Multi-Domain and Wildcard SSL: What’s the Difference?

Quite a few people get confused between two types of SSL Certificates — Multi-Domain and Wildcard. This blog will clear things up for you.

Multi-Domain SSL Certificates

This option is for people who have a number of websites with different top level domains. For example, chairs.com, hats.inc, and shoes.co.uk. They can also cover subdomains, like news.chairs.com, charity.hats.inc, recruitment.shoes.co.uk.

It makes sense to get a single SSL that covers all your domains/subdomains, instead of buying, validating, activating, installing and renewing a Certificate for each host name. Much less of a hassle.

You’ll get SSL cover for 3 domains / subdomains in the default package, plus you can add up to 97 more domains / subdomains for a small extra fee, at any time during the lifespan of the Certificate. So that’s 100 domains / subdomains in total.

As a bit of background, Multi-Domain SSLs are also known as SAN. This is short for the Subject Alternative Names field in the Certificate that covers the domains.

There are 4 types to choose from:

  • PositiveSSL Multi-Domain — low cost, basic SSL with low assurance, Domain Validation (the Certificate Authority just checks you have admin access to the domain), and $10k warranty.
  • Multi-Domain SSL — mid-range SSL with medium assurance, Organization Validation (the Certificate Authority checks your business is verified in a public listing), and $250k warranty.
  • Unified Communications — mid-range SSL with medium assurance, Organization Validation (the Certificate Authority checks your business is verified in a public listing), and $250k warranty. Designed specifically for Microsoft Exchange 2010 upwards and Microsoft Office Communication Server 2007 environments.
  • EV Multi-Domain — top-range SSL with high assurance, Extended Validation (the Certificate Authority checks your business is verified in a public listing and is officially registered with your local government), plus $1M warranty.

Wildcard SSL Certificates

This option covers a single top level domain, plus an unlimited number of subdomains. So an example would be mybrand.com plus press.mybrand.com, charity.mybrand.com, recruitment.mybrand.com, development.mybrand.com, etc.

Google treats subdomains as separate entities. Some of the main reasons organisations use them are for different divisions, separate platforms under a single brand, or for IT reasons. Disney is an example of a company that loves subdomains, because each one has a very different function e.g. disneyparks.disney.com, princess.disney.com.

So if your have or plan on a number of subdomains as you grow your brand, it makes sense to get a single SSL that covers all subdomains under one umbrella. It will be much cheaper and easier than buying a Certificate for each subdomain.

There are 3 types to choose from:

  • PositiveSSL Wildcard — low cost, basic SSL with low assurance, Domain Validation, and $10k warranty.
  • EssentialSSL Wildcard — mid-range SSL with medium assurance, Domain Validation, and $10k warranty.
  • PremiumSSL Wildcard — top-range SSL with high assurance, Organization Validation, and $250k warranty.

Wrap Up

Both Multi-Domain and Wildcard SSL Certificates are much less of a hassle, and much more cost effective because they cover many online platforms under a single roof. Compared to buying, validating, activating, installing and renewing a Certificate for each platform, they’re a no-brainer.

The difference between the two is that Multi-Domain SSLs cover up to 100 top level domains. They can cover subdomains too, but if you only have one brand (top level domain) and lots of subdomains, then a Wildcard SSL is your go-to. Wildcards are all about unlimited subdomains. So your choice comes down to the type of domains you’re looking to protect.

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