The Right Type of SSL Certificate for Your Website
A website secured with a SSL certificate confirms to your visitors that it is safe. It also compounds the approval of search engines, confirming that your site is safe for browsing. Therefore you must get a valid SSL certificate for your website.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and it is a security protocol used to encrypt and authenticate the data sent between an application -like your browser and a web server. SSL certificate secures the connection between your site and your visitors from malicious affiliations.
SSL is closely tied to another acronym – TLS. TLS is short for Transport Layer Security – is the successor and more up-to-date version of the original SSL protocol. SSL and TLS are often referred to as a group – e.g. SSL/TLS and used interchangeably.
In this guide, we will dive deep into the different types of SSL certificates to help you make the right decision.
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When & Why You Need SSL Certificate
Whether you run an E-Commerce store or a blog post, SSL is becoming absolutely crucial for every website as wearing a seatbelt before driving.
Here are the three main reasons why you will need SSL certificate for your website:
1. Data Protection and Visitor Trust
The primary purpose of SSL certificate is to ensure that the data exchanged between the user and the webserver is encrypted and protected from cyber threats like hackers, phishing and identity theft.
You do not want your visitors to get the – your connection is not private warning when they visit your website. A valid SSL certificate will help you avoid such errors and more.
SSL is an indicator to your visitors that they can safely share sensitive information such as credit card details, IDs, email addresses and passwords on your website. Therefore SSL strengthens the trust between you and your customers or visitors.
2. Authentication and Integrity
When you visit a website – how do you make sure that it is genuine and not a scam to steal your information? Identity verification is essential when it comes to web security and this is where SSL comes in. SSL/TLS verifies the authenticity of the web server’s identity.
To install an SSL certificate you must go through an identity verification process. In simple terms SSL is proof that your website is indeed your site and not a scam or a fake company, making it an effective barrier against phishing sites. See how you can verify your SSL certificate.
Data integrity is another critical benefit of SSL/TLS. Using a message authentication code – MAC, SSL/TLS ensures the data transmitted is not lost or changed in any way. The messages sent are received as they are.
3. Improves Search Engine Ranking
Search engines like Google have cracked down on insecure websites and made it clear that they prefer SSL encrypted sites to make web browsing a safer place for all — HTTPS instead of HTTP. SSL turns Hypertext Transfer Protocol – HTTP to Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure – HTTPS.
Therefore if you want your website to be on the first page of Google then having a valid SSL certificate is one of the must-haves. SSL is now part of SEO ranking signal.
A website secured with an SSL certificate informs customers or visitors that it is safe and wins the approval of search engines.
How SSL Certificates Work
We have established that SSL encrypts and secures the connection between the hosting server and your customer’s web browser or app.
Assuming that your website is secured with an SSL certificate so when a person visits your website, their browser will request your website’s hosting server to identify itself.
The server will respond by sending the browser a copy of its SSL certificate. The browser will also do some validation checks to verify that the SSL certificate is trusted and sends a signal to the server.
In return, the server will digitally respond in acknowledgment to begin an SSL encrypted session between your website and the visitor’s browser.
Types of SSL Certificates
There are two different categories in differentiating the types of SSL certificates — the number of domains and subdomains and the level of validation of the certificate.
By definition there are four different SSL certificate types:
1. Single Domain SSL Certificates
As the name suggests this type of certificate secures a single domain and all the pages on that domain. It will not secure any associated subdomains.
For example, if you have an SSL certificate for the domain www.mysite.com. It will also cover all the pages related to this domain such as www.mysite.com/web-features/ but it will not cover any subdomains such as www.support.mysite.com.
2. Wildcard SSL Certificates
Like the single-domain SSL certificate, the Wildcard SSL certificate only secures a single domain. However it also covers unlimited number of subdomains relating to that single domain. A single Wildcard SSL certificate protects them all.
3. Multi-Domain SSL Certificates
With multi-domain SSL certificates, you can combine many different hostnames regardless of whether they are from the same domain or not.
This SSL certificate’s purpose is the complete opposite of the Wildcard SSL certificate as it secures multiple domains but does not secure any related subdomains. It is also known as Subject Alternative Name – SAN and Unified Communication Certificate – UCC.
The multi-domain Wildcard SSL certificate combines the features of both the multi-domain and the Wildcard SSL certificates.
In other words, with a single certificate, you are able to secure multiple domains as well as all their related subdomains.
SSL Validation Levels
Validation level refers to how the Certificate Authority – CA confirms the identity of the company and person/s who are applying to obtain the certificate.
There are three main types of certificates: Domain Validated – DV, Organisation Validated – OV and Extended Validation – EV.
When a security certificate is not trusted, users will receive the following notification:
An authentic authority must obtain the certificate so that users will not see this message. Any certificate will provide the same level of protection no matter the type of validation.
But some authorities might require a specific level of validation to use certain services. For example – a payment system requires much more validation than a plain domain certificate.
This is because it is important to verify that the organisation collecting funds legally exists as a registered business.
Now let’s take a look at domain validated SSL certificates first.
Domain Validated SSL certificates show that a domain is registered and that a site administrator is running the URL.
The certificate authority can validate this through an email, DNS or HTTP.
When validating via email – the certificate authority will send an email to the administrator who maybe the owner or manager of the site. He/she will need to click a link in the email requesting the certificate to verify.
With DNS verification, the owner or manager will validate that they own or manage the site through a DNS record that is attached to the website domain.
A DNS record is a text file showing which IP addresses each domain is associated with.
HTTP validation includes the owner proving ownership by creating and saving a text file in the public web root of their domain.
Once a certificate is valid and the authority signs it, web browsers will show that there is now a secure HTTPS connection.
Domain validated certificates are encryption certificates only. All you have to do to obtain one is prove your ownership of the site.
Because they are so easy to obtain there are several advantages and disadvantages of domain validated SSL certificates.
✅ They are reasonably cheap. The process for obtaining a domain validated SSL certificate is normally via automation making it cost less than other SSL certificates.
✅ It does not take long to obtain one. You can get an SSL in just a few minutes and you do not have to send extra documents to verify your business.
> They are not as secure as other SSL certificates. Any hacker can obtain a domain validated SSL certificate and then hide their identity. That is true for your site if they attack your DNS servers. There’s no way to verify identities for sure when it comes to domain validated certificates.
> Because of this, visitors might not trust your site as much as they would if you had a certificate that forced you to validate your company.
> Potential buyers might not feel comfortable handing their payment information over with this kind of certificate.
DV is the simplest form of SSL certificate validation and only applies to domain ownership verification.
It is usually done through email verification and does not require any further investigations from the CA. It is the cheapest and fastest way to acquire an SSL certificate.
2. Organisation Validation (OV) SSL Certificates
The organisation validated SSL certificate shows that you own a domain while also verifying that you own a business in a particular country, state and city.
The process for obtaining one of these certificates is exactly like getting a domain validated certificate but you need to take some extra steps to verify your company’s identity.
It does not take too long to obtain this kind of certificate – anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
These kinds of certificates also show your company’s information in the certificate details.
Having this extra information might seem a bit more legitimate for consumers – leading them to make a purchase. These certificates are considered very reliable.
3. Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificates
The extended validation SSL certificate requires businesses to provide even more records to prove their ownership of a company.
This certificate gives you the same kind of validation as both domain and organisation validated certificates and it also proves that you have legally registered your company as a business.
In addition, it also shows that a business is aware of the request for an SSL certificate and approves it.
This validation can take days or weeks depending on what the certificate authority requires. This one requires you to provide documents certifying your company’s identity as well as some other bits of information.
You can easily identify these kinds of certificates by the green bar in your web browser that contains the company’s name.
The certificate authorities only grant these kinds of certificates after they have received documents that prove two things:
- the operational existence and location of a company and
- the consistency between those records.
After this, the certificate authority that issues the certificate will issue the proper authorisation to the company and the website. This is the most secure type of SSL certificate when it comes to validation level.
EV SSL is typical among business websites and offers the highest level of trust and reliability. It involves a full background check of your business. Acquiring this certificate involves a strict vetting process by the CA.
On some browsers, the business names with EV SSL certificates are displayed prominently. They will be shown in green beside the domain name when accessing their website.
SSL Certificate Type
DV or OV
DV or OV
Multi Domain Wildcard
Benefits & Drawbacks of Different SSL Certificates
In terms of security, protecting your website with an SSL certificate does not carry any disadvantages. However each type of certificate has its strengths and weaknesses thus making each one suitable for a different purpose or needs.
Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of the different SSL certificates that we discussed above.
Starting with the single-domain SSL certificate, the main significant advantage is that it is an affordable certificate type and covers all the pages related to the domain. The only setback is that it does not secure any subdomains.
A Wildcard SSL certificate is more expensive but it covers a single domain -all its related pages and an unlimited number of subdomains at the first level. Unfortunately, it does not cover any subdomains at the second level.
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Multi-domain SSL certificates cover multiple domains at the same time. Even though they seem expensive, you only acquire one that covers all your domains instead of obtaining an SSL certificate for each domain thus making it more cost-effective.
The multi-domain Wildcard SSL Certificate has the advantage of both types – covering up to 100 domains and unlimited subdomains at the first level. The only disadvantage is it can be very expensive however like the multi-domain SSL certificate, the Wildcard SSL is very cost-effective for large websites or businesses.
How to Choose the Right SSL Certificate
As mentioned earlier, SSL certificates come in different variation. If you want your website to look legitimate and be trusted by your visitors but not sure which SSL certificate will meet your needs, we will help you make the right choice.
- For a small or personal website with a single domain then the single-domain SSL certificate is more suitable for you as it is affordable and does the job.
- If your business website has a single domain with multiple subdomains then the Wildcard SSL certificate is the way to go and will be much cheaper than acquiring a separate SSL certificate for each subdomain.
- For larger websites or businesses with more than one domain such as a company that owns multiple brands, each with its own domain then multi-domain SSL certificate is a wise choice. This will cover all your domains and is cheaper than getting an SSL certificate for each domain.
- If your business or organisation wants to save both time and money, the multi-domain Wildcard SSL is ideal for securing multiple domains as well as an unlimited number of subdomains.
For your simplicity reference, here is a quick table outlining the benefits of each SSL certificate type:
Affordability – Cheapest and most affordable.
Advantages – Affordability for securing a single domain.
Disadvantages – Does not secure subdomains.
Best for – Small or Tradesmen website with a single domain.
How Do Visitors Know If Your Website Is Secure and Safe?
Your visitors will easily know if your website is safe and secure or whether your SSL certificate is valid or not. We will show you how.
Look at the address bar of the website homepage and you will see a small padlock which means that your website is SSL secured.
If you are using the Google Chrome browser then click on the padlock sign and select Certificate. You will be able to view all the details you need to know about the SSL certificate installed on your website: who issued it, to whom it belongs and its validity date.
In addition to the small padlock sign, you will notice that the URL in the address bar starts with HTTPS.
HTTPS indicates that the connection on our website is safe, secure and that it has an authorised SSL certificate.
Cost of SSL Certificates
The cost of SSL certificates varies from pinch of salt to buying a Bentley per se depending on the type of certificate, validation level and where you are purchasing it from.
For example, Let’s Encrypt is an open Certificate Authority – CA that offers free SSL/TLS certificates. You can get free SSL hosting powered by Let’s Encrypt integration for all your WordPress sites from Best-Digital Marketing.
When investing in a premium or paid SSL certificate, the cost of DV and single-domain SSL certificates is the most affordable.
As your business demand grows and you take higher steps up the SSL ladder, you will find that Wildcard SSL certificates come at a higher cost. In contrast, OV and EV SSL certificates are the most expensive and provide the highest encryption for organisations and enterprises.
Struggling to choose the right SSL certificate for your business?
SSL certificates are widely adopted by almost every website to guarantee a secure internet connection and with the increase in cyber-attacks, its enforcement is strictly popular by search engines.
You now have a clear idea about the different types of SSL certificates and their various validation levels. We hope that it helps you choose the most suitable SSL certificate for your website.
Do you have any questions about choosing the right SSL certificate? Feel FREE to contact us should you need any help with SSL Certificates.
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