What’s The Difference Between Multi-Domain & Wildcard SSL Certificates?

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Multi-Domain vs Wildcard: What’s The Best SSL For My Site?

Cybercrime is at an all-time high and its onward march doesn’t seem like it will be stopping any time soon. According to the ThreatMetrix Q2 Cybercrime Report, cyber-attacks increased by 100% from 2015 to 2017, and they continue to do so even now. Google has led the fight against this escalation in Cybercrime by encouraging all websites to use SSL certificates to switch to HTTPS.

Those who want to protect their websites from cyber-attacks must choose the correct SSL certificate for their website. However, with all the available options, most people find it hard to determine which one suits their needs best.

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of the features, limitations, and prime differences between two of the most popular forms of SSL Certificates — Multi-Domain and Wildcard.

Multi-Domain SSL Certificates

Multi-Domain SSL is also known as Subject Alternate Name (SAN) and Unified Communication Certificate (UCC). As the name suggests, the prime focus of a Multi-Domain SSL is to protect several Fully Qualified Domain Names (FQDN) (which can be a top level domain or a subdomain) with a single certificate. While issuing a Multi-Domain SSL, the user has to clearly define all of the domains that they would like the certificate to cover..

Multi-Domain Features

  • Flexibility: A single Multi-Domain SSL certificate can secure multiple domains (within the issuing Certificate Authority’s limits) and subdomains, making it extremely flexible.
  • Encryption: Offers 256-bit encryption, which is the highest level of encryption.
  • Compatibility: It’s compatible with almost every website software out there, both for desktop and mobile browsers.

Multi-Domain Limitations

  • Limitations on the number of domains the Multi-Domain SSL certificate can cover is determined by the issuing Certificate Authority. Comodo allows the user to secure up to 250 domains with a single certificate.
  • The various domains have to be defined before the issuance. If the users want to add domains during the validity period of the certificate, they have to reissue the certificate and define the additional domains.

Wildcard SSL Certificates

Wildcard SSL allows users to obtain a certificate for a single domain. However, they can secure multiple subdomains within that primary domain. The user has to purchase the SSL certificate for the primary domain and all of the subdomains are automatically covered. For example, a wildcard SSL certificate issued for *.domain.com would protect blog.domain.com, store.domain.com, www.domain.com, etc. You would need an additional certificate to cover a second level subdomain, though, such as dev.blog.domain.com.

Wildcard Features

  • Flexibility: There is no limit at all on the number of subdomains the user can secure with a Wildcard SSL Certificate. Furthermore, additional subdomains can be added even during the validity period of the certificate.
  • Encryption: Offers 256-bit encryption, which is the highest level of encryption.
  • Compatibility: Same as Multi-Domain SSL, the Wildcard SSL is also compatible with almost every website out there, both for desktop and mobile browsers.

Wildcard Limitations

Users can secure an endless number of subdomains, but only for one primary domain. If they want to secure multiple domains, they have to get several separate certificates (or get a multi-domain wildcard SSL).

Differences between Multi-Domain and Wildcard SSL Certificates

Multi-Domain SSL Certificate Wildcard SSL Certificate
Covers multiple domains and subdomains. Covers a single domain but multiple subdomains.
Limitations on the number of domains covered by the certificate is defined by the issuing Certificate Authority. No limits to the number of subdomains covered by the certificate.
If a domain needs to be added during an existing validity, the certificate has to be reissued. Additional subdomains can be added or removed at any time.
Available with Domain, Organization, & Extended Validation types. Available with Domain and Organization Validation types.
View Multi-Domain SSLs View Wildcard SSLs

Which One Should You Choose?

The final decision regarding which certificate to choose rests in your hands. However, the following guidelines should help you out:

  • If you would like to secure multiple subdomains with the possibility of adding even more subdomains in the future, you should use a Wildcard SSL Certificate as it will offer you the flexibility you need.
  • If you own 2 or more top level domains, you may want to go for the Multi-Domain SSL Certificate as it may be more cost-effective.

If you need the best of both worlds, check out Comodo Multi-Domain Wildcard SSLs.

We hope this article has helped you figure out which type of SSL certificate your organization or website needs. If you have any other questions, feel free to let us know!

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