What is a SAN SSL Certificate? – Complete User Guide

SAN SSL certificate, also known as a multi-domain SSL certificate can secure multiple websites under a single SSL certificate.

There has been an enormous increase in internet users that has made businesses revamp their online presence. We find more refined information that helps users gather the necessary information that they need. The increased use of the internet has also brought forth the wrath of the dark web. There have been increased instances of data breaches, with some of them being targeted at renowned brands.

Any data breach can lead to significant financial losses due to lawsuits and penalties by government agencies, apart from the loss of customer trust. The Cost of Data Breach Report 2020 by IBM states that the average cost of a data breach is known to be around US$ 3.86 million, and it takes around 200 days to be detected. Companies must secure their website and use globally accepted best practices to do so. If there are multiple web assets, the administrator can use a SAN SSL certificate to secure all websites together.

What is an SSL certificate?

Most websites request visitor information in one way or the other. The data must be protected, and what better than installing an SSL certificate. It uses the Public Key Infrastructure that uses private and public keys to ensure encrypted communication between the server and the visitor’s browser. It prevents any unauthorized access to the server and thereby protects the customer data that is stored.

The certificates are provided by renowned Certificate Authorities (CAs) who undertake a background check based on the type of certificate chosen. Companies must install SSL certificates as they act as a sense of trust for incoming visitors, who are relieved to see the padlock on the address bar. If you are undertaking any online transaction, you must compulsorily install an SSL certificate to adhere to the PCI/ DSS guidelines.

What Is a SAN SSL Certificate?

Now that we have spoken about SSL certificates let us delve deeper and understand what you could do if you had multiple domains to secure. Installing individual certificates would be too cumbersome for the administrator. Do not fret; help is at hand through the SAN certificate. The Subject Alternate Name (or SAN) certificate ensures digital security and allows several hostnames to be protected through a single certificate.

The SAN SSL certificate allows you to ensure the security of domain names and subdomains, local hostnames, and IP addresses by adding to the SAN field at the enrollment time. The installation process and the management of the certificates are more manageable too. It is easier to secure ActiveSync, IMAP4, POP3, Unified Messaging, Outlook Anywhere, etc.

Are you aware that all servers may not allow multiple certificates to be installed? The SAN SSL certificate can secure the external and internal domain names using the 128-256 bit encryption mechanism. They are also called Unified Communications Certificates as they were initially designed for Microsoft’s Exchange and Communications servers.

What can be done with SAN SSL?

If you plan to host multiple SSL-enabled websites on a single server, it could require several unique IP addresses for every site. Again, with a Wildcard certificate, you will only be able to protect the first-level sub-domains along with the primary domain. The certificate with Subject Alternative Names can be of help and suit this use case effectively. Using this certificate, the administrator does not have the hassles of configuring several IP addresses on the server while connecting each to a different certificate.

How does the SAN certificate work?

We have seen that SSL certificates help to secure your web assets, and the type of SSL certificate you choose will depend on the types of web assets you have. If you have to secure different top-level domains accessible on the internet, the SAN certificate can help. For example, if you must secure www.example.com, www.example.net, and www.example.co.uk, you can use this certificate.

It can also protect several underlying sub-domains, like knowledge.example.com, blog.example.com, etc. The SAN certificates can be used to protect Unified Communications servers also. They are used in environments where web administrators have to make changes to the domains covered under the certificate frequently.

The certificates can be used on multiple servers concurrently and can be used on unlimited IP addresses along with concurrent private keys. Usually, there can be unlimited entries, but it will depend on the different CAs. The domains covered under the certificate can be changed at any time without incurring any additional prices.

Why do I need a SAN SSL certificate?

Many businesses operate in different geographies or various lines of business. They may prefer to have other domain names for these operations. They may also have a centralized environment for all these web assets. It is best suggested that they use a SAN certificate to create an encrypted communication channel between the server and the visitor’s browser.

The CAs assess various aspects of the businesses based on the type of validation chosen by the company. The validation process ensures that the business is genuine, and visitors can interact with the website they are visiting without any fear of their information being accessed by hackers.

The Multi-Domain SSL – Is it Different?

A Multi-Domain SSL can cover several fully qualified domain names (FQDN), and the certificates also include SAN fields. You can specify the hostnames that you wish to secure. Through the multi-domain SSL, you can secure any number of SANs and multiple FQDNs too. If you do not want the audience to know that all the domains are clubbed together, you may choose different certificates.

How to Check SAN SSL Certificate?

Now, how can you find an example of the Subject Alternate Name? You have to click on the padlock and examine the SSL certificate. Click on the Details tab, and you scroll down to find the field. When you click on this field, it will show all the SANs covered through the certificate.

san ssl certificate detail search

san ssl certificate detail


Companies must not lower their guard against hackers, and one of the best ways to do this is by installing an SSL certificate. However, the management of certificates becomes cumbersome if there are several SANs to secure. A single certificate will ensure lower resources are utilized and can provide adequate security too.

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