Introducing the 2024 PKI & Digital Trust Report     | Download the Report

What to Expect from PKI as a Service


In today’s dynamic digital landscape, organizations face the challenge of managing their Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) efficiently and securely. While some may consider handling PKI in-house, the complexity and resource demands often lead to a desire for alternative solutions.

PKI as a Service (PKIaaS) emerges as a compelling option, offering a cost-effective, scalable, and time-efficient approach to PKI management.

When considering PKIaaS, organizations weigh the options of deploying it on-premises, in the cloud, or through a third-party provider. Managing PKI internally can be daunting due to the intricate nature of handling multiple Certificate Authorities (CAs) and the absence of dedicated in-house expertise. This shows how important it is to rely on PKIaaS vendors for specialized knowledge. They ensure PKI services stay secure and lighten the load on internal resources.

All organizations need PKI and must decide how to deploy it: on-premises, in the cloud, or through PKIaaS. Managing PKI by yourself is an option, but often a challenging one due to its complexity and high demand on resources.

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of running your own PKI, as well as what to look for in a PKIaaS provider.

4 things that make enterprise PKI unique 

Enterprise PKI presents unique challenges compared to PKI implementations in small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The scale of operations in enterprises introduces complexities that require specialized solutions.

Deployment at scale 

Enterprises typically manage a large number of digital certificates and devices, on average over 80,000, according to Keyfactor’s 2024 PKI & Digital Trust Report. This figure makes manual management impractical and risky. The sheer volume of certificates and devices requires robust automation and management capabilities to ensure efficiency and accuracy.

The average organization, according to Keyfactor’s 2024 PKI & Digital Trust Report, has over 80,000 certificates and 7 internal issuing CAs used.The average organization, according to Keyfactor’s 2024 PKI & Digital Trust Report, has over 80,000 certificates and 7 internal issuing CAs used.

Higher costs

The consequences of a PKI outage in an enterprise environment are more severe than in SMBs. Beyond the immediate impact on operations involving on average 8 employees, such outages can lead to significant reputational damage and financial losses. 

Report data shows just one outage involves 8 employees and takes almost 6 hours to fix.According to Keyfactor’s 2024 PKI & Digital Trust Report, just one outage involves 8 employees and takes almost 6 hours to fix.

IoT/IIoT challenges

Enterprises operating in the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) spaces face additional challenges due to the proliferation of devices and certificates. Managing a large number of certificates across diverse IoT/IIoT environments requires scalable solutions capable of handling the complexity and diversity of these ecosystems.

Multiple CAs and certificates

Enterprises rely on multiple Certificate Authorities (CAs) to issue certificates for various purposes. Coordinating the issuance and management of certificates from multiple CAs adds another layer of complexity. Enterprises must implement centralized management solutions to streamline certificate lifecycle management and ensure compliance with security policies.

Why organizations choose to run their own PKI

Organizations run their own PKI for perceived benefits, such as total control over their infrastructure, providing on-demand flexibility, meeting unique standards and compliance regulations, and maintaining ownership of servers and hardware. Additionally, managing their own security may seem appealing, potentially reducing the risk of security breaches.

However, there are drawbacks. The benefits may not outweigh the drawbacks for every organization, leading some to prefer third-party vendors. Running an in-house PKI poses several challenges to efficient operation and security.

Top PKI and machine identity management challenges, according to Keyfactor’s 2024 PKI & Digital Trust Report.Top PKI and machine identity management challenges, according to Keyfactor’s 2024 PKI & Digital Trust Report.

Successfully managing PKI requires specialized skills and experience, but in reality, the responsibility falls to security personnel who are already overburdened with other responsibilities. This can lead to gaps in understanding, misconfigurations, and compromise the effectiveness of the PKI.

Moreover, in-house PKI managers continually need to update server and system capabilities to keep up with evolving regulations and security requirements. Failure to do so can leave the PKI vulnerable to security threats, audit failures, and regulatory fines.

Another drawback is that the enterprise would be responsible for implementing robust backup, disaster recovery (DR), and failover mechanisms. Inadequately addressing backup and DR requirements can result in service interruptions and loss of public trust.

While running an in-house PKI provides organizations with control over their infrastructure, it also requires significant investments in expertise, resources, and ongoing maintenance to effectively maintain the system. Alternatively, organizations may opt for PKIaaS offerings to transfer the risk of PKI management and ensure reliable and secure certificate management.

Why organizations choose to run cloud PKIaaS

Transitioning to cloud PKIaaS can be a strategic move for organizations seeking greater flexibility, scalability, and efficiency in managing their PKI. Once transitioned, organizations see a variety of benefits across their IT and security teams, as well as across the organization.

  • Costes más bajos
    • Consolidated infrastructure improves efficiency
    • Less personnel overhead with optimal resource allocation
  • Increased security
    • Infrastructure is built to follow standards and ensure high levels of authorization and security
  • Expertise
    • Experts who understand the regulatory nuances and continuous PKI landscape changes
  • Visibility
    • Centralization and visibility across all CAs and certificates with advanced discovery gives organizations an accurate view of their certificate landscape
  • Automatización
    • Automated certificate issuance and revocation minimizes the risk of service outages
  • Escalabilidad
    • The PKI infrastructure can scale seamlessly with the organization as it grows

5 things to look for in PKIaaS

Centralized management

When you’re assessing a PKIaaS platform’s ability to centralize management, look for these functions that streamline administration and reduce complexity, leading to improved operational efficiency:

  • One console to discover, view, and manage all certificates issued from your private PKI, public CAs, and cloud-based services
  • Vendor-agnostic approach that allows for the consolidation of various CA types
  • Visibilidad completa y detección en tiempo real de certificados en todas las CA y puntos finales

Seguridad y conformidad

Make sure the PKISaaS provider has a proven track record and offers flexibility & adaptability, allowing you to leverage diverse certificate authorities without vendor lock-in, as well as these features:

  • Backed by a well-documented CP/CPS and fully air-gapped
  • Always-offline root CA, protected by a FIPS-certified HSM, to ensure the utmost security for your cryptographic keys
  • Instalaciones de centros de datos de última generación y alta seguridad, supervisados 24 horas al día, 7 días a la semana
  • PKI operations hold PCI DSS v3.2 certification and SOC 2 Type II validation

Expert management

To ensure operational resilience and scalability, look for the following capabilities that enhance security and availability of your critical PKI infrastructure:

  • Guaranteed SLAs for CA and CRL/OCSP uptime 
  • Continuous patch management, vulnerability testing, backup and recovery
  • Proven expertise in PKI implementation and operations

Scalability and cost management

Mitigate risk and ensure regulatory compliance, safeguarding sensitive cryptographic assets and data integrity, with compliance features such as:

  • Emisión ilimitada de certificados y sin tasas por certificado
  • Infraestructura de CRL en tiempo real y servicios de supervisión
  • Highly available Issuing CAs, equipped with built-in Cloud FIPS 140 level 3 HSM protection, guarantee uninterrupted service as your organization grows

Crypto-agility and automation

To ensure that your PKI can support both legacy and modern applications, look for a PKIaaS that offers:

  • Extensibility to integrate with your cloud services, web servers, devices, and applications via protocols, agent-based, or agentless methods
  • Ability to support both quantum-safe and classical algorithms, as well as hybrid certificates
  • Automated renewal, provisioning, and installation of certificates at scale

Looking ahead: Feel secure with your PKIaaS provider

Enterprise PKI is unique and requires extensive internal resources and work to function correctly. Keyfactor takes the guesswork out of running an enterprise PKI with comprehensive cloud PKIaaS solutions tailored to the unique needs of modern enterprises.

Keyfactor is trusted by over 40% of the Fortune 500. Find out how Keyfactor can help your organization streamline your PKI.