If you have a website, you probably know that you need an SSL certificate to secure it. (If you’re not sure why every website needs an SSL certificate, learn more about the benefits here.) But do you know what an SSL certificate is and how it works? And more importantly, do you know how to choose the right one for your website?
An SSL certificate is a digital file that encrypts the connection between your website and your visitors’ browsers. It also verifies your website’s identity and prevents hackers from impersonating it. An SSL certificate is essential for protecting your website’s data, reputation, and ranking.
But not all SSL certificates are the same. There are different types of SSL certificates based on the number of domains or subdomains they cover and the level of validation they require. Choosing the right one depends on your needs, budget, and goals.
We will cover the following topics:
- What single-domain, wildcard, multi-domain, and unified communications certificates are.
- What domain validation, organization validation, and extended validation certificates are.
- How to compare the features, benefits, and costs of different types of SSL certificates.
By the end of this blog, you will have a clearer understanding of what the different types of SSL certificates are and how to choose the right one for you. Let’s get started!
Unlocking the World of SSL Certificates: Which One Fits Your Website Best?
SSL certificates play a crucial role in keeping our online activities secure. They ensure that the data transmitted between a website and its users is encrypted and protected from unauthorized access or theft. However, with so many types of SSL certificates available in the marketplace, it can be challenging to choose the one that fits your website’s specific needs. Understanding what the different types of SSL certificates are and their appropriate usage is the first step in choosing one that is right for your website.
Single-Domain SSL Certificate
As the name suggests, a Single-Domain SSL certificate is a type of digital security certificate that is designed to secure a single domain, such as example.com. It cannot be used for any subdomains, such as blog.example.com or shop.example.com. It uses encryption technology to establish a secure connection between the website and its users, and protecting sensitive data from being intercepted or stolen by hackers. Single-domain SSL certificates are ideal for small websites or online businesses that only have one domain and they are relatively easy to install and manage. They are also cost-effective, making them a popular choice for individuals or organizations with limited budgets.
Wildcard SSL Certificate
A Wildcard SSL certificate applies to one domain and all its subdomains with a single certificate. Unlike a single-domain certificate that protects one specific domain, a wildcard SSL certificate uses a wildcard character (*) to secure any subdomains that match the specified pattern. For example, a wildcard SSL certificate for *.example.com would secure subdomains such as blog.example.com, shop.example.com, and mail.example.com. This makes wildcard certificates an ideal choice for websites with multiple subdomains that require encryption and security. They simplify the management of SSL certificates and reduce the cost of purchasing individual ones for each subdomain, saving you time and money.
Multi-Domain SSL Certificates
Also known as a Subject Alternative Name (SAN) certificate, the Multi-Domain SSL certificate is a unique type of SSL certificate that secures multiple domain names and subdomains, such as example.com, example.net, and blog.example.com, with a single certificate. They are ideal for organizations with multiple websites or online services that require encryption and security. With a multi-domain certificate, you can secure up to 100 domains with one certificate, depending on the provider. Additionally, multi-domain SSL certificates are easy to manage, as they can be updated and renewed in one place, simplifying the SSL certificate management process.
Unified Communications Certificate
A Unified Communications certificate (UCC), another type of SAN certificate, is a specialized SSL certificate designed specifically for use with Microsoft Exchange Server and Office Communications Server environments. A UCC allows you to secure multiple domains, subdomains, and public IP addresses with a single certificate, making it a great choice for organizations that use Microsoft Exchange Server or Office Communications Server to manage their email, messaging, and conferencing services. In addition to securing email and messaging services, UCCs also support secure voice and video communication, providing end-to-end encryption for all forms of online communication.
The table below summarizes the main differences between these types of SSL certificates:
|Type||Number of Domains||Number of Subdomains||Use Cases|
|Single-Domain||1||0||Simple websites that do not use subdomains.|
|Wildcard||1||Unlimited||Websites that have multiple subdomains under the same domain.|
|Multi-Domain||Up to 100||0||Websites that have different domains but want to share the same certificate.|
|UCC||Up to 100||Up to 100||Microsoft Exchange and Office Communications servers.|
Certify Your Website: Understanding the Different Levels of SSL Certificate Validation
The second part of considering which SSL certificate to purchase involves the level of validation it provides. The level of validation refers to how much information the certificate authority (CA) checks before issuing the certificate. There are three levels of validation: domain validation (DV), organization validation (OV), and extended validation (EV). Let’s take a closer look at what each type of validation entails, and help you understand which level is best suited for your website.
This is the most basic level of SSL certificate validation. The CA only needs to verify that you own the domain name that you want to secure. This is typically done by sending an email to the domain owner or by adding a specific DNS record to the domain. Once the verification process is complete, the CA will issue a DV certificate for your domain. DV certificates are easy to obtain and are typically the least expensive type of SSL certificate. However, they provide the lowest level of security and do not provide any information about the organization behind the website. As such, they are best suited for personal blogs or small websites that don’t collect sensitive information.
An OV certificate requires a more thorough vetting of the organization behind the website. To obtain an OV certificate, the CA will verify the organization’s legal, physical, and operational details, including their name, address, and phone number. The CA will also confirm that they have the right to use the domain name they wish to secure. Once the organization is validated, the CA will issue them a certificate. These certificates offer a higher level of trust and security than DV certificates. They are a good option for small to medium-sized businesses that collect sensitive information, such as customer data, but don’t require the highest level of security.
This type of validation is the highest level of SSL certificate validation available. To obtain an EV certificate, the CA performs a rigorous verification process that includes verifying the legal, physical, and operational details of the organization. They will also verify the identity and authority of the person requesting the certificate. Once the verification process is complete, the CA will issue an EV certificate, which triggers the display of a green address bar in most web browsers. The green address bar is a visual indicator of trust that tells visitors that the website they are visiting is secure and belongs to a legitimate organization. EV certificates provide the highest level of security and trust, making them the best choice for online businesses, financial institutions, and government agencies. However, they are more expensive and require a longer validation process than DV or OV certificates.
The table below summarizes the main differences between these levels of validation:
|Level||Verification Process||Information Displayed||Use Cases|
|DV||Domain ownership or control||Domain name only||Personal websites or blogs|
|OV||Organizational identity and legitimacy||Organization name and location||Business Websites|
|EV||Organization identity, legal status, physical location, and domain ownership||Organization name and country on the address bar with a green padlock icon||E-commerce websites or websites that deal with high-value transactions or sensitive data|
Finding Your Perfect SSL Match: Comparing Certificates to Secure Your Website
With so many different types of SSL certificates and validation levels to choose from, it can be difficult to determine which one is right for your website. Each type of SSL certificate and validation level comes with its own set of features, benefits, and costs. Knowing how to compare SSL certificates will go a long way in finding the perfect match for your website’s specific needs.
When choosing an SSL certificate for your website, there are many factors you need to consider. In addition to ensuring that the certificate provides the appropriate level of security, it’s also important to consider the following factors:
The first thing you need to compare when shopping for an SSL certificate are the features it offers. Here are some of the most common features you should look for:
- Validation level: This refers to how much information the certificate authority verifies about you and your website before issuing the certificate. The higher the validation level, the more trust and credibility you establish with your visitors, but also the more time and money it takes to get the certificate.
- Encryption strength: This refers to how secure the connection between your website and your visitors is. The higher the encryption strength, the harder it is for bad actors to intercept or decrypt the data. The standard encryption strength for SSL certificates is 256-bit, which is considered very secure. However, some certificates may offer higher or lower encryption levels depending on your needs.
- Browser compatibility: This refers to how well the certificate works with different browsers and devices. The higher the browser compatibility, the more likely your visitors will see the padlock icon and the HTTPS protocol in their browser address bar, indicating your website is secure. The best SSL certificates have 99.9% browser compatibility, meaning they work with almost all bowsers and devices.
- Warranty: This refers to how much compensation the CA offers in case of a security breach caused by a faulty certificate. The higher the warranty, the more protection you have in case something goes wrong. Warranties vary depending on the certificate and provider. An SSL certificate warranty is not the same as an insurance policy though. It does not cover any damages caused by hackers, malware, or human errors. It only covers the losses that result from a failure of the SSL certificate itself. For example, if your website’s SSL certificate is issued to another domain by mistake and your visitors see a warning message that your site is not secure, you may lose their trust and business. In that case, the CA will pay you a certain amount of money based on the warranty level of your certificate. SSL certificate warranties should be looked at as more of a safety net that catches you if you fall, but it’s best to avoid falling in the first place.
The next thing you need to compare when choosing an SSL certificate are the benefits it brings to your website. Here are the most common benefits you should look for:
- Security: This is the main benefit of having an SSL certificate. It protects your website from hackers, malware, phishing, and other cyberattacks by encrypting the data exchanged between your website and your visitors. This prevents anyone from eavesdropping or tampering with it.
- Trust: This is another important benefit of having an SSL certificate. It shows your visitors that you care about their privacy and security by displaying a padlock icon and a green bar (for EV certificates) in their browser address bar. This increases their confidence and loyalty in your website and brand.
- SEO ranking: This is a lesser-known but still significant benefit of having an SSL certificate. It boosts your website’s ranking on search engines like Google by signaling that your website is relevant and trustworthy. This helps you attract more organic traffic and potential customers to your website.
- User experience: This is a subtle but still valuable benefit of having an SSL certificate. It improves your website’s speed and performance by enabling HTTP/2 protocol, which allows faster loading and smoother browsing. It also reduces bounce rates and increases conversions by making your visitors feel more comfortable and secure on your website.
The last thing you need to compare when shopping for SSL certificates are the costs involved. Here are a few things you should look at when comparison shopping with costs in mind:
- Price: This obviously refers to how much money you must pay for the certificate itself. Prices vary depending on the type, provider, and duration of the certificate. Generally speaking, DV certificates are cheaper than OV certificates, which are cheaper than EV certificates.
- Renewal: How often you have to renew your certificate to keep it valid can vary depending on the type and provider of the certificate. Most certificates have to be renewed every one to two years. The renewal periods that providers offer can affect the price of the certificate you buy. Make sure that you understand the renewal terms of all of your certificates before you purchase.
- Installation: The installation process varies depending on the type and provider of the certificate, as well as your hosting platform and server configuration. Most certificates are fairly easy to install with a few clicks or commands. In the event that you need to install a certificate that requires more technical skills, our team of experts is here to help you!
We have put together a helpful table below that summarizes the main features and benefits across the different SSL certificates. It’s recommended for first-time buyers that you to refer to this when comparing the costs as you are shopping:
|Single-Domain||DV/OV/EV||Encryption and authentication for one domain only.||Simple and affordable for websites that do not use subdomains.|
|Wildcard||DV/OV/EV||Encryption and authentication for one domain and all its subdomains.||Convenient and cost-effective for websites that have multiple subdomains under the same domain.|
|Multi-Domain||DV/OV/EV||Encryption and authentication for up to 100 domains.||Flexible and efficient for websites that have different domains but want to share the same certificate.|
|UCC||DV/OV/EV||Encryption and authentication for up to 100 domains and host names.||Idea for Microsoft Exchange and Office Communications servers.|
|DV||Domain validation only||Encryption and verification of domain ownership or control only.||Fast and easy to obtain for personal websites or blogs that do not collect sensitive information from users.|
|OV||Organizational validation only||Encryption and verification of organization identity and legitimacy only.||More trustworthy and credible for business websites that collect personal or financial information from users.|
|EV||Extended validation only||Encryption and verification of organization identity, legal status, physical location, and domain ownership only.||The highest level of trust and security for e-commerce websites or websites that deal with high-value transactions or sensitive data.|
Wrapping Up Your SSL Crash Course
Congratulations! You have made it through your crash course on SSL certificates. Now you know that not all SSL certificates are the same, and that you need to pick the right one for your specific website needs. You also know how to compare the features, benefits and costs of SSL certificates from different providers, which will hopefully make it easier for you to shop around.
But wait, there’s more! If you are looking for a trustworthy and affordable SSL certificate provider that will make your website secure and reputable, look no further than Webnames.ca. We are Canada’s original domain registrar and offer a wide range of SSL certificates from reputable brands like RapidSSL, DigiCert and Sectigo. Whether you need basic DV certificate for your blog, an OV certificate for your business website, or an EV certificate for your e-commerce store, Webnames has you covered. We also offer a handy SSL installation guide, renewal reminders, SSL certificate monitoring, powerful SSL portfolio management tools, Enterprise SSL Management Solutions and 24/7 customer support for all SSL customers.
Don’t delay. Make sure that your website is secure with SSL today and enjoy the advantages of having a safe, reliable, and trustworthy online presence. Visit our website and browse our SSL certificates with your newfound knowledge, or if you’re feeling lost in the jungle, one of our experts can help you find the perfect SSL certificate to suit your needs and budget.