Electronic signatures provide an array of efficiency and security benefits. If you’re not already using an e-signature platform in your business, you’re unnecessarily wasting time and resources.
Fortunately, however, many e-signature apps are available to you, from dedicated, easy-to-use tools that deal exclusively with digital signatures to advanced document management solutions that offer an extensive suite of workflow tools.
In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about electronic signatures. We’ll cover the differences between generic electronic signatures and highly secure digital signatures, outline when organizations should use these types of signatures, and review some of the top providers.
What Is a Digital Signature?
It’s easy to confuse the phrases “digital signature” and “electronic signature.” Despite their similarities, there are some important distinctions. An electronic signature is any digital mark affixed to a document to signify a signer’s agreement to abide by a set of terms.
An example of a rudimentary electronic signature is an image resembling a hand-drawn signature uploaded to the relevant area at the end of a document.
Digital signatures, on the other hand, are a form of highly secure electronic signature. They rely on an advanced security technology called a “public key infrastructure.” Further, “digital certificates” must be purchased from specialist organizations called “certificate authorities.”
An individual is provided with a personal key, which is stored securely on their hard drive or a USB, to authorize documents. Documents can then be verified publicly, using a corresponding public key (also issued by the certificate authority) to ensure that the original signer did indeed provide their approval and that the document has not been edited.
Do All Organizations Need to Use Digital Signatures?
Not all organizations need to use digital signatures. In fact, using digital signatures to sign documents can be unnecessarily wasteful of time and resources, especially when processing large volumes of proposals, contracts, invoices, and so on.
Generic electronic signatures, especially those that carry additional safeguards provided by solutions like PandaDoc or DocuSign, are fully legally binding.
Some industries, especially those in which high-value contracts are common, opt to use digital signatures. In addition, fields like defense, medicine, and some areas of government may also be required to use digital signatures.
Adobe Sign and DocuSign are two well-known companies that offer digital signatures. For most businesses, however, a document management solution like PandaDoc, Proposify, or HelloSign will prove most cost-effective.