What Are Wildcards? Your Guide to ‘Wild’ Website Encryption

The term ‘Wildcard’ means an asterix (*) symbol that matches any character or set of characters. But to put it in a more fun way, this type of SSL Certificate lets you go wild with adding unlimited subdomains under one HTTPS umbrella. This blog will tell you everything you need to know about SSL Wildcards, so you can decide if getting one is the right fit for your online needs.

What You Get

A basic SSL lets you encrypt a single website domain. But a Wildcard SSL Certificate lets you encrypt your website domain, plus unlimited sub-domains. For example: if brand.com is your domain, subdomains would be press.brand.com, charity.brand.com, blog.brand.com etc. Subdomains are beneficial for a number of reasons depending on your business tactics, from SEO (search engines recognize subdomains as individual websites) to keeping things streamlined. Wildcards are good value for money, much cheaper than buying multiple SSL Certificates to cover lots of domains or subdomains. They’re also super easy, compared to through multiple rounds of the Certificate Authority validation process, server activation, and renewal management. And no problem if you want to add more subdomains over time, you can add as many as you like under your Wildcard umbrella, as long as it hasn’t expired. It’s also not a problem if, at some point, you want to switch servers – your Wildcard comes with unlimited server licensing, so you can add a new server whenever you want.

What You Don’t Get

Wildcard SSL Certificates cover level one subdomains (e.g. login.brand.com), but not level 2 subdomains (e.g. students.login.brand.com, teachers.login.brand.com, dev.login.brand.com). Not many businesses have the need for level 2 subdomains, there’s little demand. You can get Wildcards with Domain Validation (DV) and Organization Validation (OV). But they’re not available for SSL Certificates with Extended Validation (EV). The reason for this restriction is EV SSLs have the strictest security checks. Want to know more about Certificate Authority Validation levels? If you’re looking to get an Extended Validation SSL that covers multiple subdomains, you’ll want a Multi-Domain SSL. This gives you the option to cover up to 100 domains or subdomains. You’ll also need a Multi-Domain SSL if you want broad encryption cover for SANs (a computer network which provides access to consolidated data storage).

How It Works

Once you buy a Wildcard, you’ll be contacted by the Certificate Authority. For a Domain Validation SSL, it usually takes a few minutes just to reply to their email. If you’re an ecommerce company that’s chosen Organization Validation to demonstrate on your site seal and in browser settings that your business is officially established, it can take up to 3 days for official checks of your company. The good news is that once these validation checks are done, it’s over. Any subdomain you add in future will automatically be covered with nothing standing in your way.

Wrap Up

Some people go wild about Wildcard SSL Certificates because they offer encryption security for unlimited website subdomains under one easy, cost efficient umbrella. What Wildcards don’t have is Extended Validation, for that you’ll need a Multi-Domain SSL.
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