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We all are well aware of OTT platforms, such as Amazon Prime. You can use their free subscription and watch the content available, but with certain restrictions, such as viewing the advertisement for about 15 seconds, you can’t skip. You can simply buy a subscription and enjoy the shows to remove such restrictions. The same is the case when talking about Free vs Paid Wildcard SSL certificates. Free Wildcard SSL may provide some of the features you get with a paid Wildcard SSL certificate, but not all.
Hence, to get a clear picture, we will be discussing Free Wildcard SSL vs Paid Wildcard SSL in this article.
Paid Wildcard certificates secure unlimited single-level subdomains with a primary domain using a single certificate. For example, Thomas has a domain named: example.com, and he wants to secure these subdomains: blog.example.com and shop.example.com. To accomplish this, Thomas can use a paid wildcard SSL certificate and secure the domain along with the subdomains.
The same will be the working of a free Wildcard certificate, but the only difference will be that – once Thomas decides to go with a paid certificate, he will be qualified for a warranty and other additional benefits or features provided by the respective CA, which he wouldn’t have got if gone with a free certificate.
After reading the above content, you must have understood that the main objective or working of both – Paid and Free certificates are the same. So, on what basis or components should an organization decide between a Free vs Paid Wildcard SSL?
Here are the technical components that an individual or organization should consider while choosing between these two types of certificates:
If an individual or the organization chooses a Free Wildcard certificate, they can only get the certificate issued with one type of validation – Domain Validation. But, if the individual or the organization chooses a Paid Wildcard certificate, they can get the certificate issued with any of these two types of validation– Domain Validation and Organization Validation.
Both, Free and Paid certificates offer the same level of encryption. Both certificates use standard 256-bit encryption signed with a 2048-bit signature key. But when choosing the Free certificate the certificate authority only verifies whether or not the entity requesting the certificate has control over the domain.
But, if the organization decides to use a Paid Wildcard SSL certificate and chooses organization validation as the validation option, the CA will conduct a thorough validation in order to verify the domain ownership and the existence of the organization that owns the domain. This, through validation, increases the security of the website, and along with that, it will also help in building trust among the users.
Paid certificates come with 24*7 technical customer support and a warranty covering financial losses due to an SSL-related issue. The warranty amount can range from $10,000 to $1,500,000. This is not the case with the Free certificate – there is no customer support as the whole process is automated, and the CA provides no warranty if anything goes haywire.
Paid certificates come with site seals that help build users’ trust and confidence. But it’s not true when referring to a Free Wildcard certificate; these certificates do not come with a site seal.
The validity of a Free certificate is approximately three months (90 days, to be exact). After which, you have to renew the certificate again. A Paid Wildcard certificate is valid for up to two years, and there is no need to renew it again within that period.
For a better understanding, let’s go through Free vs Paid Wildcard SSL, in a tabular format:
|Benchmark||Free Wildcard SSL||Paid Wildcard SSL|
|Encryption Strength||256-bit encryption||256-bit encryption|
|Certificate Authority (Root)||Let’s Encrypt||Trusted third party CA’s (Commercial CA)|
|Validation Type||Domain Validation (DV)||Domain Validated (DV) and Organization Validation (OV)|
|Number of Subdomains covered||Infinite||Infinite|
|Validity Period||90 days||2 years|
|Issuance Time||Within minutes, as the whole process is automatic.||Takes a longer time to issue the certificate as it requires manual verification.|
|Price||Free||$19.99 to $399.99/yr|
The answer to this query depends upon the requirements of a particular organization or person. As for some entities, the Free Wildcard certificate can work as the encryption level used is the same as the Paid certificate. But encryption can’t be the only deciding factor.
Using a Paid SSL Certificate from a trusted CA is always best to secure your domain and its subdomains. This is important because using a Paid SSL certificate from a trusted CA will:
If you are not interested in the features mentioned above and are okay with the downtime risk, you can use a Free Wildcard SSL certificate.
In conclusion, while both free and paid Wildcard certificates provide unlimited single-level subdomain security, the two have significant technical differences. While free certificates are issued through automated domain validation, paid certificates offer organization validation, 24/7 customer support, a more extended validity period, and a warranty covering financial losses due to SSL-related issues.
Choosing between free and paid SSL certificates ultimately depends on the individual or organization’s requirements. Opting for a Paid Wildcard SSL certificate from a trusted CA is always recommended to ensure the highest security, customer support, and trust-building features for their website and its subdomains.