Businesses worldwide have realized the significance of SSL certificates and the benefits that come with them are secure data transmission, compliance, SEO advantage, and the list goes on. Despite being aware of its benefits, people don’t realize what it takes to pick the right one. As a result, only a fraction of the websites running on SSL certificates is indeed secure.
Unfortunately, many website owners go with the basic SSL that comes free with the web hosting plan. That leaves a larger part of the website unencrypted and vulnerable to security breaches. The key is to pick the right type of SSL certificate and make sure it has all the features necessary to secure your entire website.
We know how tough it can be to choose the right SSL certificate from the options available, especially when it boils down to Multi-domain SSL Certificate vs. Wildcard SSL Certificate. If you are overwhelmed trying to figure out what these are or which one to choose, read on. In this article, we shall discuss everything you need to know to make an informed decision, so let’s get started.
Understanding a Wildcard SSL Certificate
A Wildcard SSL certificate refers to the one used to encrypt multiple subdomains of a particular domain name. By domain name, we mean www.MySite.com, and so if you also own www.MySite.net, it would be counted as a separate domain name. The reason is the difference in domain extensions, ‘.com’ and ‘.net.’ Therefore, the two would be considered independent of each other, meaning two different websites, and each would require a separate Wildcard SSL certificate.
A point to note is that a Wildcard SSL certificate can only encrypt subdomains on a particular level but not on multiple levels. Let us understand that with an illustration. If John owns www.JohnSite.com and installs a Wildcard SSL certificate, it will only encrypt subdomains such as login.JohnSite.com, payments.JohnSite.com, cart.JohnSite.com, and so on.
This is because the Wildcard SSL is issued to *. JohnSite.com, in which the asterisk is called the wildcard character and can be replaced with anything. However, John could not use the same Wildcard SSL certificate to encrypt jill.login.JohnSite.com or me.login.JohnSite.com because the subdomain is on another level. As the Wildcard SSL is issued to *. JohnSite.com, only the asterisk can be replaced with a subdomain.
From the SEO and cybersecurity perspective, getting even the Cheapest wildcard SSL certificate would be far better than using a freebie. As most websites prefer to use different development techniques to optimize their websites for mobile devices (often, on a separate subdomain), Wildcard SSL Certificate works exceptionally well. Another alternative would be to install a separate domain-validated SSL certificate for each subdomain. However, that would be expensive and difficult to manage.
What is a Multi-Domain SSL Certificate?
The multi-domain SSL certificates are also referred to as unified communications certificates (UCC), so both these terms mean the same thing. As the name implies, it lets the user encrypt multiple domain names with a single certificate, making it easier to manage multiple websites.
The most popular type is the Extension Validated Multi-domain SSL certificate, which provides detailed validation and a third-party’s trust seal. It works exceptionally well for businesses having multiple brands or operating across two or more verticals because it eliminates the delay in verifying and issuing multiple SSL certificates.
Also, e-commerce sites and other businesses operating in two or more countries can encrypt their websites. Usually, such companies prefer to use country-specific domain extensions for SEO purposes, so using a single multi-domain SSL can solve many problems. It is cost-efficient, easy to manage, and comes with a host of other benefits. You can also use it to encrypt subdomains by classifying them as Subject Alternative Name (SAN). So, it is two for the price of one.
Multi-Domain SSL Certificate vs. Wildcard SSL Certificate
As you may have realized by now, the multi-domain and wildcard are add-on features to the regular SSL Certificate types that are available – still confused? No problem! Let us sort it out together and pick the one that’s right for your website. We shall now discuss some of the key factors based on selecting an appropriate SSL Certificate.
Multiple Domains vs. Subdomains
The Multi-domain SSL certificate covers multiple domains and subdomains, making it ideal for businesses to expand operations. On the other hand, website owners with no intention of using a second domain can go for a Wildcard SSL Certificate. Furthermore, those having cross-border operations also need a multi-domain SSL certificate to encrypt multiple country-specific domain extensions.
Limited Domain Names vs. Unlimited Subdomains
The single most significant drawback of the multi-domain SSL certificate is the limited number of domains (including subdomains classified as SAN) which you can encrypt with it. This is not the case with the Wildcard SSL certificate, which lets you encrypt any number of single-level subdomains attached to the same primary domain.
One of the most significant advantages of having a wildcard SSL certificate is that you don’t have to worry about adding or deleting subdomains throughout the certificate’s validity. This isn’t the case for multi-domain SSL certificates because every time you wish to add a domain or a subdomain, it requires re-issuance.
When it comes to security, never overlook that to save a few dollars. Else you could end up losing much more. However, if that’s a critical factor in determining which SSL certificate you must choose, then here’s the answer. As you may have figured out, the Wildcard SSL certificate is cheaper than the multi-domain SSL certificate as it secures unlimited first-level subdomains without any additional costs.
Compatibility with SSL Certificate types
It is a well-known fact that there are three types of SSL Certificates — domain validated (DV), organization validated (OV), or individual validated (IV), and extension validated (EV) SSL certificates. You will find the Wildcard feature with the DV and OV or IV SSL certificates, while the multi-domain feature comes along with all types of certificates.
Most security breaches occur due to network issues as miscreants use these vulnerabilities to break into private networks and intercept confidential data. This possibility and the risks that follow make it essential for website owners to invest in the most appropriate SSL certificate. You may not find this easy unless you are a techie because of the highly technical differences. Therefore, we attempted to simplify this for you in layman’s terms.
You must remember that all types of SSL certificates provide 256-bit encryption and the 2048-bit signature. However, the extent to which each SSL type secures your website is different. Thus, it would help if you made a choice based on your current and future requirements. Therefore, choosing an SSL certificate must be a well-thought and carefully planned decision. It would be best to look into many things before making a choice, and the price is definitely on the bottom of that list.