Articles

The Ultimate e-Signature Guide for 2024

By Tom Odlin, published: 2023-12-22

It’s not yet time for paper documents to be written off into the pages of history. However, modern business transactions are becoming more electronically dominant. 

Documents ranging from employment contracts and non-disclosure agreements to privacy policies are electronic and require electronic signatures.

The different types of electronic signature

Electronic signing or e-signature is a modern-era alternative to traditional wet-signing of documents such as handwritten signatures or stamped seals.

Most of the words we use for signing a document electronically are interchangeable, but there are subtle differences.

E-signature (SES)

Often referred to as electronic signature, e-sign, e-signature, eSign, eSignature, or the long-form Standard Electronic Signature. 

Digital Signature

A type of electronic signature with more security than a standard electronic signature. It helps authenticate the signature to ensure its integrity while sending it to various recipients.

These are generally only used for government systems and banks for high-level protection. Digital signatures are virtual fingerprints.

Advanced Electronic Signature (AES)

A sub-type of digital signature with the following additional capabilities:

  • Uniquely linked to the signatory;
  • Capable of identifying the signatory;
  • Created under the signatory’s sole control; and
  • Linked to other electronic data so that any change to the data can be detected.

Qualified Electronic Signature (QES)

A specific digital electronic signature verified with the particular specifications of a Trusted Third Party or a government. 

Notably, a QES doesn’t increase the security of a document. It only reduces the burden of proof if a legal dispute arises. 

What’s the difference between a digital signature and an electronic signature?

The ability to sign documents virtually is necessary for companies. While digital and electronic signatures are often used interchangeably, they have different qualities.

Knowing the difference between them can be vital in ensuring the security and enforceability of the documents you sign. 

An electronic signature is a virtual mark (an electronic version of a handwritten signature). In contrast, a digital signature is a unique identifier embedded into the document it is attached to.

It is important to note that electronic and digital signatures are legally binding; however, the data embedded within a digital signature makes it possible to prove who signed it, when and where, making the document far easier to enforce. 

Digital signatures offer more security

Most companies use electronic signatures for simple verification purposes but invest in digital signatures for documents potentially requiring enforcement or greater security. 

Tools such as ZegalSign allow users to seamlessly integrate digital signatures into documents, which affords the security of digital signatures but with the ease of inserting an electronic signature.

Better still, you can sign third-party documents with the Zegal app and create automated documents using the many legal templates available. 

Legality of esignatures

Electronic signing or e-signature is a modern-era alternative to the traditional signing of documents such as handwritten signatures or stamped seals.

Both e-signature and digital signature are legally binding and enforceable. However, digital signatures are more secure than e-signatures. In the case of e-signatures, it also depends upon the software where the document is signed. Some software provides more security than others by automatically generating the certificate of time and date whenever a document is signed.

The rule of thumb worldwide is that e-signing is valid for most documents.

Zegal

In the EU, the new eIDAS Regulation has made e-sign and global business smooth and straightforward. A company or organisation may choose between Standard, Advanced or Qualified esignatures, depending on their security needs, with all three legally effective.

But electronic signature laws vary across jurisdictions. Many countries have passed their own electronic transactions acts. For instance, Singapore treats e-signatures and e-documents like paper records and ink signatures.

Country-by-country e-signing laws:

Do I need an e-signature? 

You might be two budding entrepreneurs in the throes of creating something incredible and need to sign a founder’s agreement.

Or you could be a multinational firm with hundreds or thousands of employees that regularly demands custom contracts and legal documents that require collaboration between clients and the firm. 

Most of the e-signature apps out there generally address their client’s needs by providing variable-tier subscription plans for their customers.

For the most part, e-signature apps with these types of price plans are geared towards businesses as those customers regularly require the creation of documents requiring signatures.

Typical features defining a decent e-signature app are the ease and convenience of adding a signature to a document, a unified dashboard where all documents can be accessed and tweaked, and the ease with which collaborators can edit and sign documents. 

Best e-signature apps for 2024

1. Zegal

Zegal is one of the best e-signature applications out there. It is a fierce competitor in the e-signature market because the documents are tailored to fit each legal jurisdiction and easily managed in the Zegal app.

Zegal has more than 2,000 documents customised for the legal systems in Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK that are easily accessible and searchable.

A unified dashboard lets you have complete control of the documents you create, allowing for easy collaboration between parties privy to the document. 

ZegalSign tracks documents, so you know exactly where a document is in the signing process and manage your resources effectively for swift deal closures. 

To top it all off, e-signing with Zegal seamlessly integrates into your existing systems and cloud storage.

Read more about ZegalSign.

2. Docusign

DocuSign is one of the most popular electronic signature apps, claiming over 200 million users.

It’s the bog-standard e-signature app with no fuss and has all the standard features you’d expect. It’s also reasonably straightforward to use. 

3. HelloSign

For extra simplicity, there’s HelloSign, a good choice if your e-signature needs are not as intensive. Especially useful if you don’t require much collaboration, back and forth between parties, and only need to sign a few documents a month.

4. Adobe Sign

Adobe Sign was one of the first companies to enter the e-signature market. Companies that heavily use Adobe’s other applications might benefit the most from the pricy Adobe Sign.

Embracing a digital future

The world is evolving towards more digital practices, and the e-signature is a clear example of this shift. Embracing e-signatures not only means embracing convenience but also opens up opportunities for enhanced cost-efficiency, accelerated processing times, and robust security for our significant documents.

As the landscape of technology continues to shift and expand, the role of e-signatures will only grow in importance. Here at Zegal, we are at the forefront of this digital revolution, providing an accessible and easy-to-use platform for e-signatures.

This guide is designed to arm you with the knowledge to navigate the complexities of digital signatures, demonstrating the potential benefits they can bring to your business operations.

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