Advancements in the digital space have migrated our day to day practices into the virtual world; the verified signing of agreements included. The parameters of a legally binding document have been realigned to include technological intervention. This has introduced firmer guidelines for what can pass for irrevocable agreements once the “ink has dried”.
What is an eSignature?
eSignatures or electronic signatures are used in place of a physical indicator to authenticate and accept the contents of a document or agreement.
Depending on the type of electronic signature used, legal validity can vary. However, unlike with signatures, the “marking” in this case can take any form.
This has created a ranking or classification system to assess what constitutes as an indication for a binding document;
Click To Sign Signatures
The most basic form of approval, click to sign signatures consist of checkboxes, electronic squiggles, prescanned images and typing in names. These input forms are not cryptographically protected and can be easily recreated without consent.
As a result, the signatures or marks cannot provide firm identification of who signed the document and confirm without verification the document has not been tampered with. The use of such validation should be limited to menial tasks such as authenticating settings or casual agreements.
Basic Electronic Signatures
Basic electronic signatures are able to hold long term, are protected using a cryptographic digital signature and are automatically assigned a timestamp. The signer is able to create a “hand signature” on the document virtually using a server-held signing key. This could take the form of a secondary input device and offers a digital witness signature that further validates the information integrity and authenticity.
The drawback with this form of validation is the lack of registration or identity validation. While these signatures are harder to recreate, it is harder to deduce with certainty the identity of the signer and therefore offers authenticity affirmation on a lower end.
Qualified and Advanced Electronic
Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES) and Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) are the highest forms of authentication and trust between the signer and server.
The allocation of unique signing keys is linked directly to a verified identity. This means only the signer has access to the private signing key with full and sole responsibility.
Commonly referred to as digital signatures as opposed to eSignatures, AES and QES are able to hold identification credentials such as national identification and offer remote signing.
Remote signing allows for the use of any machine for verified signatures.
QES is considered the highest form of virtual validation. It requires the highest levels of protection and registration for verification from the qualified certificate authorities.
Legally, QES’ hold more weight than handwritten signatures.
DocuSign offers all three signatures as options within its application.
Pros and Cons: eSignatures
Weigh the pros and cons of using an electronic signature before deciding to invest in software like DocuSign, for the business.
- As easy to use as select and input. Most eSignature software works intuitively and prompts you to enter a signature where appropriate.
- Business can now be conducted faster with the input of a virtual signature and delivery of the sales quotation or document within seconds.
- Missing signatures within contracts are a thing of the past with enabling mandatory entry fields. This means the contract cannot be saved and sent without completion and eliminates the need to track down stakeholders to re-sign or re-send incomplete documentation.
- The time and money allocated to moving a contract around for verified signatures are minimized when using software like DocuSign The software allows you to track documentation progress, ask for signatures quickly and have them inputted just as fast.The need to invest in printing, transportation and verification is almost entirely eliminated.
- Faster and more accurate service translates down to better customer service.
- The convenience of eSignatures is heavily dependent on the vendor purchased from. Higher investments offer a more comprehensive and secure solution. If investment capabilities are minimum the software may not be so beneficial.
- The vendor is able to limit the storage capabilities. If the software is cloud-based, all documentation is stored on their virtual servers and may not only be a security concern but hamper information movement if limits are reached and not disclosed.
eSignatures work closely with online agreements to offer a comprehensive virtual contract building and concluding solution.
What is an Online Agreement?
Also referred to as electronic contracts, are virtual documents outlining an agreement that is both made and validated electronically.
There is no requirement for hard copies or paper to be used in this process. Contracts are sent and received via business emails or other validated communication.
eContracts cover an array of virtual interactions including completing online purchasing or validating terms and conditions with a “click to agree”. The consent given is legally binding even under the meagre interaction capacity.
The Difference: Online Agreements v/s Physical Copies
The clear difference between online and offline agreements lies in the process. With physical contracts, the parties must meet physically to venture into a legal agreement.
This will happen a number of times to streamline the terms and conditions while both parties negotiate. A final meeting is required to sign the document to conclude this long and tedious process.
With electronic or digital contracts agreements are created virtually with unanimous agreement from both parties. The process is the same as with physical contracts.
However, moving it to a digital sphere makes communication more central and the process more efficient and effective for all stakeholders involved.
The Advantages: Online Agreements v/s Physical Copies
Digital contracts offer a number of templates or standard formats that are easily available for any industry. The software, like DocuSign, allows you to pick a form, enter details and attach a virtual signature.
There are also platforms available to modify the template according to organization needs. This offers an entirely comprehensive contract.
With traditional paper agreements, the back and forth to streamline needs being addressed for both parties is lengthy. Drafts need to be sent back and forth and could take days to weeks for an ideal contract to be formulated.
Ease of Use
Ready-made templates make contract resolution as simple as entering personal details like names, addresses and unique terms and conditions.
After being finalized the document is sent to the other party for a signature and conclusion. A swift, easy to use mechanism to keep information clear and move processes along faster.
DocuSign offers a number of pre-made templates across a variety of industries to maximize ease of use.
Paper agreements require face to face meetings and multiple verification processes to ensure parties are in unanimous agreement.
In some cases, middlemen are hired to assist in dragging the process along proving electronic agreements are simply more efficient and effective.
With physical contracts, intervention from a legal professional helps keep contract terms crisp and transparent. However, you cannot guarantee a complete lack of human error that would take time and effort to fix.
Online contracts offer a more automated feel to the process with templates and filling in only required spaces. This minimizes the possibility of a mistake and reduces the time invested to perfect the contract.
Executing the process for paper contracts requires investment into transportation, meeting costs, resources and reallocation of time. Physical drafts sent back and forth add to the seemingly growing expenses to close the deal.
Virtual contracts eliminate most of these costs. The only requirement for a digital contract are resources readily available in a work environment; a computer screen and access to the internet.
Without the need for parties to meet physically and the time taken for paper documents to be ushered between parties back and forth, companies can save the time needed to close their agreements.
Digital contracts offer the convenience of sending information and communicating electronically. The singular space for all activities helps the organization reduce the time spent on coordination and repurpose it for other business activities.
Stronger Security Measures
When you send a legally binding paper document across the threats are transparent. The ability to forge or edit the contract without a discussion is imminent and offers a growing threat to the business.
Online agreements have measures in place to ensure the contract is not a modifiable document without permissions.
Additionally, when an eSignature is placed on a document, security certification is attached to it for further verification.
Higher-end technology in this environment is able to notify either party of changes to the document and map the trajectory of edits. This is helpful to keep agreements crystalline, honest and most importantly safe.
Adequate investment into eSignature and online agreement technology is an immense time and resource saver for any organization.
Consider the volume of contracts pouring in and the details required to close the “deal”. Companies with more detail-oriented agreements in large numbers could greatly benefit from introducing DocuSign into the organization.
eSignatures and online agreements are a firm manifestation of the convenience automation and digital intervention offers to day to day activities.
VARStreet’s sales quotation application and eCommerce platform now has integrations with DocuSign and VARStreet users can now accelerate their sales quotation turnaround times and close deals a lot faster.
Click on the link below to get a FREE demo of their business management software for VARS.