Understanding The Pros And Cons Of Electronic Signatures

James Lintzer |

Signatures are a vital element of any business. Yet many of us don’t spend a great deal of time considering the process involved when it comes to signing. Efficiency, workflow and customer satisfaction are all greatly affected by how you obtain signatures. Simply switching your signature workflow to one that requires e-signatures rather than manual, or ‘wet’ signatures with pen and paper, can have a huge impact.

Switching to eSignatures may be a great option for your business if you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, boost your productivity and customer satisfaction and take full advantage of the enhanced security that is available through modern technologies. But making the decision to switch means understanding the benefits and ensuring any drawbacks won’t affect you. 

Here’s what you need to know.

What is an eSignature?

Simply put, e-signatures are signatures in electronic form. They enable signatories to agree with terms and conditions contained in a document just like on a regular signature. In essence, electronic signatures use computer technology to authenticate the integrity of documents. 

Some forms of e-signature use highly complex algorithms, along with certificate authorities (CAs) and trust service providers (TSPs) to not only authenticate the document but also the signatory as well.

The Pros of eSignatures 

E-signatures come with a lot of great benefits and are considerably superior to their inky predecessors. They’re legally binding, portable and a great way to reduce waste as there’s no need to physically print documents for signature. 

Legally Binding

Just as the ink and paper-based ancestors of eSignatures are legally binding, so too are today’s electronic signatures. As a result, there’s no legal reason to continue using the tried-and-true (but incredibly inconvenient) practice of hand-signing documents, unless you’re dealing with certain very specific legal documents that still require a hand signature and witnesses (for example, a last will and testament).

The E-Sign Act of 2000 has made electronic signatures legal in the U.S. for over two decades. The act also defines what legally constitutes an electronic signature and endows what it defines eSignatures with all the legal authority of a handwritten signature. Almost all states have adopted the Uniform Electronic Transactions ACT (UETA), which authorizes electronic signatures on most types of documents — although, as noted, there are still a few, like wills, that can’t be signed digitally. (Notable UETA exceptions are New York and the District of Columbia as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, where electronic signatures are equal to paper signatures, but under different laws.) 

Convenient and Easy to Use

While the traditional signatory process inevitably included idle periods while you awaited a document to be delivered, e-signatures have accelerated the process dramatically. There’s no need to wait on the mail to deliver a document, or hop in your car and drive it over in person. 

Distance is no longer a consideration as electronic delivery is instant to anywhere in the world; as long as your recipient has internet access then they can take the next step. Once you’ve applied your signature to your document electronically, it will automatically move on to the next step. 

The portability of electronic signature solutions is also revolutionizing the process. As long as users have WiFi and a mobile device, they will be able to handle the signing of your documents.   

Better yet, most eSignature solutions require all fields to be filled in before you’re able to submit the document. It’s not physically possible to mistakenly leave a vital field blank, and the system itself will usually direct you to the missing field if you try to submit an incomplete form. This makes them incredibly easy to use, even for those who are not very technically minded.

Using e-signatures is faster and easier for everyone involved. You’ll also find electronic signature technology is intuitive — meaning you won’t have to spend ages learning or training your team how to use it. 

Environmentally Friendly

It’s always been a chore to print out a document, sign it, scan it and fax it back. But it’s not just the time-consuming nature of wet signatures that makes this process problematic, it’s also very bad for the environment. Printers and fax machines clutter up your workspace, ramping up your carbon footprint and eating up paper. The more appliances you can remove from your workflow, the more you reduce your carbon footprint. 

Speed up your Workflow

When it comes to eSignatures you’re not only saving time on delivery, you’re saving yourself a huge amount of lag time between people receiving, signing and returning their documents. When your recipients are able to sign quickly with a couple of clicks as soon as they receive a document, your workflow is condensed dramatically.

E-signatures also allow you to track the progress of your document. Freeing up this time allows you to build better relationships with your clients, while reliable software will ensure they have a superior customer journey. All of this adds up to happier customers, greater client satisfaction and retention and increased profitability.

Improved Accuracy

How often have you waited for a critical document to return with a signature, only to discover there’s a mistake or missing information and you need to redo the paperwork and get it signed all over again? Whether it’s a missed page or a neglected piece of vital information, it’s all very frustrating. Fortunately, electronic signature software allows you to make essential fields mandatory and enables the creation of templates and other document tools that eliminate the risk of accidentally losing a page.

Problems with eSignatures 

We’ve seen the benefits of using digital signatures, but what about the negative aspects? No technology is without its pitfalls, and electronic signatures are no exception. Depending on the nature of your business, some of these issues may not apply. At the same time, some could be very problematic, so it’s important to have a clear understanding of the potential downfalls and assess if they’re serious issues for your business or not.

Storage Space Concerns

Limited storage space can be a problem with some vendors. If your documents must be stored on the vendor’s server and not your own, you need to ensure there’s enough storage space to meet the needs of your business. You also need to ensure you’re able to take control of your documents and that your vendor has the ability to digitally shred them when needed.

Security Concerns

Security can be a concern depending on your vendor and how their service is set up. Not all e-signature vendors offer effective security for business customers. You’ll find the level of security that comes with an eSignature provider varies. There are basic systems that don’t prevent signature tampering, all the way up to systems with the highest possible level of security, that cannot be hacked or tampered with.

You may also find that your vendor runs on proprietary software. While this isn’t necessarily an issue, if you don’t want to be locked into a single vendor for e-signatures, this may be an issue.

The Technology that Underpins jSign 

jSign offers a unique means of implementing electronic signatures as it uses blockchain technology to provide a protected, solid and reliable means of signing documents in your business. The tamperproof technology behind blockchain makes it perfectly suited to tracking and securing your whole eSignature process. 

Why You Should Trust Electronic Signatures 

Here are a few good reasons why the use of electronic signatures is growing so fast. 

  • Documents can be accessed by everyone simultaneously. 
  • Changes made by one person are automatically seen by everyone. 
  • Changes can be accepted and rejected by the various parties working on the document in real time.
  • Changes and transactions are all tracked and timestamped, and the whole system is decentralized. 
  • There’s only one version of any document and edits and changes are clearly visible. 
  • Once a document is finalized, it is locked and then secured from the rest of your network.

Blockchain technology also has built-in encryption that can help protect the security of your documents. Any changes or additions to the ledger in the system are logged, which makes the system virtually tamperproof. Data blocks are verified by their own unique hash as each addition or change is logged into a ledger. That hash includes the public and private keys, timestamp and data information. 

The Best Part about eSignatures

On balance, electronic signatures offer a lot of great advantages and have few drawbacks. For most businesses, those benefits far outweigh any potential issues. The best part, however, of switching to e-signatures is the peace of mind you gain knowing an everyday process that’s always been a stumbling block is now operating at peak efficiency,If you’re wondering if e-signatures are right for your business, get in touch today. One of our trained advisors will be in touch to discuss the individual pros and cons as they apply to you, and help you get started with jSign to give electronic signatures a try.

James Lintzer
Senior Marketing Manager

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