Enhancing Business Agility Through Certificate Management

Apr, 2024 - by CMI

Enhancing Business Agility Through Certificate Management

Digital certificates serve as a cornerstone of internet security. They validate the identity of websites and services, establishing trust for online communications and transactions. As of October 2022, there were over 231 million SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) / TLS (Transport Layer Security) certificates in use as website owners and users continue to understand their role in security.

However, in many organizations public-facing and internal certificates are managed by different teams, creating a fragmented approach to certificate management. For organizations that use Microsoft, security teams often handle the public-facing certificates while Windows Server administrators may handle the internal certificates through Microsoft Activity Directory Certificate Services (AD CS). This siloed structure limits visibility, posing significant risks to seamless business operations.

This is where automated Certificate Lifecycle Management (CLM) solutions come into play. This is the process of managing both SSL and other digital certificates from provision to deployment to revocation to renewal.

How CLM enhances Microsoft AD CS

Microsoft AD CS provides a robust framework for enterprises to manage their digital certificates in a Microsoft-based environment. It enables organizations to issue, manage, and revoke digital certificates to support various use cases like encryption, authentication, and digital signatures.

However, with AD CS, each of the certificate lifecycle stages must be managed manually leading to more overhead work for enterprise IT teams. There is also a limited number of integrations with AD CS, which can create even more complicated IT environments. As the complexity of these IT environments grows, the manual aspects of AD CS management can present large challenges in terms of agility and scalability.

Public certificate management often falls under NetOps or Security teams, and private certificate management with AD CS is handled by Windows Server admins. As such, this siloed approach means both teams have limited insight into the other team's processes. Information can fall through the cracks, which can lead to digital certificates being renewed inconsistently or even expiring. Expired certificates can lead to huge, costly issues with outages, security, and more.

An automated CLM solution can enhance Microsoft AD CS by addressing these challenges and extending its core capabilities. This solution automates numerous routine certificate lifecycle tasks within AD CS, such as enrollment, renewal, and revocation, significantly reducing the administrative burden and minimizing manual errors. This, in turn, frees IT teams for more strategic activities.

Moreover, CLM solutions often introduce advanced features that complement and enhance the usability of AD CS. Enhanced reporting capabilities provide deeper insights into certificate usage patterns and compliance adherence. Role-based access control (RBAC) within a CLM helps fine-tune permissions and security within the AD CS environment. 

Below is a more detailed look into how CLM solutions can complement Microsoft AD CS.

Streamlining Certificate Provisioning

Traditionally, provisioning digital certificates within AD CS involved manual requests and approvals, often leading to delays and bottlenecks. Such issues can hinder the timely rollout of new services or applications. A CLM solution automates the process of issuing certificates by enabling self-service capabilities and customizable workflows, dramatically accelerating certificate provisioning and reducing administrative overhead.

With streamlined provisioning, teams can quickly obtain the certificates they need to launch new initiatives, fostering innovation and faster time-to-market. This contributes directly to a more responsive and agile organization. Additionally, CLM solutions often provide policy-based automation.

This means digital certificates can be automatically provisioned based on predefined rules and criteria, such as device type, user role, or application requirements. This removes human intervention from this stage of the certificate management process, further accelerating provisioning while ensuring adherence to security policies.

Ensuring Continuous Validity with Automated Renewal

Expired certificates can disrupt critical services or cause outages, impacting business operations and oftentimes leading to costly issues for organizations. Manually tracking and renewing certificates across a large and diverse network is complex and can lead to human errors and network vulnerabilities when mismanaged.

CLM solutions automate the certificate renewal process, ensuring that certificates stay valid and systems remain operational without unplanned interruptions. This safeguards business continuity and reduces the risk of downtime and data breaches caused by expired certificates.

The benefits of automation can’t be understated. In 2023, businesses that didn't implement an automated solution lost $USD 1.66 million more from data breaches than businesses that did. Additionally, automation frees IT resources to focus on strategic initiatives rather than firefighting certificate-related issues.

Swift Revocation for Enhanced Security

In a security breach or key compromise, the timely revocation of certificates is crucial to preventing unauthorized access. Manually identifying and revoking compromised certificates in AD CS can be a complex and time-consuming process. CLM solutions automate this procedure. They help organizations minimize security risks and protect sensitive data by quickly invalidating compromised certificates.

All this translates to a stronger security posture and greater confidence in an organization's ability to respond to emerging threats. This proactive approach is essential for maintaining a reliable and trusted digital environment.

Gaining Visibility with Certificate Inventory Management

Maintaining an accurate and up-to-date inventory of all issued certificates is critical for compliance and risk management. Manual methods often fail to create reliable and accessible records. Imagine this: over 58% of data breaches and 52% of application outages were attributed to avoidable digital certificate management issues.

CLM solutions help resolve these issues by providing a centralized dashboard and reporting tools, bringing visibility to the entire certificate landscape.

This visibility allows organizations to track certificate usage throughout the entire environment, meaning expiration dates and potential vulnerabilities are easily understood. Additionally, enhanced visibility enables IT teams to make informed certificate usage and security decisions, translating to improved security posture and streamlined compliance efforts.


Automated CLM solutions offer businesses a powerful tool to overcome the challenges of manual certificate management and achieve greater agility. The automation of provisioning, renewal, and revocation, and the centralized visibility provided by CLMs translate into time savings, reduced risk, and improved responsiveness. Enterprises using Microsoft AD CS particularly stand to benefit, as CLMs complement and enhance their existing capabilities.

By embracing CLM solutions, organizations can create a more agile and secure foundation for their digital operations.