It’s 2019, and if your business is still not using electronic and digital signatures to sign documents, you’re missing out on the benefits and conveniences brought by this nifty office solution.
By Mikki Miller
By now you should already be familiar with “electronic” and “digital” signatures, but if you still think they’re one and the same, let’s first clear up that misconception.
According to the US Federal ESIGN Act of 2000, electronic signatures are “electronic sounds, symbols, or process attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.” In other words, it refers to any indication made by a person that he or she agrees to the terms in the document where the signature is used. This could mean a digital copy of wet signature, video or sound recording, a check on an “I Agree” box and many more.
Digital signatures in comparison refers to the security features encrypted in the electronic document. This ensures that no tampering or alterations are made as it gets passed from person to person on the internet.
For analogy, you may think of an electronic signature as the wet signature on a document, while a digital signature is the notary seal that proves the document’s genuineness.
Now, to truly understand the up side of using e-signatures, let’s compare it with the traditional wet signature and find out how many of your office woes can be solved by making this simple switch.
With printed documents, there’s little you can do in terms of protecting documents from tampering and forgery. You can notarize your documents but the cost could add up to a large sum overtime. Additionally, wet signatures can be forged. Unless you are present at the signing, there is no guarantee that the signature was executed by the right person. Without witnesses, they can easily deny signing the document.
Digital signatures on the other hand are encrypted so that any changes in the document makes it invalid. Only specified parties can access the document with a pair of keys, each assigned to the sender and receiver. An electronic signature therefore can only be affixed by the person the document is meant for.
Getting a document signed in ink may take a long time, especially if the signature required is from another city, state or country. It can take days up to weeks in transit back and forth, and there’s a risk of it getting lost.
By sending the document online, the other party can receive it in an instant; and without having to print the document, sign and send it back within minutes. Projects can get started on immediately and invoices can be approved just as fast, improving your business cash flow.
Speaking of cash, a lot of it can be saved just by using electronic signatures.
Naturally, wet signatures would require you to print documents for signing. That alone means using paper, ink and other resources. How many reams of paper does your office go through each week? What about ink cartridges? There’s also courier fees to consider when sending documents between any two places.
Electronic signatures require none of those costs. A minimal monthly fee for an online service is all there is in exchange for all those resources, including valuable time.
Papers take office space. Some offices dedicate rooms and even floors just for storage and filing. Retrieving documents can be a burdensome task and losing files such as signed contracts can mean huge consequences.
Digital documents take no physical space, except when you’re talking about servers and hardware. Even then, they take nowhere near as much space as paper documents do, and require no filing cabinets. Retrieving documents is as easy as typing in a search field and with a quick upload to the cloud, you can ensure a copy is available anytime.
Millions of trees are cut down regularly for paper production and much of it is used in offices. An average office worker goes through about 10,000 pages per year. 45% of printed materials are trashed by the end of the day. Additionally, many contacts become obsolete within just months of signing.
Digitizing your transactional documents consequently means doing your part in reducing the number of trees being cut down for this purpose. It may seem that your impact is minimal, but it adds to a collective effort from businesses everywhere that are going paperless.
If you’re still adamant about digital signatures, it’s good to note that according to Software Advice, 77% of business have been using electronic and digital signature over the last three years. This means that you won’t find trouble transitioning to electronic signatures since the majority of businesses are already using it. In any case, the ESIGN Act of 2000 assures enforceability of electronically signed documents, giving you further peace of mind.
Because of its added security, efficiency, cost savings and other benefits, it’s easy to see how electronic and digital signatures can transform your business and take it to the next level. Read more about the “office of the future” for more tips on sustainable workplace.
Mikki Miller is a content writer and marketing manager for Fill Any PDF. He writes about various topics which are often anchored to his advocacy to inspire and encourage others to live sustainably.