Multi Domain vs Wildcard SSL Certificates – What is the Difference?

The key difference between Multi Domain vs Wildcard SSL Certificates is, multi domain certificate secures multiple domains and sub-domains while a Wildcard SSL certificate secures the main domain and its unlimited subdomains.

Although Multi Domain SSL certificate and Wildcard SSL Certificate are different, they have some similarities regarding what you can achieve with them. It can be daunting to choose one if you’re not a seasoned professional.

In this article, we will explain about Multi-Domain SSL certificate Vs Wildcard SSL certificate individually. And then, compare them and take a look at the significant differences you should take note of.

What is Multi Domain SSL Certificate?

multi domain ssl certificate

As the name suggests, a multi-domain SSL certificate can protect multiple subdomains and multiple primary domain names.

If you’ve come across Unified Communication Certificates (UCC) and Subject Alternative Name (SAN), they’re all the same and alternatively known as Multi-Domain SSL certificates. Their features and issuance depend on the variant of SSL certificate you choose and the SSL provider or Certificate Authority (CA).

Comodo PositiveSSL Multi Domain Certificate

Features of Multi-Domain SSL Certificate

Do note that some functions depend on the SSL provider or Certificate Authority (CA). The following are the fundamental and commonly seen features.

Secure multiple primary domains and subdomains:

For example, you can secure all of the following domain names with a multi-domain SSL certificate, also known as SAN SSL.

Moreover, certificates that cover unlimited subdomains of the different primary domains are also called Multi-Domain Wildcard SSL certificates.

Purchase for multiple years with Extended Validation and other options:

If you plan for long-term needs, order a Multi-Domain SSL certificate with multi-year validity then, some multi-domain SSL certificates also come with extended validation (EV) option. With this option, your business entity will go under strict measures for the issuance of the certificate and take a few days. Likewise, you get a better benefit than a standard SSL variant: visitors can click on padlock and check EV SSL certificate details.

You can also buy Multi-Domain SSL in domain validation (DV) and organization validation (OV) SSL variants.

Secure multiple protocols and IP addresses:

Not only domain names, but you can also enable TLS encryption for various protocols such as file-transfer protocol, mail servers.

Multi-Domain SSL Limitation

The number of domains you can secure under this certificate is set by the SSL provider or your certificate issuing authority. Typically, these certificates come with up to a limit of 250 domains. Again, this limitation differs from one SSL provider to another.

What is Wildcard SSL Certificate?

wildcard ssl certificate

If you plan to secure your primary domain and its subdomains, a Wildcard SSL certificate is your option.

For example, a Wildcard SSL secures one primary domain and all of its subdomains, as illustrated below.

If you are running an e-commerce portal or a web application, it’s common to use multiple subdomains. So, a single Wildcard SSL certificate can satisfy your requirements. This way, you don’t need to purchase and maintain multiple SSL certificates.

Comodo PositiveSSL Multi Domain Wildcard

Features of Wildcard SSL Certificates

Wildcard SSL is available in both domain validation (DV) as well as organization validation (OV) SSL certificate types. You should plan about the kind of SSL variant you want before placing an order for your Wildcard SSL.

Wildcard SSL limitation

Do note that one Wildcard SSL certificate can only cover one primary domain.

If you need to secure only multiple primary domains, you should choose a Multi-Domain SSL certificate.

Also, in general, Wildcard SSL is not available in the extended validation (EV) version.

Differences Between Multi-Domain and Wildcard SSL Certificate

In the following table, we explain the fundamental and high-level differences and some commonalities between Multi-Domain and Wildcard SSL certificates. This can clarify quickly which type of SSL certificate is suitable for your needs in terms of cost and configuration management.

Aspect Multi-Domain SSL Wildcard SSL
SSL Variant Available in Domain Validation (DV), Organization Validation (OV), and Extended Validation (EV) variants. Only available in Domain Validation (DV) and Organization Validation (OV) variants. Not available in the Extended Validation (EV) option.
Cost Costs higher than a typical Wildcard SSL or other domain validation SSL certificates. Relatively costs lower than Multi-Domain SSL.
Configuration & Management Easy to configure with multiple servers and domains as one single certificate secures everything. Saves a lot of IT configuration time comparatively. More comfortable to obtain and configure. A simple process for renewal.
Modifications Throughout the certificate lifetime, adding, deleting, and updating domain names is possible. You can add unlimited subdomains.
Browser Compatibility Compatible with almost all the browsers available in the market. Compatible with most of the modern web browsers available.
Multi-year purchase option Available, most commonly up to 2 years Available, most often up to 2 years
Availability Available with most of the Certificate Authorities and SSL providers such as Comodo, Thawte, RapidSSL, GeoTrust, and Symantec, etc. Available with almost all the Certificate Authorities and SSL SSL providers

In Conclusion

Multi-Domain SSL and Wildcard SSL certificate serve two different purposes: the former covers multiple primary domains and subdomains, and the later covers only one primary domain and all of its subdomains. Another significant difference is that Wildcard SSL certificates are not available in the EV SSL variant. If you go for Multi-Domain Wildcards SSL, remember that you won’t have the EV SSL option as well.

Multi-Domain SSL certificates are useful if you have many domains to cover. For example, if you’re an agency, a managed service provider, or an enterprise, Multi-Domain SSL will help you save costs and time spent in configuration management.

If you run an e-commerce or subscription portal and leverage subdomains, Wildcard SSL is a great option.

The cost of both types of SSL certificates majorly depends on the features and functionality as well as your SSL provider and Certificate Authority (CA).

We hope you gained a solid understanding of the difference between Multi-Domain SSL and Wildcard SSL certificates. Now that any confusions are out of your way, buy your SSL certificate today, encrypt traffic, and build trust with your clients and target audience.

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