Updated: November 30, 2023

Selecting the right SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is crucial for small business owners and independent app developers. SSL certificates not only secure data but also establish trust with your users. This article will guide you through the primary SSL certificate types, making it easier for you to choose the right one without getting tangled in technical language.

What is an SSL?

SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is a vital technology that ensures safe and encrypted online communication. It acts as a shield, safeguarding the data exchanged between your web browser and a website’s server. When you visit a website with SSL, it establishes a secure connection, encrypting your data to make it extremely challenging for malicious individuals to intercept or decode. This encryption process transforms sensitive information like passwords, credit card details, and personal data into an unreadable code, ensuring its protection.

Additionally, SSL offers a crucial layer of trust and authentication. Websites using SSL acquire digital certificates from trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs). When you access an SSL-secured site, your browser checks this certificate’s authenticity. If it’s valid and issued by a reputable CA, your browser displays indicators like a padlock icon or “https” in the URL bar. This assures you that the website is legitimate and not a fraudulent copy. SSL isn’t just a security measure; it’s also a symbol of trust on the internet, giving users confidence that their interactions with the website are secure and their data is safe.

Why are There So Many Types of SSLs?

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates come in various types to meet the diverse security needs and preferences of websites and web applications. These certificate types offer different levels of validation, encryption, and functionality.

For instance, personal blogs or informational sites often require basic encryption and validation, so they use Domain Validated (DV) SSLs. On the other hand, e-commerce platforms, financial institutions, and government websites need higher levels of validation and trust, leading them to choose Extended Validation (EV) SSLs. Wildcard SSLs are handy for those with multiple subdomains, Multi-Domain SSLs are suitable for businesses with several web properties, and Single Domain SSLs are cost-effective for single website owners. This variety ensures that organizations can pick the SSL certificate that precisely matches their security, trust, and operational needs, ultimately creating a safer and more dependable online environment.

Types of SSLs

Domain Validation (DV) Certificates

DV certificates are the easiest and budget-friendly SSL choice. They confirm domain ownership and offer basic encryption. They work well for personal blogs or websites where trustworthiness isn’t a top priority.

Which Sites Should Use DV Certificates?

DV SSL certificates work well for different types of websites:

1. Personal Blogs or Informational Sites: If you run a personal blog or a basic informational website, DV SSL certificates are typically sufficient. These sites usually don’t involve transactions or sensitive data exchanges. A DV SSL certificate ensures that the connection between the user’s browser and the website is encrypted, providing a basic layer of security.

2. Small Business Websites: Small businesses with limited budgets can benefit from DV SSL certificates. If your website serves as an online brochure, providing information about your services or products, a DV SSL certificate helps establish trust with potential customers. It ensures that your website is secure, even if you don’t handle financial transactions directly on the site.

3. Non-Profit Organizations: Non-profit organizations often have websites to share their mission, raise awareness, and accept donations. While data security is still crucial, DV SSL certificates can be an economical choice for these organizations. They provide encryption for donation forms and contact information, helping build credibility.

4. Landing Pages: Companies running specific marketing campaigns often create landing pages or microsites. These pages are designed to capture leads or promote a particular product or service for a limited time. DV SSL certificates can be suitable for such instances, as they offer basic security for user data without the need for extensive validation.

5. Community Forums: Community forums and social networks that don’t handle sensitive personal information or financial transactions can benefit from DV SSL certificates. While user interactions are secure, more advanced certificates may be needed if these platforms evolve to include payment processing or private messaging.

Organization Validation (OV) Certificates

Organization Validated (OV) certificates offer a higher level of validation and trust compared to Domain Validated (DV) certificates. OV certificates are a great choice for websites and web applications that value credibility, data security, and trustworthiness. In this article, we’ll discuss the kinds of websites and web applications that should think about using OV certificates.

Which Sites Should Use OV Certificates?

OV certificates are suitable for various types of websites:

1. Small to Medium-sized E-Commerce Sites: E-commerce websites that handle online transactions and sensitive customer data should choose OV certificates. These certificates provide a higher level of assurance to customers, establishing trust in the legitimacy of the business.

2. Business Websites and Corporate Portals: Websites representing businesses, corporations, and organizations should consider OV certificates. They often contain valuable information, facilitate internal and external communications, and may handle user data. OV certificates enhance security and credibility.

3. Financial Institutions and Banks: For banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions, OV certificates are essential. They are needed for online banking portals and websites handling financial transactions and sensitive data, aligning with strict security requirements.

4. Healthcare and Medical Websites: Healthcare providers, medical institutions, and telemedicine platforms dealing with patient information should prioritize OV certificates. These certificates assure patients that their data is secure and they are dealing with a reputable healthcare provider.

5. Government and Public Sector Websites: Government agencies and public sector organizations handling sensitive information and offering essential services should use OV certificates. They ensure secure access to government resources and foster trust among citizens.

6. Educational Institutions: Colleges, universities, and online learning platforms benefit from OV certificates, especially when managing student data and online course registrations. These certificates enhance the security of online educational portals and contribute to the institution’s credibility.

7. Legal Firms: Law firms and attorneys with websites where clients share confidential information should prioritize OV certificates. They are crucial for maintaining client confidentiality and demonstrating a commitment to data security.

8. B2B Supplier Portals: Business-to-business (B2B) platforms and supplier portals involving confidential transactions and data sharing should use OV certificates. These certificates enhance trust between business partners and protect sensitive information.

Extended Validation (EV) Certificates

Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificates are the highest standard for building trust and securing data. EV certificates offer the utmost level of validation and assurance to website visitors, making them an excellent choice for particular types of websites and web applications that prioritize top-tier security and credibility.

Which Sites Should Use EV Certificates?

Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificates are crucial for various types of websites and organizations:

1. E-Commerce Giants and High Volume Retailers: Large e-commerce platforms like Amazon and eBay should choose EV SSL certificates. They handle extensive customer data, including credit card information, and the green address bar in browsers inspires confidence in secure and legitimate transactions.

2. Financial Institutions: Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions must prioritize EV SSL certificates for online banking services. The finance industry requires the highest level of security and trust, and EV certificates meet these standards, assuring users that they are interacting with their bank’s genuine website.

3. Government: Both national and local government websites are crucial sources of information and services for citizens. EV certificates validate the government’s legitimacy and provide added security, ensuring users can trust the authenticity of government resources.

4. Healthcare Sites: Healthcare institutions and telemedicine platforms handling sensitive patient data need EV SSL certificates to ensure patient privacy and data security. EV certificates instill confidence in patients when sharing medical information online.

5. Legal Firms: Websites for legal firms and attorneys often deal with sensitive legal matters and client data. EV SSL certificates demonstrate a commitment to data security and confidentiality, vital for maintaining client trust.

6. Online Payment Gateways and FinTech: Payment gateway providers and financial technology (FinTech) companies, responsible for processing financial transactions, should use EV certificates. These certificates reassure users that their financial data is well-protected.

7. High-Profile Corporate Sites: Large corporations and multinational companies with a substantial online presence should consider EV SSL certificates. These certificates enhance the credibility of corporate websites and safeguard confidential business information.

8. Premium Subscription Sites: Websites offering premium content, subscription-based services, or exclusive memberships benefit from EV certificates. They provide an additional layer of trust for paying customers who expect top-tier security.

9. Critical Infrastructure and Utility Providers: Organizations responsible for critical infrastructure and utility services, such as power companies and water utilities, should prioritize EV SSL certificates. These certificates assure users that they can access essential services securely.

WildCard SSLs

Wildcard SSL certificates offer unique benefits for certain websites and web applications. They secure not just the main domain but also all its subdomains using a single certificate. This makes them a cost-effective and efficient choice for specific scenarios.

Which Sites Should Use WildCard SSLs?

Wildcard SSL certificates are particularly valuable for specific types of websites and applications:

1. Websites with Multiple Subdomains: If your website has many subdomains, like sales.example.com and support.example.com for various departments of a corporate site, a Wildcard SSL certificate can secure them all without needing separate certificates.

2. E-commerce Platforms with Subdomains: E-commerce sites often use subdomains for shopping carts, payment processing, and customer accounts. A Wildcard SSL certificate ensures the security of all these subdomains, providing a seamless and trustworthy shopping experience.

3. Content Management Systems (CMS): Websites using popular content management systems like WordPress often use subdomains for different content types or user areas. A Wildcard SSL certificate simplifies security management for these diverse subdomains.

4. Software as a Service (SaaS) Providers: SaaS companies often use subdomains for each client’s account or instance. A Wildcard SSL certificate allows them to efficiently secure all client-specific subdomains, enhancing overall service security.

5. Educational Institutions: Universities and schools frequently use subdomains for various departments, faculties, or student portals. A Wildcard SSL certificate streamlines the process of securing these subdomains, ensuring student and faculty data remains protected.

6. Cloud Services and Hosting Providers: Companies providing cloud services or web hosting often use subdomains for customer accounts or server instances. A Wildcard SSL certificate simplifies the security infrastructure, benefiting both the provider and its clients.

7. Intranet and Extranet Sites: Organizations with intranet or extranet sites accessible via subdomains can enhance internal and external security with Wildcard SSL certificates. These certificates provide secure access to various sections of the network.

Single Domain SSL Certificates

Single Domain SSL certificates are a simple and budget-friendly security solution suitable for many websites and web applications. While they may lack the flexibility of Wildcard or Multi-Domain SSL certificates, Single Domain SSL certificates serve a specific purpose.

Which Sites Should Use Single Domain Certificates?

Single Domain SSL certificates are well-suited for various scenarios:

1. Small Business Websites: For small businesses with a single website, a Single Domain SSL certificate is ideal. It ensures your primary domain is secure, instilling trust in your customers when they visit your site.

2. Personal Blogs and Portfolios: Individual bloggers, photographers, artists, and anyone with a personal website can benefit from a Single Domain SSL certificate. It adds a layer of security, especially important if your site includes contact forms or interaction with visitors.

3. Informational Websites: Websites that primarily provide information, such as educational resources, news outlets, or informational blogs, can use Single Domain SSL certificates. These sites don’t handle user data or financial transactions, so basic encryption suffices.

4. Landing Pages: Single-purpose websites or landing pages designed for specific campaigns, promotions, or events can effectively use Single Domain SSL certificates. They provide security for user interactions without the need for broader coverage.

5. Personal (non-business) Webmail: Individuals running personal email services on their domains can secure their webmail services with Single Domain SSL certificates. These certificates ensure email communication confidentiality.

6. Temporary or Development Projects: If you’re working on a short-term project or a website that won’t be active for an extended period, a Single Domain SSL certificate provides security without a long-term commitment.

7. Personal Sites: Individuals seeking to establish an online presence for personal branding or showcasing their resumes can secure their websites with Single Domain SSL certificates. This adds professionalism and security to their online profiles.

Multi-Domain SSL Certificates

Multi-Domain SSL certificates, also referred to as Subject Alternative Name (SAN) certificates, are flexible tools created to secure several domains and subdomains using one certificate. They provide a practical and cost-effective solution for specific types of websites and web applications.

Which Site Should Use Multi-Domain Certificates?

Multi-Domain SSL certificates are beneficial for various scenarios:

1. Businesses with Multiple Websites: For companies managing several websites or web properties, Multi-Domain SSL certificates are a practical choice. They can secure the main company website, associated blogs, and other web-based tools or services.

2. E-Commerce Platforms with Multiple Subdomains: E-commerce businesses with numerous subdomains for different operations, such as checkout, customer accounts, and product pages, find value in Multi-Domain SSL certificates. These certificates simplify security management and build customer trust.

3. Marketing Agencies: Marketing agencies often create multiple campaign-specific websites or landing pages for clients. Multi-Domain SSL certificates make it convenient to secure these temporary or short-term projects using a single certificate.

4. Web Hosting and Cloud Providers: Companies offering web hosting or cloud services can use Multi-Domain SSL certificates to secure their customers’ domains and subdomains. This streamlines the process for clients and enhances overall security.

5. SaaS Providers: SaaS companies with various client-specific instances or subdomains can efficiently secure them all with a Multi-Domain SSL certificate, providing security assurance to their customers.

6. Educational Institutions with Multiple Departments: Universities and colleges frequently have multiple departments, each with its website or web portal. Multi-Domain SSL certificates simplify security management for these diverse subdomains.

7. News Outlets and Media: Media companies operating multiple news outlets, blogs, or content platforms can secure all their web properties with a Multi-Domain SSL certificate, ensuring data integrity and trust with readers.

8. Franchise Businesses: Franchise businesses can secure their main corporate website and individual franchisee websites using a Multi-Domain SSL certificate. This maintains a consistent level of security across the entire network.

A Final Note:

Though the there are many options for SSL’s many businesses are choosing to incorporate free and open-source Let’s Encrypt SSLs instead of premium SSLs. This is because Let’s Encrypt still provides the primary encryption benefit of SSLs while saving on cost.

ZebraHost offers SSL services for both premium SSLs as well as Let’s Encrypt.


You might have observed that you have options when it comes to selecting an SSL certificate. It’s essential to compare the pricing and features of different SSL types to determine which is the best fit for your business.

Choosing the right SSL certificate is crucial for your website’s or web application’s security. SSL certificates safeguard both your users and your business. Furthermore, they play a pivotal role in establishing trust in your business.
If you are interested in purchasing an SSL, consider browsing the options on our site or contacting a member of our team.