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Free SSL Certificate vs Paid SSL

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Choosing between a free and paid SSL certificate depends largely on your specific needs, such as the level of security and validation required, the number of domains and subdomains you need to secure, and the kind of customer support you might need.

Free vs Paid SSL

A free SSL certificate typically offers basic domain validation, has a short validity period (around 90 days), and comes with limited or no customer support. A paid SSL certificate can validate not just the domain but also the organisation, offers longer validity periods (up to several years), includes warranties, and provides customer support and options for securing multiple domains or subdomains.

security on website

Types of SSL Validation

The biggest difference between SSL types are their level of validation. Here’s a breakdown of the three main types:

1. Domain Validation (DV)

This is the simplest form of validation. DV certificates confirm that the applicant has control over the domain. The verification process typically involves the Certificate Authority (CA) sending an email to the domain’s registered email address, or the applicant modifying a DNS record. DV certificates are issued quickly, often within minutes, and are commonly available for free.

2. Organisation Validation (OV)

OV certificates provide a medium level of security and involve a more thorough validation process. In addition to verifying domain ownership, the CA also validates the organisation’s identity, including its name, location, and existence as a legal entity. 

This process requires the submission of official documents and can take a few days to complete. OV certificates are generally paid and suitable for businesses websites that want to offer their customers a greater level of trust.

3. Extended Validation (EV)

EV certificates offer the highest level of validation. The process involves an extensive examination of the requesting organisation by the Certificate Authority, including verifying the legal, physical, and operational existence of the entity. 

This thorough vetting process can take weeks to complete. EV certificates also activate distinct browser indicators, such as turning the browser address bar green and displaying the company’s name, aimed at providing a higher degree of user trust. 

Extended Validation certificates are the most expensive type and are ideal for high-security websites like banking or e-commerce sites where trust is crucial.

While free SSL certificates typically offer only DV level validation, paid certificates provide the option of OV or EV levels, enabling organisations to choose the level of security and trust they need based on their specific requirements and the sensitivity of the information handled on their websites.

What is a SSL Warranty?

Some SSL certificates come with a warranty that offers an additional layer of protection for both the website owners and the website’s visitors.

The warranty associated with an SSL certificate is meant to provide compensation to users who suffer financial losses due to a misissued certificate. 

If the Certificate Authority (CA) fails to properly validate the information before issuing the certificate, and this oversight leads to fraud or a security breach, affected users may be compensated up to the amount specified by the warranty.

Warranty Coverage: The coverage amount varies significantly among different CAs and depends on the type of certificate. For example, Extended Validation (EV) certificates generally offer higher warranty levels (often up to £1 million or more) compared to Organisation Validation (OV) certificates. This reflects the higher trust and security level associated with EV certificates.

Free SSL Certificate Warranties: Typically, free SSL certificates do not offer any warranty. This lack of financial protection is one of the trade-offs for using a no-cost service. Free certificates are usually basic Domain Validation (DV) certificates, which undergo minimal validation processes.

Relevance to Users: For businesses, especially those handling sensitive customer information or conducting transactions online, opting for a paid SSL certificate with a warranty can be crucial. It not only enhances customer trust but also provides a form of insurance that can help cover losses in the event of a security failure linked to the certificate’s validation.

SSL's for Multiple Domains or Sub-Domains

SSL certificates with Wildcard and Multi-Domain support offer flexible and efficient solutions for securing multiple domains and subdomains, which is crucial for organisations managing large web properties. Here’s how these features work:

Wildcard SSL Certificates

A Wildcard SSL certificate is designed to secure a primary domain and an unlimited number of its subdomains. For example, a single Wildcard certificate for * can secure,,, and any other subdomain. 

Wildcard certificates are particularly useful for businesses that operate multiple service fronts under one main domain. They are typically available as paid options because of the extensive coverage and convenience they offer.

website subdomains on different devices

Multi-Domain SSL Certificates (SAN)

Multi-Domain certificates, also known as Subject Alternative Names (SAN) certificates, allow multiple distinct domain names to be protected with a single SSL certificate. 

This type is ideal for businesses that operate several different domains such as,, and These certificates can secure a set number of domains and can be expanded to include more domains as needed. They simplify management by reducing the number of certificates to maintain and renew.

Limitations of Free Certificates 

Free SSL certificates, like those offered by Let’s Encrypt, typically provide coverage for a specific number of domains or subdomains without the flexibility of Wildcard or extensive Multi-Domain capabilities. 

They often require separate certificates for each domain or subdomain, which can complicate management for larger websites.

SSL Trust Seal

A trust seal is a visual emblem provided by SSL certificate authorities that can be displayed on a website to indicate a secure connection. 

This seal is usually a clickable image that shows information about the security of the website when clicked. Here’s how it functions:

  1. Purpose: The main goal of a trust seal is to increase visitor confidence in the security and credibility of the website. It reassures users that their data is transmitted securely and the site’s identity has been verified by a reputable certificate authority.
  2. Availability: Trust seals are typically offered with paid SSL certificates. They are designed to add an extra layer of trust by visually confirming the website’s commitment to security.
  3. Effectiveness: Displaying a trust seal can positively affect the user’s perception and increase transaction rates, particularly important for e-commerce sites where transactions involve sensitive data and financial details.
  4. Limitations with Free Certificates: Free SSL certificates generally do not include a trust seal. While they still encrypt data transmitted between the server and the user, the absence of a seal may not instill the same level of confidence in users compared to sites that display a trust seal.

A trust seal serves as a symbol of security and legitimacy that can help enhance user trust and potentially improve conversion rates on a website. This feature is typically only found in paid SSL certificates.


James - Senior Developer

James - leads the development team, ensuring high-quality code while staying up-to-date with the latest tech trends. Outside of work, he enjoys rock climbing, fuelling his passion for adventure and challenge.