Multi-Domain SSL Vs. Wildcard SSL – The Key Differences Explained

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Multi Domain SSL vs Wildcard SSL

Understanding The Differences Between Multi-Domain SSL and Wildcard SSL

Do you want to safeguard your collection of online business websites, domains, and subdomains? If yes, then using Multi-Domain SSL or Wildcard SSL Certificates are two highly flexible options that you can choose from. You can use both of these certificates to secure multiple websites or domains. Still, after having the same objective, specific technical features and limitations are exclusive to each SSL certificate that differentiates one from the other.

This article aims to provide insights into Multi-Domain SSL and Wildcard Certificates. So, without further ado, let’s start by exploring Multi-domain certificates.

What is a Multi-Domain SSL Certificate?

The multi-domain SSL certificate covers multiple primary domains or FQDNs and their corresponding subdomains. You can use this single SSL certificate to protect all these websites. Two primary reasons make this certificate an appropriate choice for medium, and enterprise organizations operating in numerous domains and subdomains:

  • Simplifies the certificate management process for validation, re-issuance, and installation.
  • Reduces the costs associated with purchasing separate SSL certificates for each domain.

Multi-domain certificate, also known as Unified Communication Certificate (UCC) or SAN SSL certificate, comes with a Subject Alternative Name (SAN) field in which you can specify additional hostnames. In the SAN field, you can add up to 250 additional FQDN domains, subdomains, or even IP addresses you want to protect.

Example of Multi-domain SSL certificate

Let’s understand MDC certificate examples through a hypothetical situation. Thomas owns a web hosting company, and the domain is – www.affordalewebhosting.com. Thomas also wants to secure related domains, such as:

  • www.affordablewebhosting1.com
  • www.affordablewebhosting2.com
  • www.affordablewebhosting.com

Then in such a case, Thomas can use the multi-domain SSL to secure his main domain and multiple subdomains.

Even if he wants to expand the presence of this company adding more websites or TLDs around the globe and protect all domains in other nations with different TLDs (Top-level domains), he can use the same multi-domain SAN certificate to do so, such as:

  • Primary Domain: www.affordablewebhosting.uk
  • Additional SAN: www.affordablewebhosting.in
  • Additional SAN 2: www.affordablewebhosting.sg
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Features of Multi-domain (SAN) SSL Certificate

There are various noticeable technical features, such as:

  • It supports a 2048-bit RSA signature key and offers superior 256-bit SSL encryption.
  • Multi-domain SAN contains a SAN field to list all the secured domains and allows you to add, remove, or encrypt up to 247 SANs.
  • These certificates are capable of securing multiple levels of subdomains such as *.chocolate.com and *.subdomain.chocolate.com. You can add or remove multi-level subdomains using Multi-Domain Wildcard SSL certificate.
  • It also sustains wildcard and fully qualified domain names in a single SSL certificate on multiple servers.
  • In multi-domain, all domains are consolidated in a single certificate file and handled using a single private key, making certificate management uncomplicated.
  • Multi-domain certificates can be allocated with any of these three validation levels: Domain Validation, Organization Validation, and Extended Validation.
  • This certificate supports 99.99% of web, mobile browsers, mobile OS, client OS, email servers, and much more.
  • Multi-domain SAN certificates add visual trust indicators like HTTPS and website site seal which helps to improve website SEO and search engine rankings.
  • Multi-domain SSL certificate starts from a low range of about $10.99 and provides endless server licenses and re-issuances.
  • There are some affordable and high-end MDC SAN certificates from top SSL brands, such as Comodo Multi-Domain SSL, Sectigo Multi-Domain SSL provide a complimentary reissuance facility.
  • This certificate offers a warranty feature; the payment can vary between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000.
  • It offers a dynamic site seal that aids in building user confidence.
  • It is possible to modify the list of domain names by adding, deleting, or updating them till the time certificate is valid.

Limitations of Multi-domain Certificate

Here are some of the most significant limitations:

  • These certificates cannot include domain names from different organizations.
  • The user has to request for re-issuance of the certificate; if they decide to add or remove domain names.

The quantity of domain names that can be accommodated within the certificate is limited; it can be as minimum as two and as maximum as 250.

The Best Multi-Domain SSL Certificates of 2023

Product NameValidation TypeIssuance TimePricing
Comodo Multi Domain SSLBusiness Validation1 to 3 Days$69.99/yr
Sectigo Multi Domain SSLBusiness Validation1 to 3 Days$59.99/yr
PositiveSSL Multi-Domain Domain Validation10 to 15 Minutes$14.99/yr
Certera Multi-Domain SSLDomain Validation10 to 15 Minutes$10.99/yr
PositiveSSL Multi-Domain WildcardDomain Validation10 to 15 Minutes$99.99/yr

What is a Wildcard SSL Certificate?

A Wildcard SSL certificate secures a domain and all its subdomains with a single SSL certificate. Instead of using separate SSL certificates for each type of subdomain, IT administrators can reduce their workload by using this subdomain SSL certificate. 

Notably, it also supports the latest and modern SSL encryption algorithms, such as 256-bit and 2048-bit RSA, which enable premium encryption for multiple subdomains. Additionally, there is another significant difference in multi-domain SSL vs wildcard SSL – EV Wildcard certificates do not exist. This is because they are weak against security vulnerabilities that are too substantial.

Note:

  • Wildcard SSL secures a single domain + its unlimited subdomains
  • Multi-domain secures multiple primary domains + several subdomains
  • With this, I hope you have a clear idea regarding the primary difference in wildcard SSL and multi-domain SSL.

Example of Wildcard SSL certificate

Using the earlier stated example, Thomas now wants to secure the www.chocklate.com domain with all its subdomains, such as:

  • types.chocklate.com
  • payment.chocklate.com
  • admin.chocklate.com, etc.

Thomas can use a Wildcard SSL certificate to do the same. Using a multi-domain certificate when there is only a single primary domain and its subdomains to protect will not be a justifiable option to choose, as it will be overkill and will not allow you to monitor unlimited subdomains.

Features of Wildcard Certificate

There are various noticeable features, such as:

  • It protects a primary domain while acting as a shield for its infinite subdomains.
  • These types of SSL certificates use 256-bit elliptic curve cryptography (ECC) keys to guarantee the confidentiality of the transmission.
  • You can issue such certificates with either domain or organization validation level options.
  • This certificate works perfectly fine with almost all modern web and mobile browsers.
  • You can effortlessly install this certificate on unlimited virtual machines or physical servers.
  • The certificate comes with a trust logo that enhances the user’s trust.
  • The certificate comes with financial protection for the website owner; depending on the CA and level of validation they have opted for, the warranty amount can vary between $500,000 to $1,500,000.
  • The certificate incorporates high-end seeable protection indicators like HTTPS URLs and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • These certificates are available from a low range of about $19.99.

Constraints of Wildcard Certificate

Here are some of the most significant Wildcard certificate constraints:

  • These SSL certificates can not secure numerous top-level domain names.
  • The certificate cannot shield different levels of subdomains; it can only protect the domains under the same top-level domain.

Note: If you want to secure multiple domains along with an “n” number of subdomains, you should choose a Multi-domain Wildcard SSL certificate for the same. This certificate is a combination of a multi-domain and a wildcard certificate.

The Best Wildcard SSL Certificates of 2023

Product NameValidation TypeIssuance TimePricing
Certera SSL Wildcard CertificateDomain Validation10 to 15 Minutes$19.99/yr
Comodo PositiveSSL Wildcard CertificateDomain Validation10 to 15 Minutes$38.99/yr
Sectigo Positive SSL WildcardDomain Validation10 to 15 Minutes$38.99/yr
Comodo EssentialSSL WildcardDomain Validation10 to 15 Minutes$49.99/yr
COMODO Wildcard SSLDomain Validation10 to 15 Minutes$90.99/yr
SECTIGO Wildcard SSLDomain Validation10 to 15 Minutes$149.99/yr

Multi-Domain SSL vs Wildcard SSL Comparison for Features, Pricing, and Browsers Compatibility

For a better understanding, let’s explore the difference between these two certificates in a tabular format:

BenchmarkMulti-Domain SSLWildcard SSL
It securesMultiple domains, SANs, and IP addresses.A single domain with all its subdomains.
Number of domains that can be secured isBetween 2 to 250.One primary website and unlimited number of subdomains.
Encryption256-bit256-bit
CostStarts at $10.99/Yr.
Expensive in comparison to OV Wildcard certificates.
Starts at $19.99/Yr. Inexpensive in comparison to OV Multi-Domain certificates.  
Validation optionDV, OV, and EV.DV and OV.
Managing domainIs complicated as each new domain requires a new certificate to be issued.Is easier as it covers all subdomains automatically.
Web Browser compatibility99.99%99.99%
Trust sealYesYes
WarrantyYesYes
Valid for5 years5 years

Conclusion

Multi-Domain SSL Certificates secure numerous domains and subdomains. On the other hand, Wildcard SSL Certificates secure a single domain along with infinite subdomains.

Both certificates offer robust security features, such as 256-bit encryption. Additionally, they can be issued with different validation options. Furthermore, both certificates come with trust logos, financial protection, and improved website SEO and search engine rankings. Organizations should consider their specific needs and choose the certificate that best fits their requirements.

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Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta is a Cyber-Security Enthusiast who constantly updates herself with new advancements in the Web/Cyber Security niche. Along with theoretical knowledge, she also implements her practical expertise in day-to-day tasks and helps others to protect themselves from threats.

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