What Is a SAN SSL Certificate? Your Ultimate Guide!

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If you’re not sure what SAN certificates are or whether you need them, ask yourself a few important questions:

  • Do you own multiple websites?
  • Do you own websites with different top-level domains (e.g. .com, .in, .ca, .net, .org, .tech, .io, etc.)?
  • Do you want to save time, money, and labor hours?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll answer your question “what is a SAN SSL certificate?” We’ll also explore what SAN certificates do, what their benefits are, and which SAN SSL certificates offer you the greatest advantages at the best prices

What is a SAN SSL Certificate and Why Do You Need One?

In the context of an SSL certificate, the subject alternative name (SAN) is a type of SSL certificate that is capable of securing multiple domains under a single certificate. A client can append a certificate with multiple subject names or domain names (up to 250) during the certificate’s validity period. Hence, they are called SAN certificates.

For example:

A single SAN SSL certificate has the capacity to secure all below domain names under the single certificate roof:

  • www.domain1.com
  • domain1.com
  • blog.domain1.com
  • products.domain1.com
  • order.domain1.com
  • dev.blog.domain1.co.uk
  • test.blog.domain1.com
  • domain2.org
  • dev.blog.domain2.com
  • test.blog.domain2.com
  • blog.domain2.ca
  • products.domain2.com
  • order.domain2.com
  • www.domain3.in
  • www.domain4.net
  • www.domain5.tech

Wildcards, on the other hand, can only secure a single domain and an unlimited number of subdomains on a single level.

But what else do SAN certificates offer?

Your Choice of Validation Level

SAN certificates are available in all three validation types. Domain validation (DV) is designed specifically for freelancers, startups, bloggers, and small businesses that don’t collect or handle customers’ personal information. Organization validation (OV) and extended validation (EV) are high-end certificates designed for companies that are legally registered and have physical addresses.

Multi-Level Subdomain Coverage

Any level of subdomains can be added as additional SANs under the SAN certificate. For example, if you own mysite.com, blog.mysite.com, posts.blog.mysite.com, suscription.blog.mysite.com, traveling.post.blog.mysite.com, etc., you can secure all of these subdomains under the same SAN SSL certificate.

Coverage of Domains with Different TLDs

It’s a very common practice for businesses to buy domain names with multiple TLDs to protect their brand name and get the benefit of Google’s localized search results. But getting separate SSL certificates for each domain sporting a different TLD used to be very expensive and time consuming. That’s why virtually all of the major certificate authorities (CAs) offer SAN certificates that can include all of the domain names with different TLDs under the same SSL certificate.

Simplified Certificate Management

Let’s be honest here. SSL certificate management is not like a certain Ray Romano TV character — not everyone loves it. It includes certificate signing request (CSR) generation, validation, and installation processes — all of which are tedious and time consuming when you have to do it for every domain individually. If you make a single mistake, all the browsers will go crazy and show different types of SSL related error pages when someone tries to visit your website.

Plus, you must keep track of the expiry date and renew the certificate before it expires. Otherwise, the browsers will show a pesky security warning page with the “SEC_ERROR_EXPIRED_CERTIFICATE” message that can drive away your prospective or current customers. The renewal process is the same as buying a new SSL certificate!

The following screenshot of a frustrated customer’s post was taken from a leading SSL provider’s certificate renewal page:


Image how frustrating it would be for that person to have to generate a CSR, pass the validation process, and install the SSL certificate 13 times! Unfortunately, autorenewal is still not available for security reasons. But do you see our point? Unless you own multiple websites and have loads of extra money available to waste, then buying a single-domain SSL certificate for each site individually is not a wise decision.

This is where a SAN SSL certificate can rescue you! When all of your websites are secured under a single SSL certificate, you just need to go through the entire certificate management process for one time — for all the websites — no matter whether it’s for five, 15, or 100 websites! Peace!

The Best Industry Savings

Another huge advantage of buying one SAN SSL certificate is that it would save you money. Buying one SAN SSL certificate would cost you less than buying a separate single domain certificate for every domain. Plus, you will save a significant amount of time and labor in the certificate management process, as stated in the above point.

Let’s check out the price for some of the best SAN certificates:

  PositiveSSL Multi-Domain Sectigo OV UCC SSL Certificate Positive SSL EV Multi-Domain
Lowest Available Price $29/year $149/year $158.44/year
Warranty $50,000 $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Validation Level Domain Validation Organization Validation Extended Validation
Issuance Time Within Minutes 1-3 Days 1-5 Days
What the Certificate Includes (Domain Coverage) 1 main domain FQDN+ 2 different SANs+ with the option of purchasing additional coverage for up to a total of 2,000 additional SANs. 1 main domain FQDN + 4 different SANs with the option of purchasing additional coverage for up to a total of 250 domains. 1 main domain FQDN + 2 different SANs+ up to 250 additional SANs at an extra price
Browser Security Indicators Not enables a padlock icon to appear in the web address bar. It enables a padlock icon to appear in the web address bar and your organization’s name to be listed in the certificate information. It enables a padlock icon to appear in the web address bar and your organization’s name to display more prominently in the browser. 
Eligibility Any website That doesn’t collect or handle users’ personal information. Most suitable for freelancers, bloggers startups, small businesses, etc. Only legally registered business organizations with a physical address. Only legally registered business organizations with a physical address + a minimum of 3 years in operation.
Are Subdomains Included? Subdomains can be added if they are specified as SANs. Subdomains can be added if they are specified as SANs. Subdomains can be added if they are specified as SANs.
Cost to Include Additional Domains and Subdomains $8.66/year per additional domain $34/year per additional domain $69.13/year per additional domain
Encryption Strength 256 bit 256 bit 256 bit
Type of site seal Dynamic Dynamic Dynamic
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