Thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, more companies have moved at least part of their business online. Remote conferencing tools like Zoom, remote time trackers like Traqq, and cloud-based productivity tools like Microsoft 365 are all the rage right now.
Doing business online allows organizations to keep running despite the social distancing directives that mean many employees working in nonessential industries cannot physically come to work. However, that doesn’t mean company oversight no longer exists. Rather, office bosses have deployed a range of innovative online tools to monitor their employees right from their homes.
Another outcome of work moving online is that companies have begun to see the value of electronic and especially digital signatures. It is more than a little inconvenient to continue using the traditional method of signing documents right now. Fortunately, digital signatures provide a faster and better alternative.
With digital signatures, there is no need to print a document, sign it with pen and paper and, then hand-deliver it or scan it and send it back by email. Whether you are giving approval to a shipment order or signing a work form, you can do it without having to leave your computer or put down your mobile device.
But why would you want to do that when the old way still works pretty well?
Because it isn’t working well right now
In case you haven’t noticed, the roads are deserted and the offices are quiet at the moment. Nobody is around to keep the scanner working, not to mention most small businesses have been forced to close their physical offices to protect their employees.
However, even in normal times, both electronic and digital methods of signing documents have always been more convenient than the old way. You don’t need to call over your secretary to print a document so you can sign it or make a quick dash to the printer’s yourself. And if the recipient of the document lives on the other side of the country, you don’t need postage when they can get the document instantly just by you clicking a button.
Another advantage of electronic and digital signatures is the speed. Imagine if you hadve to append your signature to dozens of documents immediately. You will would be needing a hand massage sooner rather than later. With an electronic signature, you can mass-sign however many copies of the e-documents in one stroke.
But, what is the point of ease of use if the medium is less secure, right? You don’t need to worry about that either, if you are using a true digital signature, as opposed to an electronic signature. Digital signatures are unique identifiers that attach the identity of the signer to the document. If someone studies your hand signature long enough, they might be able to replicate it. A digital signature is impossible to forge — unless your private key becomes exposed.
Now that you know how electronic and digital signatures can speed up things for you, let’s talk about your options.
Digital or Electronic?
Many people assume that a digital signature and an electronic signature are one and the same thing. They might just about get away with the mislabellingmislabeling in a casual environment. However, the two types of signatures actually mean different things.
An electronic signature simply means someone’s agreement to a document, appended through any electronic means. The conventional hand signature can be replaced by a picture, a mouse-drawn signature, an image of the person’s hand signature, or a cursive rendering of their name.
The key point with an electronic signature is that what is used is taken as a representation 9f of the real thing. T, the real thing in this case, in this case, being the user’s authentic hand signature. A signature created using the mouse, no matter how expertly drawn, can only be an approximation. However, it should look similar enough to stand as a representation of the signer’s name.
A digital signature, on the other hand, is a whole different ball game. Forging one is all but impossible, and it gives the recipient not just a high degree of certainty about the sender, but also the assurance that the contents of the message haven’t been altered in any way, shape or form.
A digital signature is created using a private key to sign the message. The recipient uses the public key that comes with the message to verify that the document is both authentic and comes from the right person. Some digital signatures have a time stamp, adding an extra layer of security.
Using an electronic signature is sufficient in most cases that concern a personal document. The more sensitive the information is, the more likely the recipient would prefer you to use a digital signature to recognize the document as valid.
Before you sign that document online: Things to consider
Although digital signing is a bit more involved than electronic signing, both still count as easier and faster ways of legally giving your assent to a document. Before you go ahead and settle on one, or choose the platform to use, there are important things to consider.
● Understand what you are signing
Everything you approve can be used against you. That sounds like both common sense and common knowledge, but it is easy to forget. Often, you just want to get that document signed so you can return your attention to something else. In your haste, you might neglect to go over critical fine prints in the document you’ve signed.
In some ways, the relative ease of signing documents electronically also makes it more dangerous than a hand signature. Once you’ve clicked the Send button, it is hard to recall the document after realizing you’ve made a mistake.
Therefore, no matter how much of a hurry you’re in, take time to digest the content of what you’re about to sign. Whether it is one paragraph or 100 pages, make sure you understand what you are agreeing to before you give legal assent through your signature.
● Make sure you can keep a copy
Record retention is important in case you need to make references to the document in the future. You can make a copy of the document after signing it. Some platforms automatically create copies which that are sent to all the parties after a document has been completed and signed.
Docsketch, DocuSign and HelloSign are examples of platforms that do this. If you don’t use one of them, make sure the your platform allows you to retrieve and store a copy of any and all documents you’ve signed.
● Level of signature security
You would probably be more careful with a company letter than you would with a casual letter to a friend or uncle. In the same vein, you should make sure that the type of signature you use matches the degree of sensitivity of the information in the document you’re signing.
Digital signatures are the most secure methods of signing stuff online. Cryptographic keys are many degrees more difficult to fake than a simple picture of your autograph.
Even so, the vast majority of online users aren’t savvy enough to employ a digital signature. For that reason, some financial institutions can accept a simple electronic signature. Don’t you worry, though, they usually combine it with registration processes and authentication tools that require users to validate their identity. The electronic signature then becomes just a concluding formality.
So, what will it be? — digital or electronic signature?. Us8ng Using one for some documents and the other on other occasions isn’t a bad idea either.
How to Create a Digital Signature Online
Let’s get down to the real business. A digital signature is an advanced way to authenticate your documents. It is much more secure than both electronic and hand signatures and looks nothing like either.
A digital signature looks something like this:
So long as you remember that its unique nature and security is are the important thingwhat matters most rather than how it appears, you surely won’t mind too much how it looks. You don’t really need to understand what the characters stand for, either. Any good digital signature platform will handle things for you so all you have to do is sign your documents.
If you work with organizations that prefer that documents be signed digitally, you would want one for yourself. There are quite a number of platforms you can use to easily obtain a digital signature.
DocuSign is perhaps the most well-known name that offers digital signature services to individuals and organizations. It will walk you through the steps of creating a private key and signing your documents with it.
As the platform explains, “when When a signer electronically signs a document, the signature is created using the signer’s private key, which is always securely kept by the signer. The mathematical algorithm acts like a cipher, creating data matching the signed document, called a hash, and encrypting that data. The resulting encrypted data is the digital signature. The signature is also marked with the time that the document was signed”.
At the beginning of this article, We we mentioned at the beginning of this article how the current global situation has forced many organizations to move their workflows online. Activity tracker tools are increasingly being used to monitor work time and productivity, which includes signing documents and sending them. The increase in remote work has only emphasized the need for digital signatures to send and receive sensitive data on time. Therefore, make sure you choose a digital signature platform that works well and can integrate with all your other work apps.
But what about electronic signatures?
Good question. While a digital signature is definitely more secure than every other signing method known to man, it doesn’t mean you have or need to use it all the time. For casual agreements and certain personal interactions, a simple electronic signature is usually sufficient.
Numerous platforms let you sign your document electronically. In fact, the aforementioned DocuSign is one of them. You can upload a picture of your signature, and it will place it correctly in your uploaded document. If you’d rather use a cursive representation of your name, it can do that as well.
Other platforms that offer various forms of electronic signature services are HelloSign, Docsketch and SignNow.
You can also go it alone if you want. Depending on the type of document, you might be able to draw your signature with your mouse. Some text and portable document applications also allow you to insert a picture of your hand signature in the correct place on in a document.
Current happenings have perhaps given organizations a chance to ponder on what is truly necessary and what can be done away with.
As humanity adapts, many small businesses, in particular, have realized that work can be done and productivity maintained without the physical office space.
You can use tools like Traqq to remotely track employee activity, Microsoft Teams and similar apps to host business meetings online, and eSignature mediums like DocuSign to approve organizational documents and forms on the go.
While a digital signature, in particular, might seem like a complex area, using it to authenticate your documents is actually convenient and painless. The more you use it, the more you get to grips with how it works. Before you know it, dígídigi-tally signing your important documents and data will become an automated process.