Digital vs E-signing
Many small businesses are unaware of the legal differences between e-signatures and digital signatures. The laws vary from country-to-country but in Australia and New Zealand we follow a minimal approach to digital signing, called an open legal model. This model lets nearly all documents be signed with a simple electronic signature!
The key features of a digital signature include signature encryption and linking to the original signee, it holds a data trail, there are high levels of authenticity, it secures a document and is legally binding. This differs from an e-signature in that the document is only verified instead of secured, the signature is non-encrypted, it’s typically simpler to use but less authentic, there is no guaranteed data trail, and the intent to sign is what creates the contract.
The main benefits of using a digital signature are around security, ensuring the person signing the document is the signee, and being able to back this up with an audit trail can be essential to the document holding up in court. If your business is set on using e-signatures, one way to have this document hold up in court is by gaining consent before using an online signature and be able to reasonably identify them. This shows the signee knows they entered a contract by symbolising their agreement.
Common Signing Methods
Having a digital signing feature, our sales team often hears all the different ways small businesses are currently signing documents. These different methods are often used because they are the simplest, are typically free, and don’t involve the client learning any new technology so takes less time to implement.
The traditional ink signature is one a lot of businesses are still using. This usually involves printing the document, manually signing it, scanning it, then emailing it to their client who will do the same. The time sunk into this process, the expectation of clients to have access to printers and scanners, and the manual follow ups required to get this signature back manually are often not considered. The learning curve of a new technology usually takes far less time than the manual processes seen here, not to mention the difficulty of following this process while social distancing. This method offers medium security; you can see the handwriting and signature matches the clients and without reasonable doubt you would assume this is who has signed the document. This method offers no security in the form of an audit trail or encrypted signature. It also offers only one authentication method of email, which is often not enough.
Another common method is using free tools. The small business will upload their document to a free online provider, create their signature, paste it on the document, then send it off to their clients. This poses the same security risks as the previous method but includes a third party who may not be trusted, nor does it offer the confidence of a handwritten signature.
The most common method we see is using a free tool to turn a Word Document into a fillable PDF, the signees will then type their name into the document, and this will act as a signature. This method is also sent via email so poses the same security risks as the above methods.
SuiteFiles Digital Signing
Our digital signing feature offers encryption, authentication, and provides a full audit history of each document. Our approach complies with both tiered and open digital signature legal models.
The SuiteFiles signing feature works by automatically turning any document held in SuiteFiles into a signable PDF file, you can then drag and drop your chosen fields (signing, date, and text fields). The document is now ready for signing, you add your recipients or save the file into your clients shared folder. If you’ve added recipients, they will receive a link to sign the document in the browser, the signed document will then automatically be saved back to the original location with a signed copy sent to each signee. If you’ve chosen to save the document to a shared client folder, you can add the recipient’s email address so they receive a notification to login with their Xero, Google or custom credentials to sign the document. The completed document will be automatically saved back to their shared client folder.
This year we’re focusing on adding enhancements to a number of features, including digital signing. We’ll be making this a simpler process for both SuiteFiles customers and end users, as well as adding even more security features.