4 of the Top Questions About Electronic Signatures

Keith Krach
August 5, 2016

While the use of electronic signatures has yet to become universal among businesses, research conducted over the last few years shows that those companies that choose to adopt this technology will have several significant advantages. As more customers conduct business online, they have increasingly begun to expect companies to provide online services, including the ability to use electronic signatures to sign contracts or other forms online. Customers who are able to use electronic signature technology will appreciate the opportunity to conduct business with your company quickly and easily. Thus, businesses that want to remain competitive may want to consider adopting this new technology in order to keep up in this digital era. Following are four of the top questions about electronic signatures.

1. Why is an electronic signature better than a handwritten signature?

Electronic signatures are better than handwritten signatures for several reasons. An electronic signature is capable of providing you with far more protection than a handwritten, or “wet,” signature. As of 2000, electronic signatures are legally viable by the United States government under the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA) and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act. Similar laws were subsequently passed in Europe, including the Electronic Signature Directive of 1999, and in other developed countries to reflect the same legal precedent.

Apart from convenience, another major advantage that an electronic signature has over its handwritten counterpart stems from the audit trail captured when a digital transaction is completed. Electronic signatures, which are protected by tamper-proof security and equipped with an audit trail, offer a more comprehensive view of every step in a document’s progress.

2. How easy is to integrate an electronic signature platform?

While the prospect of adopting new, digitally transformative technologies could seem intimidating to some businesses that have historically operated under traditional business models, popular platforms such as DocuSign have made it simple and efficient to integrate electronic signature technology into your business operations, websites, and mobile apps. DocuSign has even partnered with some of the biggest companies in the technology industry to create pre-built integrative solutions for applications ranging from Google and Salesforce to Apple and NetSuite. Additionally, electronic signatures can be created with tools that you already use, including computers and mobile devices. Companies that choose to make electronic signatures a part of their business will find that there is no need to purchase devices that are not already standard office staples.

3. How does a digital signature differ from an electronic signature?

Although some marketing companies do not differentiate between the two terms, electronic signatures and digital signatures are not the same thing. The term “electronic signature” is used to refer to a broad range of methods that people can use to authenticate documents electronically. A digital signature, on the other hand, is one particular type of electronic signature that is unique to an individual signer and that provides users with a high degree of security.

To do so, digital signature software follows a set of requirements called Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) protocol. In order to comply with these regulations, a digital signature platform produces two keys for a signer through a mathematical algorithm: one public and the other private. Signatures are created using a signer’s private key, which is known exclusively by the signer. Once a document is signed, the algorithm acts like a cipher to encrypt the data and create a hash that matches the public key, known by the document sender. If the signature is valid and has not been altered after signing, the public key will be able to decrypt the data to reveal the digital signature. If any aspect of the signature or document signing is invalid, the public key will be unable to decrypt the document, and the software will not reveal a signature.

4. What are the top benefits of an electronic signature?

Electronic signatures offer businesses a wide range of long-term benefits, which include a streamlined workflow, less downtime between sending and signing a document, and a method to easily introduce digitally transformative technology. In addition, businesses that are considering the use of electronic signatures should weigh the financial benefits that making the switch can provide.

Statistics show that the average office worker uses as much as 10,000 sheets of paper annually. Furthermore, the results of a 2014 survey indicated that almost 50 percent of documents are printed specifically to be signed. The amount of money that a business can save each year on office supplies through the use of digital signature technology adds up, especially when the costs, such as postage, printer ink, and employee labor, are factored into the equation. The use of electronic signature technology can have a real and quantifiable impact on business operations for those company leaders who have the foresight to take advantage of it.

Keith Krach

Keith Krach is Chairman of DocuSign, The Global Standard for Digital Transaction Management.