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Sarah Lean
Sarah Lean

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What is HashiCorp Vault?

What is HashiCorp Vault?

Protecting sensitive data like passwords, API keys, and database credentials is a top priority for businesses. This is where HashiCorp Vault can help.

What is HashiCorp Vault?

HashiCorp Vault is a tool designed to securely store and manage sensitive information. Think of it as a highly secure digital safe where you can keep all your secrets. These "secrets" can be anything from passwords and API keys to certificates and encryption keys.

What Problem Does HashiCorp Vault Solve?

Before diving into the specifics of Vault, let's first understand the problems it aims to solve:

  • Centralised Secret Management - In many organisations, sensitive information is scattered across different systems and applications. This makes it challenging to manage and secure these secrets effectively. Vault provides a centralised place to store and access all your secrets, simplifying management and improving security.
  • Access Control - Who can access your secrets? When you have multiple users and applications, controlling who can see and use specific pieces of information becomes crucial. Vault allows you to define detailed access policies, ensuring that only authorised users and systems can access certain secrets.
  • Secret Lifecycle Management - Secrets often need to be rotated or updated regularly to maintain security. Manually updating secrets across multiple systems is time-consuming and prone to errors. Vault automates the process of secret rotation and ensures that updates are applied seamlessly.
  • Auditing and Monitoring - Keeping track of who accessed which secret and when is essential for security and compliance. Vault provides comprehensive audit logs, making it easy to monitor and review access to your sensitive information.

How Does HashiCorp Vault Work?

Vault operates based on the principles of identity-based access and encryption. Here’s a simplified overview of how it works:

  • Initialisation - When you first set up Vault, it needs to be initialised, this involves generating encryption keys and setting up your initial configuration.
  • Authentication - Users and applications authenticate with Vault using various methods, such as tokens, user credentials, or cloud-based identity services. Once authenticated, they can access the secrets they are authorised to use.
  • Secret Storage - Secrets are stored in a highly secure manner, encrypted both in transit and at rest. Vault supports dynamic secrets, which are generated on-demand and expire after a certain period, adding an extra layer of security.
  • Access Control Policies - Administrators define policies that control who can access specific secrets. These policies can be highly granular, allowing fine-tuned control over access permissions.
  • Audit Logs - Every access request is logged, providing a detailed record of who accessed what and when. This is crucial for security monitoring and compliance.

Is HashiCorp Vault Cloud-Based?

Vault offers flexibility in terms of deployment. It can be used both as a cloud-based service and as an on-premises solution:

  • Cloud-Based - HashiCorp provides Vault as a managed service, known as Vault Enterprise. This option is ideal if you prefer a hassle-free setup and maintenance experience. It allows you to leverage Vault's capabilities without worrying about infrastructure management.
  • Manage your own install - If you prefer to have more control over your infrastructure, you can install and manage Vault on your own servers. This option is suitable for organisations with strict data residency requirements or those who want to integrate Vault with their existing on-premises systems.


HashiCorp Vault comes in several versions:

  • HCP Vault Secrets - This version of Vault is free to use and includes a small subset of the features of Vault. It’s a great starting point for individuals or small teams for small projects.
  • HCP Vault Dedicated - This is a dedicated cloud version of Vault, that is priced per hour of usage and comes with all of the core Vault features.
  • Enterprise - The enterprise version includes advanced features such as enhanced security, scalability, and support. Pricing for Vault Enterprise varies based on your specific needs and the size of your organisation. You would need to contact HashiCorp for detailed pricing information.


HashiCorp Vault is an essential tool for anyone looking to enhance the security of their sensitive information. Whether you're a small startup or a large enterprise, Vault provides the tools you need to manage secrets effectively and securely. By centralising secret management, controlling access, automating secret lifecycle, and providing detailed audit logs, Vault helps you maintain a robust security posture. So, if you’re concerned about protecting your sensitive data, give HashiCorp Vault a try!

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