SSL types explained

You need an SSL but need help to take the final plunge because terms like Wildcard certificates and organization validation are tripping you up. You’re not alone. SSL certificates can be a little confusing at first, but it’s pretty simple once you learn what the terminology means. Read on for a straightforward explanation of the different SSL types and how to know which one you should choose.

SSL types by number of domains/subdomains

It’s easy to know how many domains or subdomains you have, right? Unless you’re a sprawling enterprise that hasn’t been keeping track over the years, the first step to choosing an SSL should be a piece of cake. Here are the three different SSL types:

  1. Single domain SSL: This secures one site
  2. Multi-domain SSL: This secures 3-100 sites.
  3. Wildcard SSL: This secures a primary domain and multiple subdomains of one level linked to it. Think and There isn’t any limit to the number of subdomains it protects, so the world’s your oyster!

Awesome, step 1 of choosing an SSL type is out of the way. But that’s not all you need to think about. Next, you need to select a validation level. 

Validation explained

A central element of public key infrastructure, the system that underpins how SSL certificates work safely, is verification. The Certificate Authorities (CAs) that create and issue SSL certificates must verify the entity requesting it before they can receive it. This is to maintain an environment of trust. The CA ensures that a requestor is a legitimate person or entity, and then they sign the certificate vouching for this. 

There are three levels of validation, and the one you choose will depend on the kind of site(s) you have. If you have a static portfolio or business site that doesn’t require user transactions or logins, the lowest level should be satisfactory for you. For more interactive sites that require credit card numbers and personal information from people, you should probably get a business validation SSL. Here are the three validation levels in a nutshell:

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  1. Domain Validation (DV): Ideal for sites with limited interaction, the CA simply checks that you have access to the requesting site’s admin email. Usually complete within a few hours.
  2. Organization Validation (OV): The first business validation option, the CA will look into the existence of your organization. Can take a few days.
  3. Extended Validation (EV): The most in-depth validation process, the CA will do things like cross-check government records and call your company premises. This also takes the longest to complete. 

There you have it, a guide to the most confusing parts of choosing an SSL. You should have a pretty good idea of which one you should get now, so go forth and secure your site!