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Why Your PKI May Be Due for an Upgrade


Public key infrastructure (PKI) is essential for securing a modern, digital workplace.

It’s a proven technology to establish digital trust that can extend across everything from securing IT infrastructure to embedding identities in connected products. If you’re like most organizations, PKI has long been a part of your enterprise security in some way or another.

On the one hand, this long-standing history with PKI is a good thing: It means your team is familiar with this approach and has established a strong mindset around digital trust. 

On the other hand, this history may be holding you back: As the digital world has expanded (and digital identities along with it), PKI programs must evolve to meet these changing demands.

With that in mind, is your PKI due for an upgrade? Here’s what you need to know.

Rethink Your PKI

Modern Enterprises Demand Modern PKI

The digital footprint of today’s enterprise looks wildly different than it did ten or even five years ago.

We now live in a hybrid and multi-cloud world. Teams are developing new digital applications at a rapid-fire pace and users are connecting in different ways and on more devices (largely outside the traditional firewall) – to name a few of many changes.

Against this backdrop, security teams that continue to use legacy PKI, such as Microsoft CA, battle serious challenges, including:

  • An increasingly costly and overly complicated CA infrastructure footprint
  • Certificate sprawl and outages
  • Piecemeal hardware and software solutions that create more complexity

In the past, it made sense: Microsoft CA, also known as Active Directory Certificate Services (ADCS), has been an easy choice for many organizations. But ADCS isn’t equipped to support a cloud-driven environment or a remote workforce, which is a critical limitation at a time when 52% of organizations say cloud-based services are driving the deployment of PKI, keys and certificates.

Some of the biggest limitations of Microsoft ADCS in the modern environment include:

  • Inability to scale with high-volume issuance
  • Limitation of only one certificate authority (CA) per server, which cannot support multi-tenancy or clustering
  • Lack of integrations with modern tooling and interfaces
  • Lack of documentation and support which leads to common misconfigurations
  • Limited expertise or resources to manage the PKI infrastructure

5 Reasons to Modernize Your PKI Deployment

Deploy your way

Flexibility in deployment options for your PKI is essential at a time when more and more companies are moving to a hybrid and multi-cloud world. Specifically, it’s important to consider security, budget, availability of resources, and more as you think about the type of deployment that’s right for your organization. 

Common deployment options include cloud-based PKI solutions, which offer more scalability and easier deployment, and on-premises solutions like software or hardware PKI appliances, which are better suited for organizations with strict regulatory requirements and in-house resources.

Meet any use case

Legacy PKI solutions like Microsoft ADCS don’t play well with today’s complex IT landscapes. 

Fortunately, more modern PKI solutions do fill this need, supporting thousands of certificate operations per second and providing built-in support for protocols like ACME, EST, CMP, SCEP, and of course, Auto-enrollment – all underpinned by a REST API.

The value of these integration capabilities in supporting multiple teams with growing digital identity needs can’t be overstated.

Scale without limits

Scalability and performance is non-negotiable if your PKI program will support mission-critical applications. On the scalability side, modern PKI solutions remove traditional limits, like per-certificate fees or the need for additional CA servers. They can also spin up new certificate authorities much faster with just a few clicks.

Meanwhile, when it comes to performance, outages simply aren’t an option. But the risks of an outage are far too high with legacy PKI programs. Modern PKI solutions solve this problem by offering built-in support for multi-tenancy and high availability. And a SaaS-delivered or fully managed PKI can offer guaranteed SLAs and 24/7 monitoring.

Simplify and consolidate PKI

Legacy PKI environments are typically bloated thanks to inconsistent policies and growing costs that come from adding in new CAs and use cases piecemeal over time. Equally as challenging, these scattered environments are hard to secure.

Adopting a more modern solution can not only simplify policies and use cases, but it can also consolidate all related operations onto a single platform. This consolidation can support better governance – and therefore security – and lower total cost of ownership.

Enable automation and crypto-agility

Last but not least, modernizing your PKI can set up your organization for more success now and in the future by providing greater visibility and control over your environment. For example, it can automate certificate lifecycle management so that your team can do more, better.

This automation gives you the flexibility to increase security and reduce errors by moving off of manual approaches, and it allows you to stay agile as the volume of certificates inevitably expands at an exponential rate.

Ready to upgrade your PKI?

PKI is only growing in importance: Digital identities are popping up everywhere, use cases are expanding, and security threats are evolving. If your company hasn’t revisited your PKI strategy recently, it’s likely time to take a closer look. Once you do, you may find your PKI is due for an upgrade.

For a deeper look at the challenges that plague legacy PKI programs, the value of modernizing your environment, and the options for doing so, click here to download our guide on why it’s time to re-think your PKI.