Due to the continuous innovation in technology, more and more web applications play a part in business processes. Electronic signatures is just one example of how much our business workflows have been subject to change in the last years. The benefits of electronic signatures can easily be seen with document workflows. Not only do working procedures happen faster with electronic signatures. Another significant benefit can be seen in the reduction in material costs (e.g., paper, ink).
What are the Benefits of Electronic Signatures?
Businesses of all types and sizes can cut out the cost and hassle of manual and paper-based tasks with electronic signatures. Not only can business transactions be sped up, often times it is also an essential ingredient in streamlining a business process and automate tedious processes.
Examples of benefits of electronic signatures are:
- Speed up contract and quote approval cycles
- Cut document turnaround time
- Onboard vendors faster
- Seamlessly integrate e-signatures into your business’ systems and tools
- Get tax returns signed and submitted quickly and securely
- Reduce manual data entry errors
- Remove the need for a printer
- Relieve the burden of tiresome paperwork
What Exactly is an Electronic Signature?
Electronic signatures come in different ways. They can be:
- Pasting a scanned version of the signature
- Signing the ink, then scanning it or pdf-ing it and sending it over to the recipient
- Signing on a tablet with the finger
- Electronic acknowledgments in the form of
- Clicking an “I Accept” button
- Entering initials in a box
- Typing your name onto a signature line
The format of a signature is not what’s important. What is important, is that the person who is signing the contract electronically is conveying his or her agreement to the terms of that document.
In general, electronic signatures are used to achieve:
- AUTHENTICATION. — A valid signature shows that the message was sent by a specific user.
- DATA INTEGRITY. — They provide the confidence that a message has not been altered during transmission. Any change in the message after the document has been electronically signed, will invalidate the signature.
- NON-REPUDIATION. — Conveying the signer’s agreement to the document.
What is the Law About Electronic Signatures?
National regulations about electronic signatures do vary.
In many countries (e.g., US, EU, India, Brazil and Australia) electronic signatures – when recognized under the law of each jurisdiction – have the same legal consequences as the more traditional forms of executing of documents.
We live in an electronic age.
Electronic signatures are today widely accepted for contracts in business live.
If electronic signatures were invalid or unenforceable, could you imagine the administrative burden that would be imposed on businesses all over the world?
But, know that there are types of contracts that must be on paper. Laws vary from country to country, but examples can be wills, court orders, family law matters (like divorce papers).
Also, the parties are required to proof the authenticity of a signature. Web applications that offer the service of electronically signing a document, need to have a certain standard of security implemented into their application, to make sure the private key of the user remains secret. Some also provide time stamps for electronic signatures.
The writing is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not legal advice and is not guaranteed to be correct, complete or up-to-date.
Law varies between nations and from state to state in the US. If you have questions about to what extent electronic signatures may be legal in your locality, please seek advice from an attorney or jurisdiction.
Save a copy of your signed contracts! Don’t just let them sit in your inbox or in the software program you are using! Always download a copy and either save it to your hard drive or print it out and put it in your client files.
Tools for Electronic Signatures
There is a pleasing diversity with service providers for electronic signatures. I mentioned before that document workflows play a significant part in business automations. As the need to streamline workflows will even more intensify in the next years, I expect that these tools open up for even more integrations with 3rd party web applications.
Keep in mind, that the fact whether a tool allows for integrations, may be significant for your business’ streamlining efforts.
At the beginning a word about pricing.
Pricing plans are always subject to change. Unfortunately, free plans are rare. There are only two vendors who offer a free plan; yet a few allow free trials.
Even though most of the tools have a similar pricing model, they are difficult to compare. For instance, one has all premium features available in the lowest pricing plan, others not. Make sure you check their pricing plans first and confirm your needs before you sign up.
Adobe Document Cloud eSign Service (before: EchoSign)
Allows you to get contracts, agreements and more signed quickly and over email. Meets the more stringent European legal requirements in respect to data centers and the storage of information.
Cost: affordable; smallest plan starts at $10/mth.
In additions to sending documents by email for a signature, CudaSign will also generate a unique and shareable URL for your form or document, allowing you to post your document to a website. The tool comes with cloud and business app integration, as well as an API allowing you to weave CudaSign into your own applications. While some features are only available to premium business users, CudaSign comes in as the least expensive option for individuals who need unlimited signatures at just $1/month billed annually.
Classical e-signature service provider with the mission to replace printing, faxing, scanning and overnighting documents with the easiest, fastest, most trusted way to make every approval and decision digital
Costs: Personal plan starts at $8/mth.; comes with a 30 day free trial
Claims to have the easiest workflow of all eSignature software available. Allows for collaboration on documents, and also has an emphasis on security aspects.
Costs: There is free trial for all plans available. It is the only provider that offers a pay-as-you-go plan.
This service that lets you create and sign documents. The also offer a huge library of legal forms. It’s a good tool should you need contract drafts (i.e., like confidentiality agreements, bills of sales, service contracts or loan agreements). They also offer a good amount of free legal forms for download! For entrepreneurs this is a service for bookmarking!
Costs: starts at $39/mth.
This tool is only for creating a handwritten version of your signature – in color and pen width of your choice. Lets you create a signature with your handwriting on a touchpad (or with a mouse). You can download the signature as png-file immediately after signing. Make sure you do so, because the signature file gets deleted after 15 minutes.
One of the most simple and easy ways for individuals on a budget to sign documents or collect signatures. Offers fast, secure and legally binding electronic signatures for business.
Besides being an online platform that uploads and sends out documents, a major plus of HelloSign is that it integrates with Google. Documents that you need an electronic signature for, can be uploaded right from Gmail.
With a browser extension, HelloSign lets you sign documents in Gmail. You can also use its mobile apps for iOS and Android to sign documents on the go.
Costs: HelloSign is one of the few that offer a free plan, with which you can sign 3 documents per month. The first paid plan starts at $13 and includes one template. All plans integrate with GoogleDrive, have status notification and an audit trail.
Due to its positioning as a place for sharing and storing files, Hightail offers eSignatures only as a side business. Here’s how Hightail allows e-signatures in their product:
“The Hightail E-Signature feature allows you to sign office documents with easy on your mobile device. Rather than using a pen or a stylus, simply use your fingertip.
Once the signature is done, you’re able to resize and move it on the document as needed. The signature is also stored within the app so that you can easily use it for other documents.
You’re able to sign office documents, as well as PDF’s, using this feature. The signature is treated in the same way as a faxed signature.”
The e-signature software to manage your contracts online. A more sophisticated service provider of e-signatures. Allows integration to other web applications via Zapier, and also to Basecamp and Kashflow.
Their emphasis on security matters makes them particularly trustworthy for me.
Costs: starts at $15/mth.; free trial offered
An all-in-one solution for client-facing documents. PandaDoc is one of those tools that is predestined to automate our business processes. This is because it already integrates with many popular business tools, such as SalesForce, Base, ZenDesk, insightly, GoogleApps, Xero, SugarCRM, Zoho, Box, QuoteRoller, and even more.
Costs: starts at $19/mth.
Calls itself the easiest, fastest way to get documents filled out and signed online. Now acquired by Citrix.
Costs: starts at $11/mth.
Affordable and widely used application (more than 3.5 million users) for electronic signatures. Offers its service on mobile applications; works on Android and iOS.
It’s integrations to 3rd party vendors like Evernote, Box, Slack, Dropbox or Google makes it a serious candidate for streamlining business processes.
Costs: Free for up to 3 documents, lowest pricing plan starts at — $3/mth.
Modern looking eSignature provider that has its top priority with security. Easy to follow instructions on their website and competitive pricing plans.
Costs: Starts at $12/mth.