Managing records in a world that depends on paper is overwhelming. Depending on your industry and the size of your business, you might have a few boxes full of paperwork, or a few rooms full of file cabinets holding your important documents.

Digital documents make life easier; there’s no paper shuffling, digging, climbing, or damaged, unreadable documents. When you use electronic signatures for contracts, there’s also no scanning, signing, re-scanning, and running to the post office.

E-signatures help you manage documents with minimal effort

Having employees, contractors, and clients sign important documents electronically is the key to managing your documents with minimal effort. An equally important component of managing your documents is maintaining security throughout the signing process.

Since a standard electronic document can be signed electronically by anyone without verification, hopefully you’re using industry standard security measures to preserve the authenticity of the signatures you collect. Especially when those signatures are being collected through PDF files.

Control access to your documents at every step

You want to make sure your document is only accessible by the person it’s intended for. You also need to be able to verify their signature is authentic and prevent any future changes to the document once signed. These security measures are achieved with a digital signature.

Electronic signature vs. digital signature

An electronic signature is fundamentally different from a digital signature. An electronic signature is when someone signs a document through an electronic means. A digital signature provides the layer of security that makes the authenticity of an electronic signature verifiable. This is achieved through encryption.

According to the computer section on HowStuffWorks.com, “Encryption is the process of taking all the data that one computer is sending to another an encoding it into a form that only the other computer will be able to decode. Authentication is the process of verifying that information is coming from a trusted source. These two processes work hand in hand for digital signatures.”

A digital watermark seals the deal

When a document is signed, a digital watermark/seal is applied, and any further alterations are digitally recorded.

“Creating an electronic signature with the help of a digital signature ensures that all of the key metadata about that e-signature is recorded and maintained as part of the intent capturing process,” says secure digital signature provider eSignLive. “Furthermore, the digital signature effectively puts a watermark on the signature, making it clearly evident when the file has been accessed, tampered with or otherwise adjusted.”

Once a digital watermark is applied to the document, any change made to the document will “break” that seal. All changes are recorded. This ensures that if the document needs to be kept for years to comply with regulations, it can’t be unknowingly tampered with.

Electronic signatures alone aren’t secure

Electronic signatures are considered equal to signatures created with pen on paper. In fact, an Appellate court in Arizona said emails between a real estate agent and a homebuyer might constitute an electronic signature when the agent failed to sign the agreement after the homebuyer. However, just because electronic signatures are legal doesn’t mean they’re secure.

Electronic signatures alone aren’t unerringly verifiable; they can be disputed. Even if the dispute is easily proven false, you don’t have time to get involved in a lawsuit. By using software like eSignLive, you can add a layer of security to your important documents that protects your business from false claims.

Digital signatures encrypt electronic signatures

A digital signature uses complex cryptographic algorithms to ensure the security of the document that’s been signed. A digital signature provides the following layers of security:

Authenticates the identity of the signer. This prevents other people from engaging in forgery. The signer must verify their identity before they can even access the document.

Authenticates the integrity of the document. This ensures the content hasn’t been altered since it was signed. If it has been altered, a digital record of metadata is created.

Authenticates the origin of the document. With a digital signature, the person who signed the document can’t claim the document originated from another source. In other words, they can’t claim they were duped into signing the document by an unofficial source. A digital key is used when the originator of the document signs, and that key can’t be disputed.

Make digital signatures a priority

Out of all the important security measures your business can take, encrypting the electronic signatures you collect should be at the top of your list – especially if you send out NDAs and other documents with sensitive information. Digital files are subject to being moved and copied, and there’s no telling where your documents will end up.