How to know which SSL type to choose

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SSL

SSL certificates can be confusing. With website encryption being all the rage these days, if you have a website, you probably know you need one. But with so many types to choose from, how do you know what the right choice is? This article should steer you in the right direction. So whether you go for a SSL certificate wildcard or something more pricey, you’ll be secure in knowing that you made the right choice.

Essentially, there are two key factors you need to consider when choosing an SSL: how many domains and/or subdomains you have and the kind of website you have. By figuring this out, you’ll know what SSL type to choose as well as the validation level. Let’s take a moment to go through precisely what this means.

SSL types by number of domains

This SSL type can be split into three categories:

  • Single-domain SSL: If you have one website, this is the one for you as it secures a single domain (as you might have guessed from the name).
  • Multi-Domain SSL: If you have more than one domain, a multi-domain SSL is likely the best option. Typically these certificates secure 3-100 domains. 
  • Wildcard SSL: Unlike the other two, you probably can’t guess what this SSL does from the name alone. It secures a single domain and unlimited subdomains of one level linked to it.

Choosing an SSL based on these categories is pretty foolproof. Simply look at the number of domains you have and go from there. With the validation levels, you’ll probably have to do a little more thinking before deciding.

SSL validation levels

SSL validation levels refer to the extent to which issuing Certificate Authorities (CA) verify you, your business (if applicable), and your ownership of the domain in question. Some validation levels are more intensive than others. A good rule of thumb is to look at what exactly you expect users to do on your site. If they’re simply reading blog posts, the lower level of validation is probably fine. But if you expect users to register, make purchases, or hand over other types of personal data, a higher validation level can help with customer peace of mind. The higher the validation level, the more information that will be available if users click on the address bar padlock symbol to read the SSL information. 

The three validation levels are:

  1. Domain validation (DV): The lowest validation level, the CA will only check that you have access rights to the domain you wish to secure. 
  2. Organization validation (OV): This SSL type requires slightly more vetting. The CA will verify domain ownership and the existence of your company. They’ll usually call the recipient before issuing also. 
  3. Extended validation (EV): The most comprehensive validation level, EV will verify the legal and physical existence of the organization and will cross-check against official government records.

Conclusion

Essentially, when choosing an SSL certificate there are two main criteria to consider — the number of domains and the level of validation you require. Once you answer these questions, the type of SSL you need should become a lot clearer.