Governments around the world recognize electronic signatures (e-signatures) as a legal way to sign a document. For example, e-signatures have the same legal standing as physical signatures in the United States, thanks to the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act of 2000.
Many people think that e-signatures and digital signatures refer to the same thing. However, that is not the case. Both e-signatures and digital signatures, though, offer important benefits.
E-Signatures vs. Digital Signatures
An e-signature is the electronic version of a handwritten signature. When you use a stylus to sign your name after swiping a credit card through a retailer’s point-of-sale terminal, you are creating an e-signature. You are also creating one when you enter your name or click an "I agree" button in a website form. An electronic signature creates an audit history. The audit history includes information such as who signed and sent the electronic document, when it was sent, and the party that received it.
A digital signature is a more secure type of e-signature. Besides creating an audit history, it uses public key cryptography to validate the signer’s identity and confirm that the signed document arrived intact. Digital signatures are often compared to fingerprints. Like a fingerprint, a digital signature contains a unique set of data that is used for identification purposes.
The Benefits of Using E-Signatures
All types of e-signatures offer important benefits, including improved productivity. Employees at companies not using e-signatures have to perform a lot of steps to sign and return a document received via email. They need to print the document, sign it, scan the signed document, and email the scanned file back. However, your employees can skip this hassle if they use e-signatures. They just need to electronically sign the document and email it back. This can save your employees a lot of time and effort.
Your employees will also save time when they need to find a signed document. With e-signatures, you can keep all your signed documents in electronic form. Searching through electronic documents is much faster than searching through paper documents stored in file cabinets or boxes.
Another benefit is that you will be better able to track and audit your signed documents. Tracking a physical document through the signing process is difficult. If you do not have a face-to-face meeting to get a document signed, you need to use such measures as registered mail and notary services to track your document’s journey.
With e-signatures, you can easily keep tabs on your documents through the signing process. Comprehensive systems let you track and audit:
- When the document is created
- When a notification about the document is sent to each signer
- When each signer consents to using a digital signature
- How each signer is authenticated, and whether that authentication is successful
- When each signer receives the document
- When each signer applies a digital signature
- When each signer returns the signed document
Besides better tracking and auditing, digital signatures offer better security. Physical signatures are relatively easy to fake. Digital signatures, though, have built-in tools for proving who signed a document. Plus, signers often need to enter a password to access the document they need to sign.
The Benefits of Using an E-Signature Service Provider
You can create e-signatures on your own. Doing so can be hard, though, especially if you want to use the more secure digital signatures. To avoid this hassle, you can use an e-signature service provider.
E-signature service providers use different systems, but the general concept behind them is the same. You upload a document and specify where a signature needs to go. The service provider adds a signature box and sends the document to the intended recipients. They electronically sign the document and send it back to you.
Some e-signature service providers offer document-building tools. You can use these tools to quickly create basic contracts and forms. Many of them also provide dashboards. With just a glance, you can find out which documents have already been signed and which are still waiting for signatures.
Several e-signature service providers also have options for people to sign documents using their fingers on mobile device touchscreens. Companies that ask customers to sign a lot of forms often find this feature useful. Customers can receive copies of these forms via email or physical mail.
E-Signatures Can Help Your Business
E-signatures are perfect for companies looking to improve productivity and cut down on paperwork. If you are interested in getting an e-signature system for your company, ask your IT service provider to help you find a solution that caters to your specific needs.