How to Use One SSL Certificate for a Multisite Network

How to Use One SSL Certificate for a Multisite Network

Securing your site with an SSL certificate should be an important part of your security arsenal to protect your data and users. Luckily, Domain Mapping makes it a snap to secure your entire Multisite Network with HTTPS.

With Google’s announcement to boost search engine rankings for sites using SSL certificates, it’s even more important to protect your Multisite Network. Domain Mapping lets you set custom domains for each subsite in your network.

I’ll show you how to get started by setting up Domain Mapping on your Multisite to use one SSL certificate for your entire network.

Choosing the Best SSL Certificate for Your Network

There are three main kinds of SSL certificates you can use, and the right one for your network will depend on the setup you would like to achieve.

A Multi-Domain (UCC) SSL certificate will allow your subsites to have their own domain with SSL.

You should note that many Certificate Authorities limit the number of certificates issued for a single IP address. So, if you’re running a large network of over 100 people, another solution may be necessary. Let’s Encrypt is a great way to get started with SSL certificates for free.

Mapped domains example

Your users can further personalize their site with their own domains. In such cases, adding another virtual host with SNI can help you setup SSL on all the mapped domains too.

Domain mapping with SSL certificates and subdirectories.
Note the subdirectory URL on the right. It’s not pretty!

Every site in your Multisite network can enjoy the privilege once reserved for single installs. You can use a Standard SSL certificate for Multisite installs with subdirectory paths such as https://www.your-site.com/site1/ and https://www.your-site.com/site2.

Standard certificates typically cost less, which is also a bonus.

If you set your Multisite up with subdomains, then a Wildcard SSL certificate will let your customers enjoy domains such as https://site1.your-site.com and https://site2.your-domain.com.

You can also choose an Extended Validation (EV) certificate, which works well for subdirectory installs, but with an added layer of security. It includes visible validation for your users to see that your site has gone through a rigorous screening process for security.

Once you have decided on the kind of SSL certificate you need for your Multisite, it’s time to purchase and set one up for your main network’s domain. If you’d like more information on SSL certificates and how to use them in WordPress, check out our post How to Use SSL and HTTPS with WordPress.

Setting Up Domain Mapping

Once you’ve successfully installed the SSL certificate, you’re ready to set up Domain Mapping on your network. For full details on how to get started, check out our comprehensive The Ultimate WordPress Domain Mapping Guide.

When Domain Mapping is all set up, you’re ready to configure your network’s SSL settings.

Activating SSL Across Your Network

Go to your Settings > General page, and in the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) fields, change all instances of http:// to https://. You must login again after you save your changes.

Change the WordPress & Site URLs in your site’s General Settings

Now, you’ve protected your main site with SSL encryption. But what about your subsites?

That’s where a plugin like Really Simple SSL Pro Multisite will come in handy. It lets you choose whether you apply SSL settings to your entire network or on a per-site basis.

Really Simple SLL Pro also allows you to activate or deactivate SSL on all your sites from the network menu. Plus, if you don’t like other subsite admins from tampering with the SSL settings, you can hide it from them.

Practice Safe Web, Use SSL

That’s it! You’re all set to use one SSL certificate for each site in your network. If you’re interested in letting your users select between multiple domains and sell it as a service, check out WP Ultimo plugin.

And if you’re looking for expert support if you run into troubles during setup, hit us with your questions in our 24/7 Support Forum. WPMU DEV Premium is a sure-fire way to power-up your Multisite Network.

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Jenni McKinnon
Jenni McKinnon A copywriter, copy editor, web developer and course instructor, Jenni has spent over 15 years developing websites and almost as long for WordPress. A self-described WordPress nerd, she enjoys watching The Simpsons and names her test sites after references from the show.
What are your plans for pairing Domain Mapping and SSL? Have you already included SSL certificates in your network? Even better! Share your experience and tips in the comments below.