What Is a Shared SSL Certificate and How Does it Differ from Dedicated SSL?

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A shared SSL certificate could impact your business. Here’s why…

Thanks to the relentless push by the browser and internet security community, an SSL/TLS certificate has become almost a prerequisite for having a website. This is undoubtedly a good thing as it not only protects your data; it helps you/your organization communicate to people that this website belongs to you. And as a result, it enables you to establish trust in a customer’s mind that ultimately impacts your bottom line. Therefore, you must get an SSL certificate that fits your requirements. But with so many types of SSL certificates (including shared SSL certificates), it becomes tricky to pick the right one.

In this post, we’ll mainly talk about shared SSL certificates, how they differ from dedicated/private SSL certificates, and which one is right for you. Before we dive into all of that, let’s first understand what a shared SSL/TLS certificate is.

What is a Shared SSL Certificate?

A shared SSL certificate is an SSL certificate that’s installed on a web server that facilitates a shared hosting environment. A shared SSL certificate is installed on multiple sites that are on the same IP address. Thus, each website doesn’t get its own certificate. And as a result, the certificate details won’t include your URL, and it’ll have the URL of your hosting provider. These SSL certificates are signed, installed, and managed by the hosting or CDN (Content Delivery Network) providers. Therefore, website owners have no control over them.

Limitations of Shared SSL Certificates

One of the key factors that set shared SSL certificates apart is their affordability. As numerous users share them, they’re quite cheap. However, this affordability comes with some significant limitations. Let’s take a closer look at what those limitations are:

Not Installed on Your Domain Name:

As we mentioned earlier, shared SSL certificates are installed on the hostname of the shared hosting provider, not your URL. Therefore, if a user wants to check the certificate details, they will find that the website name and certificate domain name aren’t the same. This could make them confused – if they’re not technically aware – and even create a bit of doubt in their heads.

They Don’t Include Your Business Name

For businesses/organizations that rely on their website to generate revenue, winning the trust of potential customers is one of the most important things you could do. If, somehow, you’re able to communicate to your customers that the website belongs to a legitimate organization, then it definitely gives them one reason to do business with you. Unfortunately, you don’t get the opportunity to showcase your business with a shared SSL certificate.

They Come with Security Risks

The reason why you install an SSL certificate is to increase the security of your website. But what if the SSL cert itself poses a danger? This could be possible in the case of shared SSL certificates. As these certificates are not in direct control by you, it doesn’t allow you to make changes to its installation and security. Therefore, if the shared SSL certificate installed on the shared server gets compromised, then you could be in big trouble.

What is a Dedicated/Private SSL Certificate?

A dedicated/private SSL certificate is precisely the opposite of a shared SSL certificate. Therefore, these certificates are installed on your domain name. A user, upon checking SSL certificate details, sees the name of your URL instead of your hosting/CDN provider’s. This goes a long way in building trust in a customer’s mind.

A Dedicated/Private SSL Certificate Does Way More Than Just Encryption

Many people have this misconception that SSL/TLS certificates are used only to encrypt data. Well, they’re wrong. While encryption might be one of its primary functions, it’s not the only thing that they help you achieve.

You might be aware that you need to undergo a verification process conducted by the SSL issuing certificate authority (CA) in order to get a dedicated/private SSL certificate. This verification process is undertaken to make sure that only legitimate websites and organizations are issued certificates. This way, a dedicated SSL certificate performs a crucial function of authentication/identity verification.

Primarily, there are three types of verification processes conducted by a certificate authority. The process that you’ll need to undergo will depend upon the type of SSL certificate you want to purchase. These types are: domain validation (DV) SSL, organization validation (OV) SSL, or extended validation EV) SSL.

Types of Dedicated SSL Certificates

  • DV SSL certificates involve the verification of domain ownership. It means that you only need to prove to your certificate authority that you own the domain, and once you do that, the certificate is issued. This is a reasonably straightforward (and automated) process that usually takes minutes. These are the simplest SSL certificates. However, they don’t show your organization details to your customers.
  • OV SSL certificates are the mid-level SSL certificates that involve human verification of your organization. Here, a certificate authority verifies documents and records related to your organization to make sure that your organization is a legitimate entity and you are representing them. Such certificates will display your organization details in the certificate details to establish trust in a customer’s mind and give them peace of mind.
  • EV SSL certificates are the most advanced level of SSL certificates. To issue these certificates, you must undergo a stringent vetting process conducted by your certificate authority (CA).

Summary: Shared SSL Certificates vs. Dedicated SSL Certificates

Shared SSL Certificates Dedicated/Private SSL Certificates
A shared SSL certificate is installed on the hostname of the web server that hosts multiple websites. Typically, hosting providers and content delivery networks (CDNs). A private SSL certificate is installed on your domain name.
These certificates are quite cheap. These certificates cost marginally higher compared to shared SSL certificates.
You don’t need to undergo a verification process to get a shared SSL certificate. You must prove your domain/organization ownership in order to issue a dedicated/private SSL certificate.
These certificates don’t include organization/business name. These certificates include your organization/business name.
It doesn’t offer much scope to establish user trust. Establishes user trust to a great extent.
These certificates cannot be modified/revoked as you’re not in direct control of them. These certificates can be easily modified/revoked as you own them.

Final Word: Which SSL Certificate Should You Choose?

From what you’ve seen, it must be crystal clear to you that dedicated/private SSL certificates have their undeniable advantages. If you have, or you’re planning to have, a website that will be used to drive customers, then there’s no doubt that you need a dedicated/private SSL certificate. This is not only important from a customer trust point of view, but also from the security perspective.

You should only be considering shared SSL in situations where you need a secure connection to the server for something that is not typically seen by the general public or if you have a small static website or a blog. We hope this post has made things more clear for you!

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