What’s The Difference Between Multi-Domain & Wildcard SSL Certificates?

An SSL Certificate is unarguably one of the most important things that you need to protect your website from the threat of cyberattacks. You need it from day #1, yet there are many business owners who make the mistake of taking SSL certificates for granted. They either do not buy a certificate at all or buy one that is not capable of securing all their websites.

Now, if you decide to don’t make the worst kind of mistake by purchasing an SSL certificate, the first question that comes to mind is how to choose a certificate that protects all your sites?

Well, the answer exists in the choice of wildcard ssl certificate or multi-domain SSL certificates. In this article, we will explain to you the difference between both these certificates, how it affects your business as you grow, and how to choose the right one among both. But before we dive into those details, let us take a quick look at the definition of SSL certificates.

SSL Certificate: What is it?

An SSL certificate is a cryptographic file that is issued to owners of a domain name so they can install it on their server for better security of their website as well as visitors. It enables loading on HTTPS protocol instead of the default HTTP, which is a more secure protocol for data transfer on the web. How is it more secure?

Well, it instructs the web browsers and servers to encrypt all data before it is transmitted. So whatever data is exchanged between you and your visitors over HTTPS protocol (i.e. usernames, passwords, financial data, etc.) is exchanged in encrypted data packets. Even if someone manages to steal the data packets during transit, they won’t be able to extract any data from it because the encrypted packets can be decrypted only with the help of a private key that resides on your server.

SSL certificates come in various forms, depending on the number of domains that they can protect. There are single domain, wildcard, and multi-domain SSL certificates available in the market. But as explained above, in this article we will cover the difference between wildcard and multi-domain SSL certificates. Let us get started!

Wildcard SSL certificate

A wildcard SSL certificate is one that allows you to protect one domain and all other subdomains immediately-one level below it. What does one level below mean? It means that if your site is, you can protect,, and other similar subdomains, but you cannot protect (two levels away from the root domain

Wildcard SSL certificate

A wildcard SSL certificate is generated when the CSR (certificate signing request) mentions the domain name for which certificate is being issued along with a wildcard (*) character. So, if it has to be issued for the domain name, the CSR should mention the domain name something like this: *

A certificate issued on that kind of CSR will be a wildcard certificate that will protect all subdomains at once one-level below the root domain

Multi-Domain SSL certificate

A multi-domain SSL certificate, also known as SAN SSL certificate or Unified Communication Certificate (UCC), expands the scope of protection to not just all the subdomains but also to your other domains. What it means is that you can not only protect all your domains with this kind of certificate but also all their subdomains.

So, for example, while a wildcard SSL certificate issued for would allow you to protect only,, root domain and all its subdomains one-level away from the root domain.

Multi-Domain SSL certificate

The CSR of a multi-domain SSL certificate is still issued for a primary domain, but it allows other domains to be specified as Subject Alternative Names (SANs) while activating the certificate.

Difference between Multi-domain and Wildcard SSL certificate briefly

We understood both these kinds of certificates in greater detail through explanations. Now it is time to take a quick look at the difference between both wildcard as well as multi-domain certificates. Let us see:

CriteriaWildcard SSL certificateMulti-domain SSL certificate
Number of domains that can be protectedOne root domain and all its subdomainsMultiple root domains and subdomains
CSRIncludes a wildcard (*) characterDoes not include a wildcard (*) character
Subject Alternative Names (SANs)NoYes
Domains one-level away from the root domainNot protectedProtected
ScalabilityLessMore – you can add as many domains and subdomains as you want to
CostCosts lessCosts more due to extra domains

Concisely, a multi-domain SSL certificate offers you the unlimited ease of scale and certificate management while wildcard SSL certificates sit in the middle of single-domain and multi-domain SSL certificates.

Final Thoughts: How to choose the right kind of certificate?

By now it may be clear to you that a multi-domain SSL certificate is the best kind of SSL certificate that you can get for your business. However, the best also comes with a price tag of its own – a higher price tag in this case. If you are a business just starting up, it may not be feasible for you to get this kind of certificate. In such a situation we would recommend that you get a wildcard SSL certificate. Otherwise, if you do not have any such constraints, it will be better that you get a multi-domain SSL certificate from the beginning. That will help you scale much faster. The pricing of a multi-domain SSL certificate starts from $21.60/yr, and you can get a decent SAN SSL certificate for your business.

So, what are you waiting for? Now when you know the definition, the difference, and the decision-making process, get your desired certificate today! Also, share this post with others in your circle so they too can make an educated decision about their SSL certificate.

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