Exploring the 3 Types of Electronic Signatures

Kamran Shafii |

Whether you have a messy scrawl that inspires doctor jokes or an elegantly refined script, you probably consider your signature to be an important part of your identity. 

Can a digital signature ever be as unique as your handwritten signature? Although a digital signature may not be able to capture the spiky way you write your N’s, it can be just as uniquely yours. A digital signature can be permanently tied to the document you sign, making each signature completely unique. 

What Is an E-Signature?

An e-signature provides a quick and easy way to sign digital documents, serving as a digitized representation of your signature. 

In 2000, the U.S. passed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act), which — combined with the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) — outlined the legal requirements for digital signatures. In the U.K., the electronic identification and trust services (eIDAS) regulations include the legal framework for e-signatures. 

Types of Electronic Signing

You can use electronic signatures for transactions, legal documents, and other agreements. The biggest difference between the various types of electronic signatures is the level of security required by each. 

Simple E-Signatures

A simple e-signature (SES) includes any electronic indication of consent or approval. As the most basic form of online signature, it includes anything from typed names to electronic ticks on checkboxes. 

An SES doesn’t usually include any encryption mechanisms or identity verification processes. You’ve probably used an SES when you agreed to an app or website’s terms of service. An SES is not as secure as other forms of online signatures, but it’s a good option for low-stakes transactions. Because there’s no identity verification or encryption, an SES probably won’t hold up to a significant legal challenge. Therefore, you shouldn’t use an SES for truly important documents such as business contracts or mortgage applications. 

Advanced E-Signatures 

An advanced e-signature (AES) provides a higher level of assurance regarding security and authenticity. An AES provides encryption and authentication measures, such as blockchain technology. It also links the signature to the signed document. 

With an AES, you don’t have to worry about a contract being changed after you sign it. Once you sign a document with an AES, that document is forever tied to that signature. Any changes to the data can be detected, and the signature will be invalidated. You can feel confident using an AES for business contracts, legal documents, and other high-priority situations.

Qualified E-Signatures 

A qualified e-signature (QES) is the most secure type, and it usually meets even the strictest legal requirements. You can use a QES for transactions or documents that require the highest level of security and legal compliance, such as land deeds, governmental documents, and critical financial agreements.

A QES requires a qualified digital certificate, and it must be created by a secure signature creation device (SSCD). These certificates are issued by a trusted certificate authority, ensuring maximum trustworthiness and a verified electronic signature. 

When To Use E-Sign Documents

Digital documents are a mainstay in all types of business transactions today. You no longer have to fax or mail documents to do business across the country or across the world. Electronic signatures make it easy to conduct business from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection. 

Time-Sensitive Transactions

If you need a contract signed quickly, you can get an e-signature almost immediately. You can send, sign, and receive documents in a matter of minutes without having to go to the post office or schedule an in-person meeting.

Geographic Constraints

With online signatures, you and others can sign documents remotely. With more businesses working remotely, digital nomads are on the rise. You can live wherever you like or travel extensively and still sign important paperwork.

High-Volume Contacts

If you deal with numerous electronic forms, automating the signing process can drastically reduce your administrative overhead. You can create a contract once and send it out as often as necessary. 

Environmental Concerns

Sustainability is a high priority for most businesses and customers. Customers report that they’re more loyal to businesses that are committed to social responsibility. E-signatures can substantially reduce the need for paper, ink, and other resources associated with traditional signatures. 

Importance of E-Signatures in the Digital Age

Unlike traditional, paper-based documents and signatures, e-signatures can be securely stored, organized, and accessed indefinitely. While paper documents can be altered or seen by anyone walking by a desk or file cabinet, documents that have been electronically signed through a secure process can’t be altered. You can also set access controls to prevent prying eyes from seeing sensitive information. Here are a few more of the benefits of electronic signatures:

  • Accelerating transactions: In today’s fast-paced world, waiting for physical signatures can grind work to a screeching halt. With e-signatures, you can instantly sign and send documents so that you can get on with business. 
  • Improving collaboration: E-signatures break down geographic barriers by allowing people to collaborate on and sign documents remotely. You can work with business partners and customers without regard for physical location. 
  • Reducing costs: The traditional signing process involves printing, shipping, and storing paper documents. E-signatures cut down on these costs significantly, so you can instead spend this money on building your business.
  • Ensuring security and compliance: Advanced and qualified e-signatures offer security features like encryption and identity verification. These measures help prevent fraud, unauthorized access, and tampering. In many businesses, security standards are a legal requirement. E-signatures provide the audit trails that may be necessary in a dispute. 
  • Supporting remote work and digital transformation: The rise of remote work and the broader digital transformation agenda have increased business’s reliance on digital tools. E-signatures make it easier to manage human resources, contractual agreements, and more in a virtual environment.
  • Adaptability across industries: E-signatures aren’t confined to any specific industry. They’re used in health care for patient consent, in real estate for property agreements, in finance for loan approvals, in education for student communication, and in many other sectors for numerous purposes. 

Choose a Reliable Electronic Signature Solution

With jSign, you can easily sign, send, track, organize, and access contracts from any device. With blockchain technology, you can rest assured that your signatures and contracts are protected. We offer HIPAA-compliant plans and audit trails to help you comply with industry regulations. Sign up today to get started. 

Kamran Shafii
Manager, SEO Content

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