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Signatures: Digital vs. Paper

Anna Sayers
By Anna Sayers
on November 21, 2019

Signatures are something that most of us are very familiar. We have to sign our names on documentation on a regular basis. Whether it's a receipt, contract or a birthday card. Like many things, signatures have evolved throughout history - adapting to modern technology and becoming more efficient with solutions like Adobe Sign making digital signatures more accessible. We have been adjusting how people can sign documents in Clinked and thought it would be good to review the main options we've found to help those evaluating the digital vs. paper signature challenge.

agreement-3399518_1920First up, the "new comer" digital!

What counts as an electronic signature?

Electronic signatures are becoming a standard procedure in the modern world. Having an effective and reliable way to sign a document digitally is a massive game changer. Saving individuals and businesses a huge amount of time on what can be a very long process. Although one challenge often faced is that it can sometimes be unclear what does and doesn’t count as a legally binding electronic signature seeing as there are various methods that people use:

Scanning a handwritten copy of your signature and inserting it into the document - this is technically considered a legal form of signature, but it’s the least secure and wouldn’t be recommended for any business transactions due to the risks of identity theft.

Using services such as DocuSign and Adobe EchoSign - this will allow you to easily sign documents using your fingertips, a stylus or a mouse from any mobile device or desktop, also offering a much higher level of security.

To make sure that your eSignature fully complies with the ESign Act, the owner of the contract must have a way to identify the signer electronically and a way to ensure the document hasn’t changed since signing and a method of validating the signature.

Identify the signer:

Identifying the signer is usually done through digital certificates, which you can get online from ‘certificate authorities’. The certificate will have a private and a public key. The private must not be shared with anyone as it is used to apply the signature to the document. The public key can be viewed by anyone – this is what is used to confirm the identity of the signer.

Validate the signature:

Various checks must be made to make sure that the signature belongs to the person. Such as the signers name, the date it was signed and their IP address.

Ensuring the document hasn’t changed:

When a signature is checked and verified, the document is also compared to see if the contents matches when the signing took place, and if the slightest change has been made, the signature would become invalid.

Next up, the historically strongest type, physical signature:

What is a hard signature?

A ‘hard’ signature, also known as a ‘wet’ signature is a physical mark created by a person on a hard copy of paper. Often this consists of signing a name, but it can be as simple as marking a specific section of a page with initials or an ‘X’. 


Signatures are legally binding and are regarded as an approval of consent, often used when finalising a deal or important decision. Hard signatures are still popular when signing many legal or financial documents. For close-working companies, it is not an issue getting a piece of paper signed, as all that is required is to walk from one side of the office to another.

However, for many international businesses who have both colleagues and clients abroad, getting a hard signature is almost impossible. Hence why the instant sharing of electronic documents is essential, with E-signatures being a more instantaneous and cost effective solution. The signature also needs to be replicated on each page or contract individually, it cannot be photo-copied or copied across several documents.

While this method of hard copy signatures is the traditional way to give consent on documents, it is very time consuming due to all of the steps required:

      1. The sender must produce a hard copy of the document and send it to the individual required to sign it.

      2. They must then wait until they have received the document and then once it has arrived, sign it.

      3. If it is not required to be signed by additional people, then the recipient can finally post the document back.

Weighing the two options:

This process is inefficient as it can take a period of time, which decreases the amount of time that could be spent productively. This could also be delayed even further by individuals being out of office or by posting complications. Hence why new methods of signing documents such as E-signatures have evolved. Using digital signatures with a service like Adobe Sign has loads of benefits; it's quick, easy and can be used from anywhere, more secure and it can integrate with products like Clinked.

At Clinked, we decided to bring an Adobe Sign integration for our clients. Upon review, we determined a more efficient process is allowed for your clients, so that they can access and sign all documents in a secure, branded environment. Check out our Clinked feature page on this Adobe Sign Integration to learn more.

If you think that using a client portal may suit, why not check out our Clinked white-label client portal? The benefits to your business begin with providing a secure platform to share documentations with your clients and allow them to sign electronically, but doesn't end there. Learn more by booking a demo with one of our product specialists.

 

 

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