What Are Wildcard SSL Certificates and SAN Certs?

by Jones David

In an era where cyber threats loom large, you must safeguard your online presence and protect sensitive and contact information with an SSL certificate. An SSL certificate is vital for ensuring secure communication on the web. Thus, contacting an ispmanager certificate provider now for a commercial or free SSL certificate to improve your website’s security will do your website a lot of good.

What options do you have? The two popular options are Wildcard SSL and SAN certificates. This comprehensive article discusses the world of Wildcard SSL and SAN certificates. Read on to deeply understand how these powerful security tools can fortify your digital landscape as we explore their functionalities, benefits, and use cases.

What is a Wildcard SSL Certificate?

  1. Definition and Functionality

Wildcard SSL certificates are powerful security tools designed to secure multiple subdomains within a single domain with a single certificate. As a result, they provide a comprehensive solution. These certificates leverage the asterisk (*) as a wildcard character, which acts as a placeholder, allowing the certificate to cover all possible subdomains under the specified domain. For instance, a wildcard certificate for “*.example.com” secures subdomains like “mail.example.com,” “blog.example.com,” and “shop.example.com.”

  1. Key Features and Benefits
  • Versatility and Cost-Effectiveness: Managing numerous subdomains becomes effortless as Wildcard SSL certificates can secure unlimited subdomains under a single certificate. This scalability reduces costs and administrative burdens associated with managing individual certificates.
  • Enhanced Web Security: Certificates shield sensitive information from eavesdropping and tampering by encrypting data transmitted between the server and users. This not only protects your visitors but also establishes trust in your brand.
  • Time Efficiency: The streamlined deployment process of Wildcard SSL certificates saves time, as only a single certificate installation is required to secure an entire domain and its subdomains.
  • Future-Proofing: Wildcard SSLs are flexible for adding new subdomains without purchasing additional certificates, enabling your digital infrastructure to scale effortlessly.
  1. Considerations and Limitations
  • Limited to Subdomains: While Wildcard SSL certificates offer broad coverage for subdomains, they cannot secure different or multiple unrelated domains. For instance, “*.example.com” cannot secure “example.net”, but it can secure “mail.example.com” and its subdomains.
  • Single-level Wildcard: Wildcards cover only one level of subdomains. For instance, a certificate for “*.example.com” won’t secure “blog.shop.example.com.” Hence, they cannot secure higher-level subdomains.
  • Validation Level: Wildcard SSL certificates typically offer domain validation (DV) or organization validation (OV) options but not extended validation (EV). Website owners should consider their specific security requirements when choosing the validation level.

Updating revoked or expiring wildcard certificates entails considerable effort, particularly considering the geographic distribution of the affected servers and the level of visibility into your infrastructure. Failure to renew a wildcard certificate on time can result in a major outage, severely impacting business continuity.

  1. Use Cases
  • E-commerce Platforms: Wildcard SSL certificates are invaluable for online marketplaces, e-commerce platforms, and websites with multiple stores. They efficiently secure numerous subdomains, ensuring the safety of customer transactions and sensitive or personal data.
  • Content Management Systems (CMS): Websites powered by CMS platforms like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal benefit from Wildcard SSL certificates. They simplify securing the main domain and all associated subdomains, facilitating a secure online experience for visitors.
  • Enterprise Environments: Large organizations with diverse departments and services operating under different subdomains can utilize Wildcard SSL certificates. This approach centralizes security management, providing a comprehensive solution across the organization.

What are SAN Certificates?

  1. Definition and Functionality

Subject Alternative Name (SAN) certificates, known as Unified Communications Certificates (UCC) or Multi-domain Certificates, provide an efficient solution for securing multiple domain names, subdomains, or even completely different websites with a single certificate. Unlike Wildcard SSL certificates, SAN certs explicitly list each domain or subdomain they secure within the certificate, making them the go-to solution for securing multiple domain names, subdomains, and different websites.

  1. Key Features and Benefits
  • Flexibility Across Domains: SAN certificates empower you to secure multiple domains, subdomains, and different websites using a single certificate. This makes them ideal for organizations with diverse web environments, streamlining security under a unified certificate.
  • Wide Compatibility: SAN certificates seamlessly integrate with all major browsers, servers, and email clients, ensuring smooth integration or interoperability with your existing infrastructure.
  1. Considerations and Limitations
  • Certificate Management: As SAN certificates require explicitly listing each domain or subdomain, certificate management can become complex, especially for larger environments. Regular updates are necessary to accommodate new domains or subdomains.
  • Cost Consideration: SAN certificates generally cost more than Wildcard SSL certificates due to the additional domains and subdomains they can secure. Website owners should assess their specific needs and budget accordingly.
  1. Use Cases
  • Multi-Domain Websites: SAN certificates are perfect for websites serving multiple domains or subdomains including different levels subdomains. News portals, corporate websites, or e-learning platforms can leverage SAN certs to secure various web properties seamlessly.
  • Collaboration Tools: Communication platforms, project management systems, and unified communication tools often rely on multiple subdomains. SAN certificates ensure secure connections across these services, protecting sensitive collaboration and communication channels.
  • Web Hosting Providers: SAN certificates can be an excellent choice for hosting providers looking to offer their clients the ability to secure multiple domains and subdomains using a single certificate. This adds value to their hosting packages while simplifying certificate management for their customers.


Wildcard SSL and SAN certificates provide website owners and system administrators with powerful tools to enhance web security and simplify certificate management. Wildcard SSLs excel in securing unlimited subdomains under a single domain but for only 1 lvl, offering versatility and cost-effectiveness with greater amount of subdomains. 

On the other hand, SAN certificates allow for securing multiple domains, subdomains, or different websites with one certificate, providing flexibility across diverse web environments. Understanding the certificates’ differences, benefits, limitations, and use cases empowers website owners, businesses, and organizations to make informed decisions, safeguarding their online presence and building trust with users in an increasingly interconnected world.

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