Pros and Cons of Wildcard SSL Certificates — An Expert Review

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Is a wildcard SSL certificate really worth buying? Explore the advantages and disadvantages of a wildcard SSL certificate 

Are you looking for the best SSL certificate for securing your website and its subdomains? You may have heard that a wildcard SSL certificate will be the best fit. But is it so? Are there any disadvantages of using a wildcard SSL certificate? You have every right to investigate. After all, a wildcard SSL is almost eight times more expensive than a regular SSL certificate. So, let’s do a quick reality check concerning the advantages and disadvantages of a wildcard SSL certificate. In this article, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of wildcard SSL certificates so you can decide for yourself. 

Advantages of a Wildcard SSL Certificate 

1. Cost Savings 

If you buy separate SSL certificates for each of your subdomains, it’s going to get expensive. A wildcard SSL secures UNLIMITED number of subdomains under the same certificate. Whether you have 50, 100, 500, or even more, there are no additional charges and no hidden costs! Thus, a wildcard SSL can save your hundreds of dollars.  

2. Easy Certificate Management 

As the company grows, it tends to get more subdomains for new departments, product lines, and facilities. At that time, if you buy a new SSL certificate, you have to go through the entire certificate signing request (CSR) generation, validation and installation process again. Plus, each of these SSL certificates will have different renewal dates for which you must maintain a robust tracking system. Imagine the operational burden and costs associated with it!   

A single wildcard SSL certificate is capable of covering unlimited subdomains under the same certificate.  Moreover, you can add the subdomains whenever you get them — even in the middle of the validation period! Thus, you can add an unlimited number of the subdomains whenever you want! A wildcard SSL provides Ease of use and flexibility with one validation process, one-time installation, and one renewal date. Peace! 

3. Multiple Servers Flexibility 

A wildcard SSL certificate from SectigoStore.com can be installed on multiple servers. With many companies, there are often different departments handling different subdomains. For example, it’s a common practice for companies to keep dev.domain.com and test.domain.com for the IT department. In the same way, organizations keep separate subdomains for resellers, suppliers, vendors, human resource department, overseas teams, and for different product lines. For operational ease, organizations often keep these subdomains hosted on different servers. The same wildcard SSL certificate can be installed on multiple servers. All you need to do is to transfer your private key to any additional servers and it’s done! No need for buying individual SSL certificate for numerous servers. 

Please note that some certificate authorities charge extra fees for installing a wildcard SSL certificate on multiple servers. Some certificate authorities (CAs), like GoDaddy, don’t allow a wildcard SSL to be hosted on multiple servers. But some CAs, like Sectigo, give unlimited servers license. You don’t need to pay anything extra to install your wildcard SSL certificate on multiple servers when you use a certificate from SectigoStore.com. 

Disadvantages of a Wildcard SSL Certificate 

1. Limited Capacity 

It’s true that a wildcard secures unlimited subdomains. But it has some limitations, too.  

It secures only one primary domain’s subdomain. If companies have multiple domains, or domains with different top-level domains (TLDs) such as .in, .org, .net, .au, etc., they need to buy separate wildcards for each of these domains. Or get a multi domain wildcard SSL certificate. 

The same can be said about second-level subdomains. A wildcard covers only first-level subdomains. If you want to secure your second-level subdomains, you need to buy a separate wildcard for the first-level subdomains. For example, if you have a wildcard for domain.com, it will secure mail.domain.com but not usoffice.mail.domain.com. For that, you need to buy a separate SSL certificate for mail.domain.com. 

What a Wildcard SSL Certificate Does and Does Not Cover: 

Domain.com – Primary Domain
Valid Wildcard Domains Non-valid Wildcard Domains
-> mail.domain.com
-> test.domain.com
-> support.domain.com
-> blog.domain.com
-> domain.net
-> domain.org
-> newdomain.com
-> domain1.ca
-> chat.support.domain.com
-> ukoffice.mail.domain.com

2. Private Keys 

If you’re hosting your subdomains on multiple servers with the same wildcard, you have to share and transfer your private key to each server. When more people have access to your private key, chances for getting it becoming compromised also increase. Please understand that, technically, it’s not a disadvantage of a wildcard SSL certificate, but its more about how you handle your private keys. So, if you decide to host your subdomains on multiple servers with the same wildcard SSL certificate, just make sure the employees managing your private key are trustworthy and efficient.   

3. No EV Option 

Wildcard SSL certificates are available with domain validation (DV) and organizational validation (OV) only. It’s not available in extended validation (EV) type.  

As per the CA/B Forum’s rules, the certificate authority must go through a rigorous validation process every time it approves an EV SSL certificate for a new domain or subdomain. For wildcards, this rule doesn’t work because these certificates allow an unlimited number of subdomains. Individual validation for so many subdomains would significantly increase operational cost for CAs for each subdomain you add.  

Some companies prefer EV over OV and DV SSL certificates because EV certificates are considered highly prestigious in the industry. For such companies, a regular wildcard SSL won’t work. They still have an option to secure their subdomains with a multi domain EV SSL certificate. 

Conclusion  

Buying a wildcard is a smart choice if you want to save time and money when securing your subdomains. Managing a single wildcard instead of hundreds of individual certificates reduces your operational costs and simplifies certificate management. 

If you choose your certificate authority wisely, you can install the same wildcard SSL certificate on multiple servers for free. But you must be careful while transferring your private keys. Plus, if you have multiple domains, domains with different TLDs or second-level subdomains, or require extended validation, you should consider other types of SSL certificate. i.e., multi domain SSLmulti domain wildcard SSL.  

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