COVID-19 disrupted physical meetings and office spaces and affected workflows that depended on human interaction, such as contract signing and document signing. As enterprises sought to adapt their signature workflows for remote workers, electronic signature software (e-signature) has recently seen a surge in popularity.
Many companies are returning to in-person offices or adopting hybrid workforce approaches, where employees work from home and work at the office. E-signature vendors are trying to convince businesses that they still have relevance.
E-signature software is a tool that allows businesses to digitize business processes that require signatures. This includes purchase orders, sales contracts, and legal documents. Companies that use the software to sign sales-based documents can also expand their capabilities in other departments such as finance, human resources, procurement, supply chain operations, or financial services.
E-signature software is often considered a complement to many other product categories, such as contract lifecycle management and digital transaction management. It also allows for content management and content sharing. Companies that have purchased free esign software in the past few years as a point solution should consider integrating or expanding their digital signature tool use to support a hybrid workforce.
What is eSignature Software?
An eSignature is a type of electronic authentication that accepts an agreement. The system must verify the identity of the signer. This can be anything from a corporate ID or a verified email address. Multifactor authentication is also possible with e-signature apps to create an audit trail.
A digital signature is an e-signature that conforms to legal requirements for authentication. It can be enhanced with additional security features, such as a certificate-based electronic ID. This increases the security of the identity verification method. Trust service providers validate digital signatures, often through certificate authorities. Digital signatures are used in high-risk situations such as loan approvals, HR processes, and doctor signatures.
There are three types of electronic signatures in Europe: Standard Electronic Signatures, Advanced Electronic Signatures, and Qualified Electronic Signatures. Each type has varying levels of authentication requirements.
Electronic signatures of documents can generally be accomplished in one of two ways: authentication-based or native signing. Below are detailed explanations of both authentication-based and native signing.
eSignly's signature solution is authentication-based signing. Authentication-based sign supports any authentication method eSignly provides, provided the authentication result is used to sign. This allows for a consistent output format that conforms to EU specifications and a responsive, scalable signing interface that supports all modern device standards.
Authentication-based signature allows you to sign one or several digital documents electronically. You first consent to the content of the document(s) and then authenticate yourself using various supported authentication methods, including eID providers.
The product is based on authentication, so the eID providers don't need to support signing. The service collects evidence of the signer's actions (i.e., the service gathers evidence of the signer's actions, i.e., viewing the document(s), agreeing to its contents, and the authentication itself. Each original document is also combined with the proofs.
The resulting document, the XAdES (XML Advanced Electronic Signatures), is digitally signed using eSignly. Each signer receives one XAdES file for each original document. You can merge the signed documents into a final PAdES document (PDF Advanced Electronic Signatures) using eSignly's PackagingService API.
Third-Party (native) Signing
Third-party signing is also known as native signing. It involves signing done by third-party methods with their native signing support. This applies only to ID methods with a signed solution embedded.
The documents to be signed here are then transferred to the third-party provider's infrastructure. To create a digital signature, the end-users key is used.
This alternative is incompatible with the same output formats and cannot guarantee a responsive signature interface. It will also not support all of eSignly's electronic signature functionality.
Benefits of Electronic Signature Software
Electronic signatures offer many benefits. Free esignature app offers many benefits, including enhanced security and compliance, customer experience, time savings, and a positive environmental impact.
Today, we will take a closer look at the benefits of electronic signing software and the business problems they solve.
Electronic signature tools offer many benefits, including time savings. You don't have to schedule in-person document signings or send back-and-forth letters. Instead, you can send an email link that expedites document turnaround in a flash.
To avoid legal liability, it is necessary to start the process again from scratch if you lose paper documents. E-signatures are electronically attached to contracts or proposals and can be returned in seconds. This allows your company to forecast project completions more easily.
Saves You Money
Both time and money can be saved. Automating business processes is a great way to save time and increase your ROI. Additionally, eliminating printing, shipping, and packaging costs can help you save money, increasing your bottom line.
Employee satisfaction and productivity will skyrocket when employees concentrate on complex tasks instead of repetitive, routine ones.
Your business can eliminate tedious tasks by using Esignature technology.
Increases Security and Reduces Risk
Are electronic signatures safe? Yes, in a word. Here's why:
- eSignatures can be legally enforced and are more secure than handwritten signatures.
- eSignatures come with a digital audit trail that includes emails, signed documents, and copies of contracts. This makes them easy to verify.
- Esignature products are capable of detecting even minor modifications and adjustments. They are safer than wet signatures which can be easily altered.
- Paper documents are susceptible to theft or loss and can be damaged.
- Electronic signatures make sure that all signatures are present and correct.
- Authorized third parties can only access electronic documents.
- Signed documents electronically are marked with information such as the signer's identity, the signer's address, and the date of signing.
- For added security, electronic signatures can be protected by biometric authentication methods.
Even for those who don't have the technical skills, electronic signature platforms such as eSignly can be convenient and simple to use. Signing is easy and intuitive, regardless of whether you are sending or receiving. Electronic signatures are easy to use if you have email access and can click a few buttons.
Enhances Customer Experience and Loyalty
Sign anywhere and anytime. eSignatures allow you to sign anywhere, anytime, from your mobile device to your office building, beach cabana, or office building. Loyal customers will support your business and be happy customers.
Are you a mobile workforce? You can send documents electronically from anywhere, anytime. Additionally, customers can sign and receive documents from their mobile devices. This increases the turnaround time and customer convenience.
Both senders and recipients need to scan and print documents multiple times when using "wet" or physical signatures. This is done using expensive ink and reams of paper. Paperless offices are better for the environment as well as your supply budget.
Is your document received, signed online, or approved? You can track workflows and see the status of your documents in just a few clicks.
Empties Your Archives
Are you still storing paper documents in your office? You must keep paper documents safe for a specific period, but new electronic documents take up no space. Hooray!
All business transactions must comply with regulatory requirements. Audits may make it difficult to keep track of paper documents to comply with compliance issues. It is crucial to ensure that documents are not altered or destroyed to avoid lawsuits and other penalties. The Esignature encryption technology ensures that documents are protected and comply with federal and state laws.
How do Electronic Signatures Work?
Electronic signatures are easily dismissed as an alternative to ink-to-paper signatures because of their simplicity. Electronic signatures are far more advanced than they seem.
Electronic signatures can be a full SaaS solution to authenticate, track, and store signatures and information at all stages of a contract's lifecycle. E-signatures can be signed by only one person, just like handwritten signatures. While witness testimony and handwriting can be used to confirm the authenticity of traditional signatures, e-signatures provide additional layers of authentication.
Each electronic signature is assigned a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) that appears as a unique sequence of encrypted numbers, one public and one private. The encrypted data contains information about the IP address of the signer and records the date and time at which the signing occurred.
Are Electronic Signatures Legally Binding?
The ESIGN Act was a piece of legislation that the U.S. federal government adopted in 2000. This Act was passed in conjunction with the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act. Although electronic signatures have a long legal history that dates back over 20 years and is still in development, the bottom line is that they offer just as much legal validity as traditional signatures.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Electronic signatures cannot be legally signed, as stated by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
- Testamentary trusts and wills
- State statutes that govern divorce, adoption, and other family law
- Court orders or other official documents (briefs and pleadings) are available.
- Notice of cancellation of utility services (i.e., water, heat, and power
- Notice of default, foreclosure, or eviction of a primary residence for an individual
- Notice of termination for life or health insurance policies
- Recall notices for products that pose a significant risk to safety or health
- Any document that is legally required to transport toxic materials, pesticides, or other harmful substances
Although you can find information about U.S. legal requirements here, the laws may vary depending on your location. The legislation governing electronic signatures' statutory validity varies from country to country. If you do business internationally, you need to understand the workings of electronic signatures around the globe.
Who Uses Electronic Signatures?
Remote work is becoming more common than ever. Signing documents remotely is not only a time saver but a necessity. Businesses in almost every industry can use e-signatures to automate their contract lifecycles. Here are some key functions and industries that electronic signatures are often used:
- real estate transactions
- sales contracts
- Onboarding HR/employee
- government services/applications
- financial services
- Intellectual property licensing
- Non-disclosure Agreements
- age verification
What are the Common Features Offered by an Electronic Signature Solution?
E-signature software can tremendously help any company that needs to create, share, or sign documents quickly. These core features of e-signature platforms can be used to your advantage.
This tool allows signers to sign documents intuitively and easily in a virtual capacity. This allows businesses to concentrate on more important tasks than obtaining, reviewing, and signing documents. E-signature solutions make signing easier and are more user-friendly.
This technology allows interested parties to track documents and determine if they have been opened, signed, or received in real time. This technology gives businesses greater visibility of the activities of signers. It allows them to know when and where agreements will be delivered.
Signers often follow strict legal and regulatory standards. E-signature software allows signers to concentrate on their work and not worry about compliance with regulatory requirements. These tools often include regulatory compliance.
Templates and Document Creation
Documents and agreements can have nuanced differences that vary based on their purpose. However, eSignature solutions make it easy to create or use premade templates and customize agreements quickly for each signer.
Mobile devices and apps allow users to sign in easily and review or send documents. This allows users to review and sign agreements without being physically present before the parties or at a computer.
Bulk Digital Signatures
You can send documents or agreements that require thousands of signers to multiple users at once. E-signature platforms allow businesses to send documents to multiple parties simultaneously, increasing efficiency and improving document management. This feature allows companies to save hours on sending, receiving, tracking, and maintaining the status of documents.
One of the key features of e-signature tools is the ability to retain all documents and agreements and store them in the solution or on a third-party platform. A solution that securely stores and makes it accessible for future uses, such as contract negotiation, renewals, or legal matters, can help businesses improve their document management capabilities.
E-signature software has a core feature that allows you to create and customize signature blocks and initials for your signers. Signing can be done on any required electronic form or document. Signatures can also be created electronically. This allows businesses to electronically sign documents and create authentic signatures at any stage of the document workflow.
Businesses can use e-signature to add custom branding to the documents that are shared, signed, and stored. This allows businesses to use their brand throughout agreements or documents.
E-signature tools allow businesses to share files quickly with multiple parties in real-time. Companies can quickly share any document with interested parties without moving physically.
API integrations can allow users to create, update, and modify documents, forms, and templates and then integrate them into business processes and workflows. Businesses can integrate document signing into other business core areas using API integrations.
Reminders and Expirations
Another feature of e-signature solutions includes the ability to remind signers about documents and agreements that are still to be signed and notify them of the expiration dates of digital documents. Notifications can be sent via email or SMS. This feature aids in document signing, speeds up turnaround time and ensures that interested parties don't miss renewals or expirations of offer periods.
Challenges with E-Signature Software
E-signature software comes with its set of challenges. Below are a few examples.
Secure document sharing and electronic signature tools can be used to sign sensitive documents electronically. This makes it difficult to ensure security. Businesses may be unable to control or secure the cloud environment where e-signature software is hosted. Companies may be concerned about the security of tools stored on vendor-specific servers and their inability to measure potential vulnerabilities.
Businesses must comply with various legal and regulatory requirements as e-signature software can be used to sign, review, and share documents and agreements across many industries and locations. To avoid noncompliance, companies should ensure that any tools used to meet the requirements of their industry or region.
Users may be concerned that proprietary software could cause them to feel they must stay with the same e-signature vendor not to lose or compromise any documents they have sent through the platform. Vendors should be aware of the platform's ability to store and download documents in case they need them.
To certify the legality of electronic signatures, the signer must be authenticated and give legal disclosure and consent. The software must protect documents from hacking and tampering. A record of the audit must also be kept during the document's lifecycle. Businesses place great importance on verifying and authenticating the signatory.
Many free esignature app are now hosted in a cloud environment. However, businesses still have concerns about storage volume. Some platforms restrict the number of documents that firms can store. Companies should determine how many documents they need to choose the right software.
Top eSignature Software Providers 2023
Below are links and quick descriptions of some of the most popular e-signature software options. These were based on market research, analysts' discussions, and company’s needs. You may have different feature requirements, so visit each vendor's website to learn more about each tool.
eSignly provides electronic signatures free of charge. It can satisfy all industries' digital signature needs, including Financial, Insurance, Health Care, and Real Estate Legal. eSignly is available to all industries to reduce the paperwork and mess they must deal with. Our esignature services are now available to all industries.
eSignly offers digital signature solutions to all industries, including Financial, Insurance, and Health Care. All industries can use eSignly. eSignly helps reduce time spent sorting through piles and creating chaos. All documents are kept confidential and away from chaos. Our goal is to create an agile system that allows seamless service flow within and between departments within the team.
Amazon Cloud offers secure, reliable, and robust data protection. It includes high-performance computing, firewalls, and data protection rules. SSDs are used to store data quickly. Promoting paperless activities is an eco-friendly way to go. This will allow users to be more efficient and faster while still fulfilling their social responsibilities.
Adobe Acrobat Sign
Adobe's experience in document creation via portable document format (PDF) means it supports signature collection with its Acrobat Signature offering. This software allows companies to sign Acrobat PDF documents from any device, mobile or desktop. Recipients can sign documents without needing a download or account creation. Users can also scan and upload PDFs with the Adobe Scan mobile application.
Acrobat, Microsoft Word, and other applications can track and manage documents. Each document that is awaiting signature can be viewed in real-time. Notifications can also be sent when documents are signed. Companies can also create and manage reusable templates to support frequently used forms.
Other features include the ability to send documents to multiple people, real-time tracking, and integrations to HR platforms (Workday and SAP SuccessFactors), CRM (Salesforce, Zoho CRM, and Microsoft Dynamics), and others (Notarize and Veeva). You can also add logos or other messaging to your branding options.
DocuSign is the de facto market leader in this area. It supports electronic signatures online, electronic notarization, and contract lifecycle management workflows. You can also include payments within contracts and capture consent in one click. The company integrates its software into the DocuSign Agreement Cloud. This extends the benefits of the process to other stages, such as the preparation or management of agreements after signature.
DocuSign is used in many areas of an enterprise, including customer support, sales, customer service, facilities, finance, and human resources. Legal, marketing, procurement, and product management are examples. More than 350 systems are available for partner integration and support, including those from Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle, and Apple.
Additional features include custom field creation, reusable templates, multi-user routing, and security requirements like privacy and data residency rules, audit trails, and multiple-user routing.
Eversign allows you to create legally compliant and valid e-signatures. Eversign allows documents to be stored securely and has auto-expiration options. Upload PDFs can be uploaded and prepared for signature using a document editor. Audit trails can also be used to track the process. A feature that allows customers, employees, or partners to sign documents in person, such as waivers or nondisclosure agreements, is available on a mobile or PC.
Templates, multi-business management, and contact management are additional features. App integrations and API support are also available. (See Eversign security information and compliance.)
Dropbox acquired HelloSign in early 2019, and it is now the default option for e-signature for Dropbox users. It offers eSignature, API integration, and intelligent mobile forms (HelloWorks) as part of its product portfolio. The e-signature system includes unlimited signature requests, templates, and audit trails. Customers can also access email support via email. There are 22 languages supported.
You can sign documents by drawing, typing, or uploading them. Responses can also be tracked using email notifications. These emails can automatically send reminders to those who have not signed the document. You can enhance the signer fields of documents by using drag-and-drop signature blocks, checkboxes, and date fields. Integrations include leading CRM, storage/collaboration, and productivity apps, with additional connections via Zapier. Some security features include two-factor authentication, data validation, and tamper-proofing.
PandaDoc, an all-in-one tool, allows users to create, collaborate, and electronically sign documents in a document workflow system. The built-in editor allows you to create templates like forms, requests for quotes, proposals, contracts, and forms. Integrations with most CRM and productivity suites are possible. The system also has a library of preapproved clauses and contracts for legal documents.
Workflow features allow you to collaborate with other roles in a company or outside through permissions. You can also comment, respond, and approve. E-signature features allow you to sign on your mobile device or desktop using 256-bit encryption, HIPAA compliant, and SOC 2 Type II certified. Audit trails allow users to see who opened, viewed, signed, and when.
SignNow is part of the airSlate Business Cloud and lets customers sign and transmit documents to sign, negotiate contracts, accept payments and automate business processes.
The eSignature software allows users to create and deploy legally binding electronic signatures for documents, contracts, and web forms. You can automate the process with more than 100 no-code bots. Roles can be assigned to different employees, and notifications can add. SignNow can integrate many CRMs, cloud storage, and productivity apps.
The system offers mobile-first web forms and robotic process automation. It also supports contract negotiation and management. Workflow automation, PDF editing, and payment acceptance.
The Key Takeaway
Electronic signatures are a great way for businesses to reduce costs, increase productivity, and manage risks. This will help them grow and generate more revenue. Our team of contract management specialists can help you take the first step toward a brighter future and explain how electronic signatures work.
Since the days when signatures could only be created with ink and paper, they have come a long way. Companies from a variety of industries are rapidly adopting eSignature solutions. Businesses should choose carefully when choosing free esignature software to be part of their digital transformation. Legacy eSignature solutions are no longer the best, but seamless mobile eSignatures are replacing them. Mobile-optimized eSignature solutions can collect customers' forms, documents, consent, and other information via their preferred channel, their smartphone. eSignly is one of them. It has created a new standard in eSignature for customers to ensure compliance and flexibility for some of the fastest-growing companies around the globe.