You’re ready to purchase an SSL certificate for your website, but there are so many options! How do you choose the right one for your own website?
In this article, we’ll examine the different types of SSL certificates to help you make the right decision for your website.
Why Do You Need SSLs?
In our recent article, we explained SSL certificates and why all websites can benefit from the extra security that SSL provides.
In a nutshell, SSLs encrypt all data sent to and from a website, making it safer to transmit passwords, credit card numbers, and other personal information. Websites with SSLs promote trust, both among your site visitors and with Google, which recognizes them as trusted and legitimate sites. These benefits can boost site conversion rates and search engine rankings.
At the end of the day, between encryption and SEO, it’s really a good idea to install SSL certificates on all websites, even if it’s just a personal blog or website without any interactions.
For even more information on SSL certificates, be sure to check out our special guide.
Choosing the Right SSL
To get an SSL for your website, you need purchase one from a provider (such as Namecheap). The provider serves as an intermediary between you and a Certificate Authority (Comodo, e.g.) that will verify your information. The CA will then issue the SSL in the form of a cryptographic key that you will be able to download and install on your site.
In order to choose the appropriate SSL certificate for your website, you’ll need to consider the types of data that your users will be sending through your website (as well as the types of information they will have access to on your site). You’ll also need to base your choice on how many domains you will need to secure.
Because there are so many options, making the right choice can be a little confusing. Let’s break it down.
SSL Validation Levels
The key to understanding SSLs is that there are three validation levels.
All SSL certificates come with basic encryption for your website. They all will also change your site address to start with HTTPS rather than HTTP.
However, there are three levels of SSLs that correspond to the amount of security the certificate provides. As the security increases, the CA will require additional documentation that you own the domain in question and are a legal representative of the company.
As a result, higher levels of validation provide additional customer confidence in your website. The three levels, in increasing levels of security, are as follows:
- DV – Domain Validation (for blogs and personal sites)
- OV – Organization Validation (for small businesses, organizations, and educational institutions, with or without e-commerce)
- EV – Extended Validation (for large businesses, agencies, and any sites with e-commerce or high-risk data)
Websites will require different levels of security, so let’s take a deeper dive into each level. That way you’ll better understand what’s included so you can make the best decision.
1. SSL Certificates for Blogs and Personal Websites
If you have a small website or blog and don’t sell products or ask for private customer data, Domain Validation (DV) certificates may be the best choice for you. These offer the lowest validation level. These certificates are best for websites with nothing more complicated than a contact form or comment box.
DV Certificates are also the quickest to install. They don’t require paperwork and you can purchase and set one up in just a few minutes. Once you purchase a DV certificate, the CA simply verifies that you manage the domain name for the certificate. The certificate validation process usually can be completed within 15 minutes.
2. SSL Certificates for Businesses & Organizations
Organization Validation (OV) certificates are perfect for small businesses as well as educational and nonprofit organizations that require a bit more non-transactional data from their customers.
OV certificates are ideal for websites with discussion forums or volunteer signups, or that request personal data such as addresses, biographical details, work schedules, or similar types of data. Small e-commerce websites that utilize PayPal or other third-party payment options can also benefit from an OV certificate.
For OV certificates, CAs must validate the company name, domain name, and other information through the use of public databases. The issued certificate will contain the company name and the domain name for which the certificate was issued. Because of these additional checks, this is the minimum certificate recommended for e-commerce transactions as it provides the consumer with additional information about the business.
In addition to securing your site with encryption and the HTTPS address, with OV certificates you can get a dynamic site seal to display to your customers, a visual mark of security which builds trust.
To obtain an OV Certificate, the process is a bit more complicated than with DV certificates. In this case, you’ll need to follow the Domain Control Validation (DCV) process. The CA will verify the legal and physical existence of the company for which the certificate will be issued—a process that can take up to three business days.
3. SSL Certificates for Corporations and E-commerce Sites
Extended Validation (EV) certificates are best suited for governmental agencies, e-commerce websites, and corporations that deal with high-risk data like health records, banking data, or social security numbers. This level of assurance is also crucial for e-commerce sites and any other business that requests high-risk financial, medical, or other data.
EV certificates provide the highest level of validation and security, displaying the “green bar” and a padlock icon in the browser’s address bar along with the company’s name. These visual highlights can promote trust and loyalty among your site visitors.
After purchasing an EV certificate, the applicant must submit documents required by the Certificate Authority as part of the verification process, and verify the legal and physical existence of the company and its telephone number. This process can take up to ten business days to complete.
How Complex is Your Website?
Now that you’ve chosen the proper validation level for your certificate, you’ll need to also decide on the right type of SSL for your particular website structure. Don’t worry—this step is simple.
Let’s take a look at your options.
1. Single-Domain Certificates for Small Websites
Like the name suggests, single-domain certificates are the best choice when you have just one website on a single domain (including both the www.mydomain.com and mydomain.com versions). These are the proper choice for blogs or small business websites that don’t use subdomains (such as mydomain.com and support.mydomain.com) or multiple root domains (mydomain.com and mydomain.uk as part of a single website) for different pages within the site.
2. Wildcard Certificates for Websites with Subdomains
Wildcard certificates are appropriate for large organizations which have each department as a subdomain. With a WildCard certificate, you protect both your primary domain name along with all subdomains of the domain.
For example, a Wildcard certificate issued to *.mydomain.com can be used to secure any or all of the following hostnames:
- support.mydomain.com etc.
With Wildcard certificates, you can ensure that all of your subdomains are protected, no matter how many your organization may have.
3. Multi-Domain Certificates For Large Organizations
Multi-domain certificates are used on websites that have a number of different domains, related or not, or have similar domains registered in different countries.
A Multi-domain SSL Certificate can secure your main domain as well as several SAN (Subject Alternative Name) domain names in one Certificate.
For example, you can secure all these domains with a single SAN Certificate:
You could also secure international branches such as:
Finally, Multi-domain Certificates may also be used for Unified Communications (UC) to secure Microsoft Exchange 2010 Server, Office Communications Server 2007, or Mobile Device Manager.
Multi-domain SSL Certificates do not require several dedicated IP addresses for your hostnames.
What’s the Best SSL for Your Needs?
As you can see, there are a number of different criteria you will need to consider when choosing your SSL certificate.
If you’re still not sure which level of validation you need, here’s a final point to consider:
If you’re running a prominent business or request customer details on your website, especially credit card information, it’s a good idea to go with an EV Certificate. The added trust factor that comes from the highest assurance SSLs and the green bar assurance can be quite valuable. It demonstrates to your customers that your site is legitimate and sends the message that you value your customers’ privacy. While EV certificates are more expensive than the other options, this level of assurance should help you increase sales, improve conversions, and allow you to build a strong relationship with your customers.
And when you choose Namecheap as your SSL provider, you can rest easy knowing that all SSL Certificates are issued by Comodo, the top Certificate Authority worldwide with over 100 million websites secured.
If you’re ready to secure your site, be sure to check out all of our SSL options with discounts of up to 49% off. We offer choices that are best for every website.