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The Absolute Guide to Electronic Signatures

Are your business deals getting put off just because you can’t seem to get documents signed on time? Despite putting in your best efforts, manpower, and investment, are the results barely remarkable?

With piles of papers stacked up on an office desk, it’s highly unlikely that your document will attract attention. It might be in the middle of the pile, remain forgotten, finally reach the bottom, and get discarded when it’s overdue. Don’t you think it’s time you gave electronic signatures some thought?

This blog will delve into the world of electronic signatures. You’ll find out what they are, whether they’re legal, how they are a boon to any organization, and why you should make the switch.

What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature is a digital approach to accepting and signing documents. When used on an electronic document, it denotes that the signer has accepted the terms and conditions specified and agrees to abide by them.

An electronic signature can be an uploaded image of a physical signature, a digital display of the individual’s name, a digital drawing of the physical signature, a digital fingerprint, or simply checking an I agree/accept checkbox at the end of a document.

Why are electronic signatures better than conventional ones?

Electronic signatures have pushed conventional signatures backstage by offering streamlined workflows, less clutter, highly secure signing processes, legal compliance, quicker turnaround times, and tamper-resistant documents, all while imposing a miniscule burden on the environment.

Electronic signatures offer better security by using encryption and electronic certificates. Each document comes with an audit trail, which is a historical, time-stamped, digital record of events, people, and activities associated with the document and its signing process.

An audit trail contains the following details of the sender: name, email ID, IP address, sent time. It has recipient details such as: name, email ID, IP address, device, and time of viewing. It also lists in chronological order events that have occurred from the time the document was sent out.

Once the document has all requested signatures, it can be downloaded as a file. The document’s security features ensure the authenticity and integrity of signers and their signatures, while validating every transaction made.

When and where are electronic signatures used?

Electronic signatures are used any time a contract, agreement, disclaimer, or consent form needs to be signed by individuals or parties. Electronic signatures are used across all industries now.

What are the key differences between electronic signatures and digital signatures?

It is important not to confuse electronic signatures with digital ones, though the terms are often used interchangeably.

Electronic Signatures

  • An electronic signature (often called an eSignature) is a term with a broad meaning, unlike digital signatures.
  • It describes any electronic means that indicates a person's intent to agree to the content of a document. This could be as simple as a typed name or a clicked checkbox, or as complex as a signature with an audit trail.

Digital Signatures

  • A digital signature is a cryptographic tool used to verify the authenticity and integrity of a message, software, or digital document.
  • It ensures that the document isn’t altered in any way after it has been signed. If any alteration occurs, the digital signature becomes invalid.
  • Verification of a digital signature is done using a pair of cryptographic keys: a public key and a private key. The private key, kept confidential by the signer, is used to sign the document, while the public key can be used by anyone who needs to verify the signature.

Are all electronic signatures the same?

All electronic signatures are not the same. There are three types of electronic signatures, based on the level of security they offer and their legal validity.

Simple electronic signatures (SES)

This signature is broadly used for signing simple documents. However, it offers the lowest level of security. For example, you receive a document via email, you scroll down, click on the “I agree” checkbox and place your signature electronically, you close the document, and you’re done.

Though efficient, the signing process does not involve verifying whether the signer is, in fact, the one who was meant to sign the document, thus making it susceptible to forgery. This type of electronic signature is good for quickly signing documents that don’t have heavy legal implications should issues arise.

Advanced electronic signatures (AES)

This signature offers more security than SES because it has a digital certificate generated by a key attached to the signature. This authenticates the identity of the individual accessing and signing the document. So, access is restricted to allow only the intended individual.

This verification process involves using either the individual’s mobile number or email ID to authenticate their identity. This signature is good for use in documents where legal implications are moderate.

Qualified electronic signatures (QES)

This signature is the most secure one among the three types. Security goes a level above the AES by offering extra checks to validate the identity of the signer. This is usually an electronic validation of the signer carried out by third-party trust service provider (TSP).

This validation may be in the form of face-to-face verification or video verification. Thus, this signature carries the full weight of a physical signature and is the most legally binding. It is safe to use this signature in documents where there are heavy legal implications, if things go awry.

Are electronic signatures legal?

Yes, electronic signatures are legally binding and hold valid in a court of law, provided the signatures are generated by a company that follows the set legal guidelines for electronic signature creation.

What are some best practices when using electronic signatures?

  • The eSignature software must be provided by a reputed and legally compliant software provider.
  • Documents should come with security features like digital certificates, encryption, signer authentication, transaction validation, and audit trails so that documents and signatures stay tamper-proof and will hold valid in a court of law.
  • A signed, final copy of the document must be downloaded and safely stored for future reference.
  • Last but not the least, make sure that the document you are agreeing to is legally valid with an electronic signature. This depends on the laws governing electronic signatures in your country.

How do electronic signatures benefit an organization?

There are a myriad of benefits when businesses opt to use electronic signatures for transactions. Let’s look at some of them.

Efficiently and convenience—We are conferred the ease of preparing documents online and sending them out for signature collection, across the globe, with the click of a button. The sender can even define the time limit for the entire signing process.

Once the document is received, the recipient can the view it on any device and instantly sign it without having to leave their chair. Status updates are provided when each signer signs.
When signing is complete, the final document is sent to all signing parties. Signing documents has never been done more efficiently, effortlessly and in a streamlined manner.

Enhanced Security—Physical signatures have been forged in many cases, while electronic signatures are more secure. Electronic signature management software is designed to ensure that only authorized individuals access and sign documents.

Audit trails automatically collect and store vital information, proving the authenticity of signing parties while also tracking document workflow and transactions.

Signing individuals or parties are not permitted to make any modifications to the document once the signing process has begun.

Cost Effectiveness—By opting for electronic signatures, businesses can cut down on labor, material, and logistics costs. They also save on storage space, as documents can be securely stored on a local server or on the cloud, instead of in bulky filing cabinets.
Global Reach—Electronic signatures offer businesses the privilege of working hassle-free across borders.

For example, you need a document signed by people sitting in locations across the world. All you need to do is prepare and upload the document, specify details of the signers, and set the time frame within which the signatures need to be finished. The process is the same no matter where the signatories are physically.

Environmental Sustainability—Going paperless helps relieve the burden that’s being placed on the environment. With the ongoing global warming crisis and the drastic rate at which it is predicted to increase, it is vital that fewer trees are cut down.

Less paper also means less waste and pollution. Since the necessity to transport documents no longer arises, fuel consumption reduces, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of businesses. Electronic signatures are a small step towards sustainable living.

Professional, time-saving experience—Electronic signatures provide a smooth and satisfying experience for both client and customer. There are fewer chances of errors and misunderstandings, leading to unnecessary delays. Completing deals in a timely manner increases productivity, leaving both parties satisfied.

How can I get my organization started with electronic signatures?

If your organization has decided to make the shift, look no further! BoldSign can help you make a smooth transition. Our signatures are reliable and legally compliant with U.S. (ESIGN) and international (eIDAS) eSignature laws. Check out some of our top-notch features:

  • Signer routing—Define whether multiple signers sign in parallel or sequentially.
  • Signer authentication—For important documents, ensure only the intended people sign. Authenticate via SMS or email OTP.
  • Auto reminders—Set them to get the signing job done on time.
  • Revoke documents—Use this option to recall documents sent by mistake or when further changes need to be made.
  • Filters—Filter documents based on their signature status or other fields.
  • Clone documents—Quickly copy sent documents for another recipient.
  • Templates—Create templates out of frequently used documents to share with your team using custom security restrictions.
  • Localize—You can send documents or emails in any of 15 supported languages. View our list of supported languages.

It is clear that electronic signatures are the way forward to a more organized and seamless document-signing experience. Not only are your documents and signatures secure, but you also avoid the hassle of printing and scanning or physical shipping just to get a signature on paper. Usage of materials and logistics reduces drastically, saving both pennies and the planet. It’s time for you to experiment and discover how electronic signatures will benefit your business and future goals.

To get an idea of how easily you can send documents out for signature using BoldSign, see this tutorial.
With all the listed features and more in BoldSign, why wait to take action? Start your free trial today with a single user account.
Shirley Rangini Graceya

Shirley Rangini Graceya

With a keen passion to write, Shirley shifted from a HR role into content writing within the IT industry. Her role involved writing blogs and help documentation. She started her writing journey, more than a decade ago, with her personal blog. She now writes blogs for Syncfusion’s latest products BoldSign and BoldDesk.

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Shirley Rangini Graceya

Shirley Rangini Graceya

With a keen passion to write, Shirley shifted from a HR role into content writing within the IT industry. Her role involved writing blogs and help documentation. She started her writing journey, more than a decade ago, with her personal blog. She now writes blogs for Syncfusion’s latest products BoldSign and BoldDesk.

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