Here’s a comparison of paid and free wildcard SSL certificates to help you make an informed decision
“Why should I pay for an SSL certificate if it’s available for free?” and “If there are free wildcard SSL certificates, then why are some people buying paid ones?” If these two questions had popped into your head, you’re not alone. Many people are looking for free SSL certificates, including free wildcard SSL certificates. But in the debate about paid vs free wildcard certificates, which is the better option for your business?
Let’s get started.
Free Wildcard SSL Certificates: What Are They?
Both paid and free wildcard SSL certificates aim to achieve the same thing — secure a main domain and all of its single-level subdomains. This is helpful as you might have noticed that more and more websites are now migrating to HTTPS. In other words, more website owners are installing SSL/TLS certificates on their websites. There are many reasons for this shift, but it’s mainly due to rising level of user awareness and penalties imposed by browsers on non-HTTPS websites.
The major web browsers, industry research experts, and users alike are pushing for an internet where every piece of data is encrypted. Essentially, they’re pushing for “HTTPS Everywhere.” As a part of this campaign, groups have established free SSL platforms such as Let’s Encrypt, which is a free and open certificate authority. These services have made SSL certificates free and accessible to everyone — which may sound great but isn’t necessarily a great thing in all aspects.
SSL certificates issued by commercial and free CAs facilitate the same type of encryption. However, free wildcard SSL certificates don’t undergo the rigorous verification processes or offer many of the useful features that paid SSL certificates do.
Free vs. Paid Wildcard SSL Certificates
If free wildcard SSL certificates were identical to commercial ones, no one would be using paid SSL certificates. However, that’s not the case. A paid SSL certificate, especially a wildcard, holds many significant advantages over free SSL certs. Let’s go through them one by one.
What They Cover
Here is where paid and free wildcard certificates are the same: Both types of SSL certificates cover your primary domain and an unlimited number of single-level subdomains. In other words, if you have a website named yourwebsitename.com, then a wildcard SSL certificate will enable you to secure that as well as subdomains such as:
The list goes on and on, but you get the idea. Thanks to these wildcard SSL certificates, you don’t need to purchase separate SSL certificates for each of your subdomain.
Validation level means the level of validation that your SSL certificate will display to your users. A certificate authority (CA) conducts a validation process before issuing an SSL certificate. In case of wildcard SSL certificates, it could be either domain validation (DV) or organization validation (OV) SSL certificate. The level of validation plays a critical role in building trust as it shows a user whether a domain or the organization responsible for it has been checked. It’s all about authentication and asserting identity.
If you have an OV SSL certificate, it’ll display your organization’s name in the certificate details, which assures users of the legitimacy of your organization. In case of business or ecommerce website, this helps you establish credibility and gives a boost to user confidence for giving his/her financial information.
The big takeaway in all of this is that free wildcard SSL certificates don’t offer organization validation. They only offer domain validation. That’s because the entire system is built around automation, so no human verifies the legitimacy of an organization before issuing a certificate.
Paid wildcard SSL certificates, on the other hand, are sold with the option of domain or organization validation, the latter of which helps you to establish trust in a user’s mind.
When you install an SSL certificate, you basically rely on the certificate authority for the security of your website as it’s their root certificates and algorithms at work. So, if something goes wrong at CA’s end, it could put the security of your website in jeopardy. That’s why paid certificate authorities offer warranties in case something goes wrong. Some certificate authorities offer warranty as big as $1 million. That type of protection isn’t there in the case of paid SSL certificates.
Site seals play an important role in building trust and communicating to users that a site is safe to send their sensitive data. All reputable commercial certificate authorities offer site seals, but you don’t get these seals when you get a free wildcard SSL certificate from a platform or provider such as Let’s Encrypt.
A major difference between free and paid wildcard SSL certificates is their validity periods. Free wildcard SSL certificates come with a validity period of 90 days. It means that you must reissue your certificate for every three months. On the other hand, paid SSL certificates can be issued for as long as two years.
Purchase a Wildcard SSL Certificate & Save Up to 73%!
We offer the best discount on all types of wildcard SSL Certificates with DV and OV validation. We offer wildcard certificates from the leading CAs, including Comodo CA, Sectigo, Thawte, GeoTrust, and RapidSSL starting for as little as $52.95 per year.
Free vs. Paid Wildcard SSL Certificates: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Free Wildcard SSL Certificate||Paid Wildcard SSL Certificate|
|Organization||Let’s Encrypt||Comodo PositiveSSL Wildcard Certificate
|Encryption Strength||256 bits||256 bits|
|Validation Level||Domain Validation||Domain Validation and Organization Validation|
|Validity Period||90 Days||Up to 2 Years|
Free vs. Paid Wildcard SSL Certificates: The Conclusion
If SSL certificates were just used for encryption alone, then there would be no debate between free and paid wildcard SSL certificates — everyone would be using free certs. But as you know, that’s not the case. There’s much more to SSL certificates than just encryption, and these things play a crucial part in making a website secure. Opting for an OV wildcard SSL certificate is a no-brainer for an organization who has a website with a lot of subdomains and wants to assert their identity to build trust.