following things might happen


If redirection fails in an uncomplicated way, your old http site will show up. Along with its "not secure" notification.




Worse, you may get an "internal server error" advisement.  For practical purposes, your website is now inaccessible via a browser.





What to do about errors


Find the (moved and renamed) .htaccess file in your FutureQuest www directory.


It will be the first file under the www directory's list of folders.


Delete the .htaccess file. To do this, check its little box and find the delete icon at the top of the page.


The delete icon has a blue top and a red circle on it. Click the offending file into computer perdition.



Check to see that the damage that the improper file caused has been fixed


Enter your domain name — again without http or anything else — in your browser's URL box. Hit enter.


You should be back to where you were, before you changed anything. Meaning that your old http website shows up with its "not secure" advisement.



Figuring out what went wrong — check file name and file contents


An error in naming your .htaccess file will be obvious.


Remember that it needs to be:






and nothing else.


Was the .htaccess file in the www folder as it was supposed to be?


Probably yes, if you were paying attention and able to find and delete it.


This leaves either:



the file's text format




the file's contents.



Recall that the file has to be written in plain (ASCII) text.


On a Mac, you need to go to TextEdit's preferences to ensure that "Plain text" rather than "Rich text" is selected.


Recall, too, that the coding inside the file needs to look exactly like this:



RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80

RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]



As of today (03 March 2019), this code works perfectly.



The good thing is


No matter how often we mess the redirection process up, we can keep deleting our mistakes.


Trashing those erroneous file(s) happily gets us back to our original http starting point.



Another comment


When you have the redirection process working, any new material that you load onto your FutureQuest hosted website will also be appropriately redirected from http to https.



The moral? — Keep trying, until the above procedure works


If you run into trouble, contact FutureQuest's service desk.


Their staff is admirably prompt and helpful in responding.


Note that I am not affiliated with FutureQuest. But I have had hosted there for years.