UCC Certificate vs Wildcard SSL — What Should You Know?

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If you’re confused about whether to purchase a UCC certificate vs wildcard, you’ve come to the right place. Especially if you’re a business owner with an internet presence, chances are you’re well aware of the advantages of installing an SSL/TLS certificate on your web servers. Besides Google’s initiative to flag websites that do not use HTTPS as “insecure”, digital certificates actually do their bit in making the internet a relatively safer place, by using industry-recommended encryption standards to secure your communication.

With cybercrime on the rise, using an SSL/TLS certificate helps you build trust with site visitors and take a step toward improving your website’s security. Why? Because digital certificates establish an encrypted channel between the client browser and the web server. Over this channel, if an attacker tries to read your data, they’d end up with muddled information that is unintelligible and practically useless without the decryption key. Here’s the catch though: While digital certs encrypt your communication, it doesn’t guarantee that the website you’re accessing is not a phishing site.

Unified communications certificates (UCC) and wildcard certs are types of digital certificates that serve different purposes. Before getting into their differences, let’s understand the functionality of each certificate individually. UCC certificates are typically designed for use on Microsoft Exchange and Communications servers, whereas wildcard SSL certificates are used to secure unlimited subdomains at a single level.

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A unified communication certificate (UCC) is an SSL certificate capable of securing multiple fully qualified domain names (FQDN) and their first-level subdomains under a single certificate. It is also called a multi-domain certificate or a subject alternate name (SAN) certificate, as a client can add multiple domain names as the subject of the certificate.

UCC SSL vs Wildcard SSL: UCC Certificates

Unified communications certificates, also called multi-domain certificates or subject alternative name (SAN) certificates, are used to secure multiple fully-qualified domain names (FQDNs). UCCs are ideal for server environments, such as Microsoft Exchange, but can be deployed on other server environments as well. These certificates are available in all three levels of validation — domain validation (DV), organization validation (OV), and extended validation (EV) — but all the domains listed on the certificate will receive the same validation level.

Consider the following example:

Tim owns several businesses and has a different website for each of these businesses. He wants to use HTTPS on them to ensure visitors are not discouraged by a security warning. However, he doesn’t want to have  to manage multiple SSL/TLS certificates.

Suppose he wants to secure the following websites:

  • www.site1.com
  • www.site2.net
  • www.site3.org
  • www.site4.com

With a UCC certificate, he can secure all of these sites by citing them as individual SANs on a single certificate.

UCC SSL vs Wildcard SSL: Wildcard Certificates

If you wish to secure one primary domain along with its subdomains, a wildcard SSL certificate is a good choice option. Using a wildcard SSL certificate, you can secure unlimited subdomains on a single certificate at a single level. Consider Tim from our previous example. Let’s say he owns another website named www.site5.com. Now, site5.com has multiple subdomains, such as:

  • blog.site5.com
  • order.site5.com
  • collection.site5.com
  • dev.site5.com, etc.

With a wildcard SSL certificate for *.site5.com, Tim can secure all these subdomains using one certificate. It’s important to note that the asterisk can be used to specify one particular level that it can secure, not multiple levels. For example, a certificate for *.site5.com will not secure account.blog.site5.com. To secure second-level subdomains, you would need a separate wildcard certificate (*.blog.site5.com).

A Comparison: UCC vs Wildcard SSL

The table below highlights the differences between UCC SSL vs wildcard SSL certificates:

UCC SSL SSL Wildcard Certificate
A single certificate to secure up to 250 domains and subdomains. A single certificate for an unlimited number of subdomains but only at one specific level.
Limitations on the number of domains covered are defined by the issuing certificate authority. No limits on the number of subdomains covered.
Example: www.site.com, blog.website.com, www.website.org, www.example.com, etc. can all be secured using one certificate. Example: *.site.com secures every subdomain at that level, such as dev.site.com, blog.site.com, etc.
The different domain names to be secured must be defined and added at the time the certificate is purchased. Additional subdomains can be added or removed at any time.
Available for all levels of validation — DV, OV, and EV. Available for DV and OV levels of validation only. EV is not an option for wildcard certificates.

So, with all of this in mind, how do you choose between a UCC certificate vs a wildcard?

As far as choosing between the two certificates is concerned, your decision should depend on your specific business needs. If you need to secure multiple domains, especially for Microsoft Exchange environments, a UCC SSL cert would be a good fit. If, on the other hand, your site has numerous subdomains all at the same level on your primary domain, you could choose a wildcard SSL certificate instead.

You can also opt to use a multi-domain wildcard SSL certificate, which combines the utility of both types of certificates, giving you the flexibility to secure multiple domains and multi-level subdomains.

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Wildcard SSL Certificate Price Comparison SSL Certificate for Subdomain – How Do I Get One for My Website?