The Complete Guide to Redirecting Your Website from HTTP to HTTPS

As web encryption continues its broad adoption across the internet, migrating websites from unsecure HTTP to encrypted HTTPS has become a mandatory step for administrators and site owners alike.

According to W3Techs, as of February 2023, 82.7% of all websites now support HTTPS compared to just 45.9% in January 2018 – evidence the transition is well underway. Google is also pushing this trend, explicitly recommending the switch to HTTPS and using it as a positive search ranking signal. Their Chrome browser even calls out HTTP sites as "not secure" to place further pressure on lagging websites.

Industry experts like Troy Hunt have urged universally moving to HTTPS for enhanced security and privacy. In this article, we’ll explore popular techniques site owners use to seamlessly redirect HTTP traffic to HTTPS – a necessary step to reallocate all visitor connections to encrypted channels and achieve 100% HTTPS coverage.

Why Migrate from HTTP to HTTPS? Defending Against Emerging Threats

To understand the importance of switching from HTTP to HTTPS, we must first recognize the new types of attacks impacting sites that fail to upgrade connections to Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption.

Unencrypted HTTP website traffic can be easily intercepted by hackers using what‘s known as a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. With this technique, invaders insert themselves between a visitor’s browser and the originating server, letting them view, modify, and redirect this sensitive data to nefarious ends before it reaches the intended destination.

Research shows encrypted HTTPS traffic featuring up-to-date ciphers can effectively block such MITM attacks, preventing snooping and tampering. This protects privacy and prevents malicious actions like injecting malware payloads into site content before delivery.

Further risks like domain impersonation and outdated cryptographic protocols also threaten sites without modern TLS implementations. Migrating to the stronger server authentication and improved algorithms under HTTPS mitigates these rising concerns as well.

There’s also growing demand for encryption from internet users themselves expecting such baseline privacy protections.

Given these trends, we examine popular methods for website owners to redirect existing HTTP traffic to secured HTTPS connections.

10 Popular Techniques for Seamless HTTP to HTTPS Redirection

1. Apache mod_rewrite Rule in .htaccess

For websites hosted on Apache servers, the mod_rewrite module can insert rules into .htaccess configuration files to forward HTTP requests to HTTPS automatically.

This is a simple redirect method requiring only a few lines of code:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI}

Here’s how to implement the Apache .htaccess rewrite rule:

  1. Using a text editor, open the .htaccess file located in your document root folder
  2. Check that the line RewriteEngine On is uncommented to enable mod_rewrite capabilities
  3. Add the RewriteCond and RewriteRule lines shown above at the end of the file
  4. Save changes and restart the Apache service
  5. Test by browsing to an HTTP link – you should be seamlessly redirected to HTTPS

2. Nginx Return Rule

If your site runs on top of Nginx, similar redirections can be achieved by editing the server block within configuration files – most commonly nginx.conf.

Insert a simple return rule to forward unencrypted requests over to the HTTPS equivalent URL:

return 301 https://$server_name$request_uri; 

To implement:

  1. Open the nginx.conf file (or other config file) on your server
  2. Under the relevant server{ }block, add the above return rule
  3. Save changes and reload Nginx to pick up the new configuration
  4. Verify HTTP to HTTPS redirection works correctly

3. Cloudflare Flexible Page Rules

Cloudflare operates as a reverse proxy CDN, allowing sites to easily leverage features like free TLS certificates without server-level software installations.

Page rules built into Cloudflare dashboards let you force redirects to HTTPS for your entire site:

  1. Browse to the Page Rules section of the Cloudflare dash
  2. Create new page rule to cover entire domain using * wildcard
  3. Add setting to always use HTTPS via the dropdown menu
  4. Click save and deploy to activate this site-wide redirect

After deploying the page rule, Cloudflare will automatically shift any HTTP traffic over to encrypted HTTPS without needing individual server configuration.

4. cPanel Shared Hosting with .htaccess

Many shared hosting providers run the cPanel control panel interface. Like the raw Apache examples covered earlier, .htaccess rules can again accomplish HTTP to HTTPS redirects:

  1. Start a file manager session in cPanel and navigate to public_html
  2. Edit the .htaccess file present here, likely named .htaccess.txt
  3. Add the three line mod_rewrite rule shared previously
  4. Click save, then browse to an HTTP link to confirm redirection works

This simplicity makes .htaccess methods accessible even for beginners with cPanel shared hosting accounts.

5. Sucuri Web Application Firewall

Sucuri’s website protection products include a free SSL certificate option. Their firewall offering can be configured to bind this cert and redirect all HTTP traffic to encrypted HTTPS:

  1. On the Sucuri customer dashboard, browse to Site Security Settings
  2. Under SSL Settings choose ‘Full SSL’
  3. Also enable ‘HTTPS – Strict Mode’ redirection setting
  4. Click Update Settings to apply this configuration site-wide

Repeat testing confirms the Sucuri WAF seamlessly redirects to HTTPS armed with newly provisioned TLS certs.

6. Kinsta Managed WordPress Hosting

Kinsta caters specifically to managed WordPress hosting clients across Google Cloud Platform data centers. Their dashboard includes simplify toggles to enable HTTP to HTTPS redirects:

  1. Login and access MyKinsta portal
  2. Navigate to Tools configuration
  3. Scroll to find “Force HTTPS” setting and flip to enabled
  4. Test WordPress site to validate redirects now active

For customers requiring WordPress-tailored hosting, managed services like Kinsta can eliminate complex secure configuration in favor of these simple GUI switches.

7. SiteGround Control Panel Options

Shared host SiteGround packs intuitive HTTPS functionality into customer control panels:

  1. Browse to Site Tools and click your target site
  2. Locate Security tab section
  3. Under HTTPS Enforce toggle the setting on to force redirection
  4. As before test HTTP site access to confirm redirects

Again for less technical users, having user-friendly redirection built into SiteGround streamlines path to encryption.

8. IIS URL Rewrite Module

On Windows servers, the URL Rewrite Module available for IIS enables creating rewrite rules similar to those leveraged on Apache distros:

<rule name="HTTP to HTTPS" enabled="true"> 
    <match url="(.*)" ignoreCase="false" />  
       <add input="{HTTPS}" pattern="off" />
    <action type="Redirect" url="https://{HTTP_HOST}/{R:1}" appendQueryString="true" redirectType="Permanent" />

To implement on IIS:

  1. Download URL Rewrite Module (if not already installed)
  2. Add rule to Web.config file
  3. Reboot IIS server post-configuration
  4. Verify port 443 HTTPS traffic

While less common in hosting environments, IIS powers enough Windows Server installations to warrant mention.

9. Web.config Rules

In cases where deploying directly to IIS configuration files lacks feasibility, the application root Web.config file provides an alternative insertion point for rewrite rules on Microsoft stacks:

            <rule name="Force HTTPS" enabled="true">   
                <match url="(.*)" ignoreCase="false" />
                    <add input="{HTTPS}" pattern="off" />
                <action type="Redirect" url="https://{HTTP_HOST}/{R:1}" appendQueryString="true" redirectType="Permanent" />

10. HAProxy Map Redirect

For sites utilizing the HAProxy load balancer, map declarations provide flexibility to create conditional redirects based on matching criteria:

http-request set-map-regex:\s
         "(.*)":\s"https://%[hdr(host)]/s" if METH_GET !{ ssl_fc }

This will redirect non-encrypted HTTP traffic to HTTPS for all GET requests.

Step-by-Step Confirming Complete HTTPS Functionality

Once HTTP to HTTPS redirection rules are deployed, additional validation is required to guarantee complete website encryption:

Mixed Content Checker

Run your site through the Mixed Content Checker to identify any non-secured resources still loaded over HTTP. For full protection these assets need to be converted to HTTPS requests as well.

Verify HSTS Headers

Check that HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) headers are active post-redirect to inform browsers to avoid accessing via HTTP indefinitely and mitigate SSL stripping attacks.

Analyze Traffic in Browser Dev Tools

Open browser developer tools and monitor network traffic to confirm encrypted lock icons appear for all sites resources and no remaining HTTP connections.

Impact of HTTPS Migration on User Experience

End users will briefly see redirects occurring when browsing to HTTP URLs, so performance is important to avoid disruptions. Some guiding principles:

  • Use only 301 permanent redirects – This cryptographically conveys to the browser not to cache HTTP versions in favor of remembering the HTTPS counterpart directly.

  • Front cache pages with Cloudflare – Caching mechanisms reduce roundtrip latency when redirects are triggered during first visits.

  • Evaluate page load speed effects – In rare cases, TLS encryption adds a slight processing overhead. Measure after migrations using PageSpeed or WebPageTest to catch unexpected impacts.

  • Weigh transition effects on visitors – Some first-time users may have bookmarked old HTTP links now broken. Consider notification banners alerting them to updated HTTPS site URLs.

Scaling Universal HTTPS Across Large Sites

While basic HTTP to HTTPS redirection is straightforward for individual sites, large enterprises maintaining hundreds of domains and subdomains face added complexity when standardizing TLS security policies.

Specific challenges arise when transitioning large web properties like:

  • Multiple top-level domains under one organization
  • Numerous subdomains with independent infrastructure
  • Mixed IT environments blending cloud and on-prem nodes
  • Staggered technology upgrade cycles spread across divisions

In these cases HTTPS deployment demands tightly coordinated load balancer configuration between networking teams to correctly forward traffic while avoiding instability from component change cadence mismatches.

Special consideration should be given to enabling HTTPStrictTransportSecurity (HSTS) preloading to encompass all first and third-party cookie domains at once. Pinning domain inclusions via Chrome or Firefox submission promotes visitor privacy but may require gradual rollout.

Ongoing Best Practices for HTTPS Websites

While redirecting from HTTP to HTTPS accomplishes the vital step of universal encryption, site owners must remain vigilant even after migration:

  • Enforce regular TLS auditing using tools like to catch newly discovered vulnerabilities like Heartbleed
  • Continuously upgrade cipher suites as browsers Deprecate outdated protocols in favor of stronger ones
  • Consider certificate authority choices to balance cost, compliance terms, and ability to support future TLS 1.3 needs

Proactively monitoring for protocol weakness, looming browser rejections, and subdomain inconsistencies allows organizations to sustain long-term HTTPS integrity and security posture improvements.

Migrating from HTTP to HTTPS need not be a daunting or expensive prospect given the techniques detailed here – all viable stepping stones small to large site owners can implement.

As encryption becomes the norm rather than exception moving forward, these methods will grow ever more prescient. Google is even now driving adoption of HTTP/3 featuring the new QUIC transport protocol built wholly upon TLS 1.3 – proving unencrypted traffic’s days are surely numbered.

Equipped with this practical knowledge, websites owners can seamlessly redirect existing visitors to secured HTTPS channels – playing their own role in collectively advancing the internet to pervasive encryption one redirection at a time.