A Guide to Certificate Lifecycle Management: Benefits and Use Cases

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There is a growing need for modern digital Certificate Lifecycle Management (CLM) solutions that can help organizations address the expanding challenges associated with managing digital identities for humans and machines. Enterprises are struggling to rapidly deploy, discover, revoke, and replace digital certificates amid their increasingly heterogenous IT environments, which are scattered across on-premises and cloud environments.

Cloud adoption, digital transformation initiatives, remote work environments, automation, IoT, and other factors have driven a sharp rise in the volume of digital certificates that organizations must manage. Enterprises are using these certificates to authenticate machine and human identities in a variety of use cases, including identity-first zero-trust access, passwordless authentication, digital signing, and robotic process automation (RPA) security.

The growing volume and types of digital certificates in use have put an enormous strain on traditional approaches to manage certificate lifecycles. Older methods — such as using spreadsheets, outdated certificate management tools, and internally developed products — take manual approaches that are not scalable and secure enough to handle modern certificate lifecycle requirements. Also, some legacy CLM solutions don’t leverage cloud- and identity-first principles.

CLM benefits and use cases

The lack of a modern, coordinated, certificate-agnostic approach heightens enterprise exposure to security risks tied to the use of digital certificates. Not only are organizations subject to business disruptions due to expired digital certificates, they also put their data at risk of being exposed by hackers. There are reports of issues tied to encryption key misconfigurations, certificate theft and misuse, and a general lack of visibility into the certificates in use.

The practice of CLM is certainly not new. But multiple factors are driving the need for a modernized approach to CLM, including the need to manage certificates from multiple authorities. Siloed CLM products and outdated approaches like spreadsheets are no longer enough because of the sheer volume and variety of certificates in enterprise environments. There is a growing need for technology that provides single-pane-of-glass visibility for discovering all certificates and managing them centrally. Organizations need a platform that is built to manage private certificates that were issued internally as well as certificates from public Certificate Authorities.

Modern CLM platforms also need to work across cloud and multi-cloud infrastructures. Today’s IT infrastructure typically consists of a mix of on-premises systems and cloud environments. Enterprise data, applications and systems are scattered across internal and external infrastructures that are not always directly managed by the enterprise.

A CLM platform must provide seamless integrations with leading technology providers so that workflows can be customized and fit within each organization's unique environment. Openness and interoperability is at the heart of CLM. Importantly, the platforms need to be able to support a slew of emerging use cases for digital certificates, such as passwordless authentication and other remote authentication applications.

Future-proof digital certificate management

The rapid pace of technology change, coupled with digital transformation efforts, necessitate a modern approach to CLM. With the right platform in place, organizations not only mitigate business and security risks, they also ensure their IT teams are prepared to manage emerging use cases for digital certificates.

Learn more about managing public and private certificates with a modern CLM platform.

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