In today’s digital age, online security is a top priority. Websites must take measures to ensure the safety and privacy of their visitors. One of the ways to achieve this is through SSL certificates, which encrypt data transmissions between the website and the user’s browser.
Secure connections are now a requirement for any website. However, not everyone has the resources or needs a dedicated SSL certificate. Here’s where shared SSL provides an effective solution for smaller websites or businesses. This article explores what shared SSL certificates are, how they work, and their limitations.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Shared SSL Certificate?
- How Does the Shared SSL Work?
- What Are the Limitations of a Shared SSL Certificate?
- What Is a Dedicated/Private SSL Certificate?
- Shared vs Private SSL
What Is a Shared SSL Certificate?
A shared SSL certificate is a digital cert used by multiple websites on the same server and the same IP address. It’s similar to sharing a house with roommates – you all share the same front door and key to get in. Similarly, each website shares the same SSL certificate to encrypt and secure visitors’ data. Shared SSL streamlines the shared hosting or CDN (Content Delivery Network) environments, allowing providers to better manage their resources and offer free encryption on a large scale.
How Does the Shared SSL Work?
Since multiple websites use the same shared SSL cert, your site won’t have an exclusive certificate. Instead of displaying your domain name in the certificate’s info panel, the certificate details will show your hosting or CDN provider’s URL.
When users visit your website, their browser will establish a secure connection with the hosting company’s or CDN’s server using the shared SSL certificate. The browser will display a padlock icon in the address bar to indicate that the connection is secure. However, upon checking the certificate, users will discover that it doesn’t belong to your domain name but to your hosting or CDN company.
What Are the Limitations of a Shared SSL Certificate?
Although often used as a quick encryption solution for small businesses and personal websites, shared SSL certificates have several limitations and drawbacks. Here’s why using SSL on shared IP is not the best choice.
The most significant limitation of shared SSL is that it offers limited security compared to a dedicated SSL certificate. When you use a shared SSL cert, you have the same protection as other websites on your server. If one site is compromised, everyone on that server is at risk. Cyber thieves can employ man-in-the-middle attacks to intercept and steal your visitors’ sensitive data.
Shared SSL certificates offer limited flexibility and may not be suitable for your project. Because you are sharing the same SSL certificate with others, configuring your website’s SSL settings to meet your specific security requirements could be impossible.
If you need a more complex solution to secure subdomains or multiple domains with one certificate, only a dedicated SSL certificate will do the job. Unlike shared SSL, private commercial certs issued by a trusted Certificate Authority can verify business identity and are a much better option for e-commerce platforms, non-profits, and organizations.
Limited Branding and Trust
As we’ve already mentioned, when you use a shared SSL certificate, your website will display the SSL information of your hosting provider or CDN rather than your website’s name. This can confuse your visitors, as they may not recognize the SSL issuer or refuse to trust it as much as a dedicated SSL certificate issued for your domain. To get the best customer trust and verify your legal identity, consider Business Validation or Extended Validation SSL certificates.
What Is a Dedicated/Private SSL Certificate?
A dedicated or private SSL certificate secures one specific domain or multiple domains belonging exclusively to the same website owner. With dedicated SSL, your website’s security is more robust and flexible. You can install such a certificate on almost any server and network appliance and benefit from enhanced features like a site seal to boost trust and an SSL warranty against potential data breaches.
Shared vs Private SSL
Every provider has different internal policies on using SSL for shared hosting. Some companies may let you use a private SSL Certificate on a shared hosting environment with a free dedicated IP address. Other companies may allow only a specific SSL brand, which they sell as a complementary product. If your hosting provider offers a free SSL certificate but doesn’t specify the issuer, check with them if it’s a shared SSL or private certificate.
The best way to ensure that your SSL Certificate will run smoothly on any server is to choose a VPS (Virtual Private Server), a dedicated server, or cloud hosting. With these options, you get more stability and reliability for all your hosting needs. You gain more control over your host and can install any type of SSL Certificate from any Certificate Authority.
Once you’ve set up the necessary hosting account for your private SSL Certificate, all you have to do is browse our huge list of SSL certificates and choose the one that suits your project best. Our intuitive tools such as the SSL Wizard and the SSL Certificate Filter can help you make the correct decision.
Using shared SSL certificates was acceptable and cost-efficient when HTTPS wasn’t mainstream. Nowadays, you can install SSL on shared hosting and have control of your certificate thanks to public CAs that issue private SSL certificates for every need. There is no need to enable shared SSL encryption and expose your website to potential security threats when most hosting providers offer private SSL even on their starting plans.
Consider your website’s type, niche, and requirements when choosing an SSL certificate. With so many options available for any budget, using a shared SSL certificate is not the best security practice in the fast-evolving digital landscape.