The Ultimate E-Signature Cheat Sheet

Mary Ellen Power, February 20, 2014
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If your organization has begun researching e-signatures with the hopes of implementing this technology into a specific line of business or process, understanding the terms and what to look for in a platform can seem daunting. There are a number of factors to consider, both from an internal and a technological standpoint. To help, we've created an e-signature cheat sheet covering the basics you need to know, plus some suggested resources to further your research.

What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature is a legal concept. Whether a sound, symbol or processed attached to or associated with a contract or record, an e-signature can be broken down into a method of signing, data authentication, user authentication and capture of intent.

What is a digital signature?

A digital signature refers to data encryption technology. Alone, it is not a type of electronic signature, but used within an e-signature solution, digital signature technology secures data and verifies the authenticity of a signed record.

What are the most important elements of an e-signature solution?

It is important for highly regulated industries and organizations looking for more than a signature image capture to ensure any e-signature solution it adopts is able to:

  • Authenticate the user by attributing the signature to a specific person.
  • Authenticate the document by applying digital signature security to the document at the time of signing, detecting any changes and embedding a signature audit trail within the document.
  • Authenticate the process by proving what took place during the signing process, recording all actions and linking those to the final e-signed documents that enables the process to be reproduced exactly.

How do e-signatures stand up in a court of law?

The majority of legal disputes don't challenge whether or not someone has signed the document in question, but rather how well the person understood the terms and conditions outlined in the document. That's where an e-signature solution built on digital signature technology is able to recreate the audit trail captured and create persuasive electronic evidence. This includes reproducing the exact appearance and order of all web screens, documents and legal disclosures, how long the person spent on each page and all actions they took during the review and signing process. The more evidence an organization captures about the process, the more persuasive and enforceable it becomes.

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The Beginner's Guide to Electronic Signatures

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How do e-signatures create value within an organization?

Saving money and improving efficiency is only the beginning of the value that comes from implementing e-signatures. Organizations that implement electronic signatures can offer customers and staff the ability to complete business 100 percent electronically, from practically anywhere and at any time, on any mobile device. Business processes become more secure, more compliant and less error-prone, freeing up staff to spend more time helping customers while giving customers the convenience they demand. For a deeper dive into the items covered in this post, check out our Beginner's Guide to Electronic Signatures.