managed vs private pki

Managed PKI VS Private PKI

Patrick Grubbs Education

Managed PKI VS Private PKI

Deciding between a managed PKI and a private PKI is a difficult decision. Each method of PKI management has advantages and disadvantages, and if you’re coming from a place of little experience, it can be daunting to choose one.

We’ve got you covered. Here’s a breakdown of the reasons you might want to build a private PKI or sign up for a managed cloud PKI instead.

What’s the Difference Between a Managed PKI and a Private PKI?

Just so we’re on the same page – let’s define our terms.

Private PKI – a PKI that is maintained by an internal team. A private PKI is usually also “on-premise”, meaning that the physical hardware is on-premise and also being maintained internally. It is possible to have a private PKI that is hosted in the cloud and maintained internally, but it’s uncommon.

Managed PKI – a PKI that is maintained by a company external to your organization. A managed PKI is almost always hosted in the cloud – there would be few reasons to install the hardware on-premise if you are not responsible for its maintenance.

Pros and Cons of Private PKI

Much of the function of a PKI is derived from its certificate authority (CA). Since the CA is such a core part of PKI, they’re sometimes used interchangeably, but this is not quite accurate. As such, you might also hear a private PKI incorrectly referred to as a private or internal CA, even though that’s just one piece of the complex PKI system.

Pros of Private PKI

The only benefit of running your own PKI is that it gives you full control. Control over certificate creation, distribution, and management; control over user management and network management.

It’s a lot of responsibility.

When it’s your organization’s security at stake, having full control is valuable. For some organizations, it might be mandatory; if you handle very sensitive data and are required to be accountable for it, for example. Very large organizations that benefit from economies of scale might also consider running a private PKI.

Cons of Private PKI

There are a lot of costs associated with running your own PKI.

Firstly, a PKI needs physical space. It also needs physical hardware in the form of expensive server racks and computers. For even a small organization, those costs add up quickly and only increase over time as the organization grows.

In addition to the physical components of a PKI, you need a dedicated IT team to set up, configure, and maintain your private PKI. Salaries for competent IT professionals are not insignificant – and to cheap out here would undermine your defenses and make your entire network vulnerable.

Pros and Cons of Managed PKI

managed vs private pki

In recent years, managed cloud PKI has become the go-to solution for organizations of all sizes – the adaptable, scalable nature of the cloud makes it very attractive to growing or agile companies.

Pros of Managed PKI

A managed, cloud-based PKI removes a lot of burden from an organization. There’s no need to allocate physical space for a server room or equipment, nor do you need to employ a dedicated PKI managing team.

In fact, instead of searching for highly qualified IT professionals to run a private PKI, a managed PKI provides you with a built-in team of experts that already know the ins and outs of PKI – how to configure it for unique situations and how to triage emergencies. Instead of having to train someone to be competent, you gain the benefit of a team of experts that has been trusted by dozens of companies to keep their network infrastructure safe.

A managed PKI service is almost always cloud-based, which is preferable for most organizations. Cloud services typically allow you to pay for only what you need, so it’s affordable for organizations at all levels and can scale as you do. They’re also managed by a dedicated team, rather than a few IT guys being stretched too thin by constant support tickets.

Not only do you get better security with managed PKI, but it’s almost always cheaper. Take a look at this report by Digicert that compares the costs of maintaining your own RADIUS server (a large component – and cost – of a PKI). They compare the cost of a managed cloud RADIUS (like our CloudRADIUS solution) to an in-house RADIUS server – it’s a third of the cost. You can extrapolate that to the rest of the PKI and the case is clear – managed cloud PKI is significantly cheaper.

Cons of Managed PKI

Since managed and private PKI are opposites, it stands to reason that the strengths of one are the weaknesses of the other. In a managed PKI scenario, you don’t have absolute control over your PKI and that can be a dealbreaker for some organizations.

This issue can be mitigated somewhat. A robust management interface, like the one employed by SecureW2, can give you enough customization that you could almost believe it’s an on-premise PKI. With powerful tools to analyze and manage your PKI, you give up very little in the way of control.

A common problem with managed services is that if there’s a problem, you have to wait for the support team to fix it. Fortunately, our support team is known throughout the industry for their expertise and availability. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

Some wish to have the control a private PKI offers  in order to ensure a higher level of security. However, they can rest easy knowing SecureW2’s managed PKI is ISO 27001 Certified and backed by Amazon’s Cloud Infrastructure, whose claims of impenetrability are far more credible than the Titanic’s.

Managed PKI is Better than Private PKI

After weighing the pros and cons, it’s clear that there are few scenarios in which you’d want to choose a private PKI over a managed one. A managed cloud PKI solution scales with your organization, reduces burden on IT, lends expertise and support, and most importantly, is less expensive.

SecureW2’s Managed Cloud PKI is among the best in the industry. We have affordable options for organizations of all sizes. Click here to see our pricing form.


Learn About This Author

Patrick Grubbs

Patrick is the SEO guy at SecureW2, but he enjoys writing a little too much to give it up entirely. He got his start blogging about his ever-expanding collection of succulents and cacti. His hobbies include running, gardening, playing video games, and buying tools he will never use. Special skills: 5th grade chess champion, ultra-specific color identification, clapping with one hand