Types of SSL Certificates

Types of SSL Certificates: Which one Should Pick

Are you considering buying an SSL certificate for your website and not sure what type of SSL certificate to buy? Do not worry. This article has got you covered. We will be glad to brainstorm with you about various elements of SSL certificates.

Introduction – What You Need To Know About SSL Certificates?

Secure Socket Layer certificates have come a long way. A few years ago, only a few giant companies and eCommerce stores required SSL encryption. During the early days of HTTPS, SSL certificates were almost unaffordable and riddled with security weaknesses.

Today, SSL certificates are indispensable aspects of every website that cares about security. The certificates have been adopted widely, even by small websites that seem not to have data worth stealing.

One factor that explains the widespread adoption of SSL certificates is the rise in data breaches. According to figures from Statista, the third quarter of 2022 has seen approximately 15 million data breaches. This figure represents a 167% increase from the previous quarter.

Hackers are relentless and will lay sophisticated traps to ensure they steal user data. Without an SSL certificate, your website and all its data become vulnerable to these attackers.

But what is an SSL certificate, and how does it work to ensure website security?

An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates website identity and establishes encrypted sessions between website servers and website users. Once an SSL certificate is installed on a website, it will initiate HTTPS encrypted sessions.

With HTTPS, it becomes impossible for eavesdroppers and man-in-the-middle attackers to access data.

Why an SSL Certificate is Important to Your Website?

As of 18th February 2021, there were over 157 million SSL certificates on the Internet. This is according to data from BuiltWith. There is seemingly a great obsession with SSL certificates. Website owners have realized the benefits they get by having SSL certificates.

Below is a summary of the benefits website owners get by installing an SSL certificate on their websites.

  • SSL certificates enhance security through encryption
  • SEO benefits- search engines rank HTTPS websites ahead of HTTP websites in their results pages
  • SSL certificate increases user trust.
  • SSL certificates help with PCI/DSS compliance

How does An SSL Certificate work?

Here is a step-by-step guide on how SSL certificates work:

  • A website browser attempts to connect to a website server. The website will request the web server to identify itself.
  • The website server will prove its identity by sending a copy of an SSL certificate to the web browser.
  • The web browser will check the SSL certificate to establish its authenticity and determine whether it is trustworthy. If the browser trusts the certificate, it will send a message to the server.
  • The website server will then send a digitally-signed acknowledgment to the web server that initiates encrypted SSL communications.
  • The encrypted data is only transmitted within the web browser and the web server.

The best way to learn how an SSL certificate works to establish website security is by using the analogy of encryption and decryption keys. During SSL communications, data is encrypted using encryption keys.

Encryption means that the data is converted into ciphertext rather than regular plaintext. Only the bearer of the decryption key holds power to decrypt, read and decipher data. Because hackers have no hold of the decryption keys, they can’t access encrypted data.

Types of SSL Certificates

Most website owners know they need an SSL certificate on their websites. However, most need to learn the types of SSL certificates they should use.

SSL certificates can be classified into two categories:

  • According to the Validation Level
  • According to the number of domains/subdomains they cover

Types of SSL Certificates Based on the Validation Level

There are three types of SSL certificates based on the level of validation. They are discussed below in brief.

Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificates

An EV SSL certificate is the type of certificate that provides the highest level of trust. These certificates have been said to be the industry standard SSL certificate for business websites.

To receive an EV SSL certificate, one must meet the authentication requirements for organization validation certificates and pass through a rigorous identity verification process. A human specialist does the verification process.

Because of the strict verification process, these certificates go through, these certificates provide more trust and confidence to users. The rigorous validation means that these certificates take a long to be issued- usually between three to five days after the certificate request is made.

he certificate authority verifies the organization’s legal, operational and physical existence and finally does a phone verification to issue a certificate.

Extended validation SSL certificates are good for websites that collect sensitive users’ data in a great amount like banking, eCommerce, payment processors, etc.

Once the certificate is issued, the user can click on a secure padlock in the browser to check the verified organization’s name.

Organization Validation (OV) SSL Certificate

OV SSL certificates are one step down from EV SSL certificates. An organization requesting an OV SSL certificate must prove that it owns the domain it intends to secure with the certificate.

It must also provide evidence that it is a legally-registered business. In other words, organization validation SSL certificates can only be issued to legally registered organizations and not individuals. They are ideal certificates for publicly-facing websites.

Because of the less intense identity validation process undertaken when validating these certificates, OV SSL certificates are issued between one to three days after the certificate request.

In the OV SSL certificate, the certificate authority undergoes validation for business registered documents before issuing a certificate.

Domain Validation (DV) SSL Certificate

This is the most basic validation level you can receive for an SSL certificate. All you will need to receive this certificate is to prove that you are the legitimate domain owner of the certificate.

DV certificates are the quickest, easiest, and most budget-friendly SSL certificates. They are issued within minutes of making the certificate request. They are the most cost-effective and ideal certificates for small blog websites.

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Types of SSL Certificates Based on the number of domains/subdomains they cover

SSL certificates can also be classified based on the number of domains or subdomains they cover. Here are the types of certificates that fall in this category.

Single Domain SSL Certificates

If you intend to buy SSL certificate that covers only one domain, the single-domain SSL certificate is the one you should go for. These certificates do not cover any extra domain or subdomains other than the one it is issued for. It is also categorized as a standard SSL certificate.

Wildcard SSL  Certificates

Wildcard SSL certificates are among the best SSL certificates you can get for your website. They cover the primary domain and all first levels of subdomains falling under the main part.

A single wildcard will cover unlimited subdomains, including the ones you add later on in the future. With these certificates, SSL certificate management becomes easy.

They are also cost-effective since you can save money by buying several certificates for all subdomains.

Multi-Domain SSL Certificates

As its name suggests, a multi-domain is a type of SSL certificate that covers multiple domains both of the same level or different levels under a single certificate. With multi-domain SSL certificates, domains that are not subdomains of one another can also share a certificate.

Unified Communication (UCC) SSL Certificates

These certificates are designed for Microsoft Exchange communications and Microsoft Office environments. UCC SSL certificates are multi-domain certificates with the power to secure up to several domains or subdomains.

How To Pick the Right SSL Certificate

The type of SSL certificate you choose for your website will depend on several factors. It includes the level of validation you want your website to have, the availability of a warranty, the brand of the certificate authority issuing the certificate, and your budget, among many other factors. You must evaluate your website needs and pick an SSL certificate that addresses these needs.


SSL certificates play an important role in the security of your website. This article has explored several elements of SSL certificates, such as what they are, how they work, their benefits, and the types of SSL certificates.

It is now time to go ahead and pick the best SSL certificate that suits the needs of your website.