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Two very common questions people ask us are “do I need a dedicated IP for SSL?” and “Is SSL without a dedicated IP possible?” Both related questions are understandable because SSL/TLS certificates as a concept can be pretty confusing thing to deal with at times — especially if you’re coming across it for the first time. And that’s why we’re here — to help you make sense of topics relating to SSL.
Of course, we’ll be answering this question in this post, but first, let’s understand what dedicated IP address means.
Before diving into what a “dedicated IP address” means, let’s first understand what an IP address is in general. IP stands for “internet protocol.” An IP address, as the name would indicate, is the numerical address of a computer in the world of the internet or on a local network. It’s kind of like a home address in that every computer is recognized by its unique IP address. If you’re using a mobile phone or a computer, it would represent the address of your device. In terms of your website, the IP address tells the server where your website is hosted.
In the case of websites, there are two types of IP addresses: shared IP addresses and dedicated IP addresses. A shared IP address is when multiple users are using the same server to host their websites (or you have multiple sites hosted on the same server). And if you have an IP address that’s dedicated to your website, it’s called a dedicated IP address. No one else will be sharing this IP address with you, and possibly, users can visit your websites by entering your IP address in their browsers.
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This is one of those questions that divides opinion. Some say yes, while others say no. Had you asked this question some years back, the answer would’ve been a straight “yes.” However, times have changed.
Thanks to server name indication (SNI) technology, it’s possible to host multiple websites on a single IP address. SNI is an extension to the SSL/TLS protocol that facilitates the hosting of numerous SSL/TLS certificates on a single IP address. Almost all of today’s servers come equipped with SNI technology and, therefore, you can host thousands of SSL certificates for websites. If you want to host multiple SSL certs for multiple websites on a single IP, SNI creates virtual host environments for the additional SSL-enabled websites.
It might sound logical to use SNI technology and host multiple websites and link them to a single IP address. And it’s great for specific situations — but not all. There are some things you must consider before using SNI:
At the time when SNI was introduced, not many browsers supported it. However, almost all of the modern-day browsers have extended support for SNI now. In 2017, Akamai reported that nearly 98% of HTTPS requests are done by browsers that support SNI. However, if you have a user base that still uses age-old browsers, you must consider this point.
Are you sharing an IP address? If you’re sharing an IP with the wrong person — someone who engages in bad behaviors — then you can find yourself being IP blacklisted. IP blacklisting happens when someone you share your IP with engages in spam activities. Often, this occurs when the IP is used for email campaigns. So, you could be paying the price for someone else’s actions if you have a shared IP.
A dedicated IP address increases the overall stability of the website because it doesn’t depend on the actions of other users. And, therefore, having a dedicated IP eliminates the danger of brief downtime on the server while your IP address refreshes.
If you have multiple websites and want to host them using a single IP address, then a multi-domain SSL certificate is the thing you need right now. A multi-domain (SAN) SSL certificate allows you to secure multiple websites using a single SSL certificate, under a single IP address. If this IP address is a dedicated one, you don’t need to worry about the stability of the browser and compatibility with older browsers. However, you must remember that there will be one SSL certificate installed on all your websites. If you want to have a different SSL certificate for each site, this option won’t work.
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So, as you can see, the answer to your question of “do I need a dedicated IP for SSL” is “no.” You technically don’t need a dedicated IP address for your SSL certificate-enabled website. However, having a dedicated IP address is always a better option if it’s convenient for you. Of course, an even better option is having a multi-domain SSL certificate on your website.
We hope this answered your questions whether you can use SSL without a dedicated IP.