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The ultimate guide to buying a wildcard SSL certificate

Buying a wildcard SSL certificate is a crucial step in ensuring the security and trustworthiness of your website, especially if your website has multiple subdomains. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into all you need to know about the process of buying a wildcard SSL certificate.

Understanding wildcard SSL certificates

What is an SSL certificate?

SSL certificates are digital certificates that provide a secure and encrypted connection between a web server and a user's web browser. They are essential to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of data transmitted between the user and the server. If you are a website owner, a valid SSL certificate is vital to protect your customer’s data. Many browsers no longer even load websites that do not have a valid SSL certificate, which makes it almost impossible for users to visit your website.

To read more about how SSL certificates work and why you need one, take a look at this guide.

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What is a wildcard SSL certificate?

A wildcard SSL certificate is a digital certificate that secures not only a single domain, but also unlimited subdomains. This means that with one certificate, you can ensure the encryption of data transferred to and from your main site and any subdomains associated with it. For example, a Wildcard SSL for *.example.com would cover shop.example.com, blog.example.com, and any other subdomain. However, a wildcard SSL certificate does not cover multiple domains at once (such as example.com and example2.com).

Wildcard SSL certificates are particularly useful for businesses that manage multiple platforms or services under one primary domain. It simplifies management by eliminating the need for separate SSL certificates for each subdomain, thereby saving time and resources.

Benefits of using wildcard SSL certificates

Wildcards SSL certificates are a simple, cost-effective, highly secure, and easily scalable solution, making them a popular choice for securing websites.

  • Cost-effectiveness: Instead of purchasing separate certificates for each subdomain, a single wildcard certificate covers all of them. This can significantly reduce costs.

  • Simplified certificate management: Dealing with one certificate for all subdomains eases the burden of tracking multiple expiration dates and reduces the administrative overhead of maintaining several SSL certificates.

  • Enhanced security: Wildcard SSL certificates protect all your subdomains, reducing the risk that an unsecured subdomain becomes a vulnerability. A uniform security protocol is also essential for maintaining customer trust and protecting sensitive data.

  • Easily scalable: As your business grows and you add more subdomains, they're automatically secured under the same wildcard certificate. This ensures continued protection.

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Key factors to consider before buying a wildcard SSL certificate

Understanding your security needs

Before you buy a wildcard SSL certificate, it's crucial to assess your website's security needs. Consider how many subdomains you have and whether they handle sensitive information such as personal details or payment data. If you operate multiple services on your subdomians that require encryption, a wildcard SSL certificate is likely a suitable option.

Additionally, think about the level of trust you want to establish with your visitors. A wildcard SSL certificate offers a high degree of trust by displaying security indicators, such as the padlock icon in the browser address bar. This is especially important if you aim to convey a strong sense of reliability and security to your customers.

Take into account future expansions as well. If you plan on adding more subdomains, a wildcard SSL certificate can grow with your business, allowing you to secure new subdomains without purchasing additional certificates.

Trustworthiness of the Certificate Authority

The reliability of the Certificate Authority (CA) that issues your wildcard SSL certificate is a critical consideration. A trustworthy CA should have a strong reputation for security and reliability, ensuring that the certificates it issues are widely recognized and respected. It's essential to choose a CA that undergoes regular and thorough audits, adhering to industry standards such as those set by the CA/Browser Forum.

The CA's root certificates must be embedded in major web browsers. Otherwise, users might receive warnings when visiting your site, which can erode trust and potentially drive traffic away. Furthermore, a CA with robust customer support is invaluable in case you encounter issues during the certificate setup or at any point throughout its lifecycle.

Investigate the CA's track record for certificate revocation and its policies for dealing with compromised certificates. A CA that acts swiftly in such scenarios can help limit any damage to your site’s reputation and maintain the security of your users' data.

Buying wildcard SSL certificates

Where to buy a wildcard SSL certificate

When you're ready to buy a wildcard SSL certificate, there are several sources you can turn to. The most common are directly from Certificate Authorities or through third-party resellers, such as a domain registrar or hosting provider. Purchasing directly from a Certificate Authority ensures that you're getting the certificate from the source, often accompanied by direct support and guidance. This can be reassuring, especially if you value having a direct line to your certificate provider.

Resellers, on the other hand, can offer competitive pricing and might provide additional services such as simplified management tools for multiple certificates, or lower prices for certificates bought in bulk. They often have customer service teams that can assist with the selection and installation process.

Regardless of where you purchase your certificate, make sure that the provider offers a secure and straightforward buying process. Look for clear pricing, a range of payment options, and easy access to support. It's crucial to use a trusted platform to prevent any security issues right from the start of your purchase.

How to buy a wildcard SSL certificate?

To buy a wildcard SSL certificate, start by selecting a reputable Certificate Authority or reseller. If you are buying the certificate directly with the CA, you'll need to generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) on your server, which includes your domain name and company details. This request is a key part of the SSL certificate application process.

When you buy a wildcard certificate with a reseller, such as a domain registrar or hosting company, you usually do not have to take care of this yourself. If you get a hosting package or hire a web designer or agency to create a website for you, the SSL certificate is often already included in the price, so you do not have to organize or install anything yourself.

Once you have your CSR (if needed), you can choose the type of wildcard SSL certificate that best suits your needs. There are three validation levels: Domain Validation (DV), Organization Validation (OV), or Extended Validation (EV), with DV offering the lowest and Ev offering the highest level of protection. You can learn more about these levels of validation in this guide on SSL.

After selecting your certificate type, you can place your order. You will then go through the validation process, which varies depending on the level of certificate you've chosen. After successful validation, the CA will issue your wildcard certificate, which you can then install on your server to secure your main domain and any associated subdomains.

If you want to buy your own SSL certificate for the lowest price, you can do so in a few clicks through the Openprovider control panel.

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Installation and management

How to install your wildcard SSL certificate?

Installing your wildcard SSL certificate involves several steps. After receiving your certificate from the CA, you'll need to install it on your web server. The installation process can vary depending on your server software, so it's important to follow the specific guidelines provided by your hosting provider or the Certificate Authority.

Typically, you will need to access your server's control panel or command line interface. From there, you'll input the certificate files that you received from the CA—the primary certificate, the private key generated with your CSR, and any intermediate certificates.

Once the files are uploaded and configured, you should then check that your server is set up to serve HTTPS requests by default and that any HTTP traffic is redirected to HTTPS, ensuring secure connections for all users. After installation, verify the certificate's functionality using an SSL checker tool to ensure it's working correctly across all subdomains. If you encounter issues, consult your provider's support resources.

Tips for effective certificate management

Buying and installing a wildcard certificate does not mean your website is protected forever. These four tips for effective certificate management can help prevent unexpected security issues.

  • Be proactive in monitoring the expiry date of your certificate. Allowing it to lapse can result in your website being flagged as insecure, which can deter visitors. We recommend setting up reminders to renew your certificate well in advance of its expiration date.

  • Keep your private keys secure. If they are compromised, the security of your certificate is at risk. Store them in a secure location and limit access to them.

  • Regularly review and update your list of subdomains to ensure every subdomain that requires protection is covered by your wildcard SSL certificate. If you add new subdomains, remember that they are automatically secured by your wildcard certificate; however, you should still check to make sure they are correctly configured for HTTPS.

  • Stay informed about the latest security practices and updates from your Certificate Authority. This will help you respond quickly to any vulnerabilities or changes in industry standards.

Renewal and troubleshooting

The renewal process: what you need to know

The renewal process for a wildcard SSL certificate is something you need to handle well before the certificate expires. Typically, your hosting provider or Certificate Authority will send you reminders as the expiration date approaches. It's advisable to start the renewal process at least one month in advance to avoid any lapse in your website's encryption.

Renewing your wildcard SSL certificate usually involves generating a new CSR and purchasing a renewal from your CA. You might be able to use the same CSR you used for the original certificate, but some CAs recommend generating a new one for security reasons.

Once your renewal has been processed and you have received your new certificate, you will need to install it on your server, just as you did the first time. After installation, make sure to verify that it is functioning correctly.

Keep records of your renewal dates and the steps you've taken, as this will streamline future renewals. Staying on top of renewal ensures continuous protection and trust for your website's visitors.

Troubleshooting common SSL issues

Encountering issues with wildcard SSL certificates can be frustrating, but most problems have straightforward solutions. If users report security warnings when accessing your site, it could be due to an incomplete installation, where the intermediate certificates were not correctly installed. Revisit your installation process to ensure all certificate files are properly placed.

Another common issue arises when a subdomain isn't correctly covered by the wildcard SSL certificate. Double-check that the subdomain in question matches the pattern of the wildcard certificate and that there are no typos in the server configuration.

Mismatched domain names can also cause problems. The domain for which the SSL certificate was issued must exactly match the domain the server is responding to, including the subdomain part. If you've recently changed your domain or subdomains, you may need to reissue your certificate.

If you continue to experience issues after these checks, consult your certificate provider's Knowledge Base or contact their support team. They should be able to provide guidance specific to your situation.

Order your wildcard SSL certificates with Openprovider today

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