Choosing an SSL certificate for your website solely based on the price tag could turn out to be the biggest blunder you have ever made. It could lead to business losses and even litigation in some regions like the European Union. All citizens of the member countries’ data privacy are protected under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
This regulation passes the burden of implementing security measures onto the website owners under its integrity and confidentiality principle, one of the seven fundamental principles of the GDPR. So, you need to exercise caution and make a prudent choice to prevent non-compliance and its consequences. The best way to start would be by choosing the right SSL certificate for your website.
We know how tricky this can get, and therefore, we decided to provide useful insights that can help you make this million-dollar decision. Before we do that, let us figure out why it is so important to choose the right certificate for your website and then explore the two options — Wildcard SSL and Multi-Domain SSL certificates.
Why is it important to choose the right SSL Certificate?
Your choice of an SSL certificate determines the level of security your website users enjoy, which nurtures your relationship with them and is critical for any online business’s success. While all SSL certificates provide encryption, the extent of coverage makes all the difference. Therefore, website owners must avoid placing reliance on the freebie with a web hosting plan or any random cheap SSL certificate.
Instead, one needs to look into their website’s core architecture, identify sensitive areas such as payment-related subdomains, and then pick the right option. However, this seldom happens because website owners and administrators often get lured into “limited period” offers. With so many heavily discounted cheap Wildcard SSL certificates and cheap multi-domain SSL certificates available, webmasters often end up choosing the wrong one.
Unless you make the right choice, your website will continue to remain vulnerable to cyberattacks. To avoid such a scenario, you need to know what a wildcard SSL Certificate and a multi-domain SSL certificate is. Only then would you be able to evaluate its pros and cons and make the right choice.
What is a Multi-Domain Certificate?
We often come across businesses with a web architecture consisting of multiple domain names, which could be for SEO purposes or manage back-end access. Often, companies operating in various countries have this kind of architecture. For example, Amazon, the e-commerce giant, uses multiple domain extensions for different countries.
There is, Amazon.com, which caters to customers in the US, Amazon.in for India, Amazon.co.uk, which happens to be the UK’s official Amazon website, and so on. If you wish to mimic this kind of web architecture for operational purposes, you must know that each domain name needs a separate SSL certificate.
Installing multiple SSLs and managing them can be a cumbersome process, and therefore, Certificate Authorities have come up with cheap multi domain SSL certificates. With just one of these SSL certificates, the user can encrypt multiple domain names, making it a cost-effective and manageable alternative.
What is a Wildcard SSL Certificate?
A wildcard SSL is one that protects multiple subdomains of the same domain name. If you own the domain www.xyz.com, you can encrypt various subdomains like payments.xyz.com, login.xyz.com, cart.xyz.com, etc., with a single wildcard SSL certificate.
This type of certificate gets its name from the asterisk or the wildcard character present in the domain name and is perfect for small and mid-sized e-commerce websites. It is also recommended for websites with a separate subdomain for login, payment, or anything else that involves the transmission of personal and confidential data.
For example, subscription-based websites, ones that collect medical data or documents for verification purposes, often use separate subdomains for security purposes. Such websites can also take advantage of this flexible security feature to protect user data. You can even use it to safeguard subdomains on multiple servers by using the SSL and its corresponding keys on those servers.
Choosing between Multi-Domain SSL vs. Wildcard SSL Certificate.
When it comes to picking the right SSL certificate, your decision depends on the number of subdomains or domain extensions that your website has. Most people do not realize how important this is and stick to the primary domain validated (DV) SSL Certificate, which comes bundled with the web hosting plan. Little do they know that such basic SSL cannot protect all the subdomains.
So, you need to find one that offers adequate protection to your website and encrypts all its subdomains — a feat that is only possible with a Wildcard SSL certificate. Not doing this would continue to expose your website’s data to security breaches because a DV SSL can only encrypt the main domain but not the subdomains.
The unprotected subdomains continue to run on the HTTP protocol, and the data exchanged through it remains susceptible to cyberattacks. So, if someone intercepts the data exchanged between an unprotected subdomain and the server, they can easily crack it down and make sense of it due to the lack of encryption.
On the other hand, if you have a large business with cross-border operations or a web architecture involving multiple domain extensions, consider investing in a cheap multi-domain SSL certificate. However, if you wish to secure multiple domains and subdomains, consider picking a cheap Wildcard SSL Certificate. Although slightly more expensive, it is a hybrid certificate that can protect multiple domains and subdomains.
Clumsy website architecture can not only be detrimental to your website’s security but also make website management expensive. It can also hurt your business’s SEO prospects, which means you need to act fast or lose business to your competitors. So, make it a point to work on your website architecture before buying an SSL for your website. You can then choose a cheap Wildcard SSL certificate or a multi-domain SSL certificate from a reputed Certificate Authority.