When was the last time you had to sign a document? If it happened recently, chances are it was digitally.
In 2020 alone, use of e-signature technology has risen by a head turning 2,530%. Due to the COVID-19 health crisis and the subsequent surge in remote work, the number of e-signature software users skyrocketed.
Understandably, the huge rise in users has brought up a lot of questions related to e-signatures and the management of digital documents.
- What to look for in an e-signature software?
- Are e-signatures safe?
- What are the benefits of adopting e-signatures?
The first thing to know is that businesses can choose to go different routes when implementing e-signatures in their processes:
- E-signature as an optional feature in their CRM / ERP / accounting software
- Widgets and add-ons for commonly used PDF or document creation products
- Dedicated e-signature software
In this post, we will focus on dedicated e-signature software products, as the maturity levels shown by these is turning them into the #1 option for virtually every business relying on signed documents for successfully managing and completing projects.
Who uses e-signatures? A quick market recap
E-signature software gives users the opportunity to digitally sign their document and collect legally-binding consent from collaborators, customers and vendors.
Thousands of organizations use e-signature software for a number of reasons, including:
- Corporations Corporations: for NDAs, contracts, and other legally-binding agreements
- SMBs: for lease rental and partnership agreements
- Universities: for registration forms and time sheets
- NGOs: to collect donation agreements
- Banks and financial institutions: for loan agreement forms
- Insurance providers: for claim forms and insurance policies
- Freelancers: for contracts, invoices and independent contractor agreements
And the list goes on. Because of their flexibility, electronic signatures can be used by virtually (pun intended) anyone.
But why would anyone sign documents digitally in the first place? Beyond the remote nature of e-signatures there are several benefits to using an dedicated software for these, such as:
- Convenience: Getting rid of the meeting, printing, signing, scanning and storing
- Savings: Paper, ink, printing machines and document delivery costs add up over time
- Environment: Helping the planet by going paperless is a great incentive
- Accuracy: Mistakes are less likely to happen when documents are digitized
- Security: Electronically signing documents can provide an added layer of safety
This last point is the main focus of today's article. Below, we will show you which e-signature products provide the most secure experience, and what to look for when it comes for e-signature security.
Security features in an e-signature software
Before addressing the subject of e-signature security, it's important to learn about the three main types of e-sign software out there:
- Simple electronic signatures, which do not require any ID verification from the signer
- Advanced electronic signatures (AES) which require ID verification
- Qualified electronic signatures (QES), which requires face-to-face ID verification (can be done remotely via video chat)
While simple electronic signatures are legal in many countries (including the US), some agreements require a higher level of security.
Depending on a number of factors (location, nature of the transaction and the document you’re looking to sign), different types of signatures might be required, either by internal company requirements and/or by law.
Now, let's get to the point. What features should we look for when security is the top priority? Let's take a look:
- Storage and encryption: solutions should securely handle your data and store it using a trusted database vendor
- Tampering protection: both the electronic signature and the document should be secured with a digital signature.
- Authentication methods: depending on the nature of your documents, you should have the option to require advanced identification from signees to comply with regulations
- Security certifications: look for compliance with security programs such as ISO or IEC. Industry-specific certifications such as HIPAA for the health sectors and local regulations like GDPR in Europe might also be relevant.
Note: In disregard of what the final choice is, it's always wise to run it by your legal team, and see if it meets the legal requirements of your company, industry, state, and country demands.
We know, that’s a lot to take into consideration. At this point, you might ask yourself: Why focus on security and privacy anyway? There are reasons that go beyond the obvious here, and these are:
- Your business is on the line: Documents are the cornerstone of any business and should be treated as such
- Privacy matters: Information, whether it’s yours or others, can become dangerous in the wrong hands
- Protect yourself: Ensuring your signature and data doesn’t get tampered with, modified or stolen
- Protect others: Your staff, associates, vendors and customers can be impacted by loose security safeguards
We’ve covered the basics and established that security should be an important part of your decision. Now, let’s look at the best e-signature software options out there!
Top 6 e-signature software for security and privacy
We’ve looked at the most popular e-signature software on the market and what security features they provide. Here are the top 6 e-signature software for security and privacy.
1) DocuSign, the most popular e-signature platform
- Created in 2003
- Quick fact: DocuSign eSignature enterprise customers realized an average of $36 of incremental value per transaction (Source: IntelliCap, 2015)
- Pricing: Starting at $10/month
- Free Trial? Yes, 30 days
- Website: https://www.docusign.com/
With 4,000+ reviews on Capterra averaging at 4.7/5, and more than 500,000 customers DocuSign is one of the most popular e-signature software out there.
In terms of security, the platform is offering a comprehensive list of features. That includes industry-specific offers like DocuSign Rooms for real estate or DocuSign Agreement Cloud for Healthcare Providers.
DocuSign also boasts an extensive list of certifications and multiple levels of signer authentication from email to access code, SMS and Federated Identity Authentication.
Available in 44 languages with advanced features such as offline signing, eNotary or Tamper-sealed documents, Docusign is a very strong choice for the security-minded user.
2) Pandadoc, a complete sales document management platform
- Created in 2013
- Quick fact: Pandadoc reports a 12 hour / per week saved by teams using their e-signature solution (Source: Pandadoc)
- Pricing: Free plan, then $19/month per user
- Free Trial? Yes, 14 days
- Website: https://www.pandadoc.com/
Focused on sales document automation, Pandadoc offers e-signature as part of a complete platform. It allows users to create documents from templates, integrating them into workflows that include proposals, quotes, contracts and insights and analytics suite.
When it comes to safety, the platform highlights thorough security features. Electronic signatures are ESIGN and UETA-compliant and the company uses US-based data centers handled by Amazon AWS.
With its many features, Pandadoc is most valuable when used as a complete document solution rather than a simple e-signature tool.
3) OneSpan Sign, the enterprise choice
- Created in 1991
- Quick fact: The company allegedly acquired the first fingerprint reader device for a computer in 1991 (Source)
- Pricing: On request
- Free Trial: N/A
- Website: https://www.onespan.com/
OneSpan Sign is part of the publicly traded cybersecurity technology company OneSpan. The anti-fraud platform caters specifically to enterprises, with clients such as US Bank, BMW or Wells Fargo, with e-signature serving as one of its historic products.
Security is at the heart of OneSpan Sign’s identity, with enterprise-specific features such as on-premise hosting or white-labelling. Beyond e-signature, the company provides an array of products from authentication hardware to fraud analysis software or mobile app shielding.
The strong security background of the company, dating back 30 years, along with its various high-profile customers, make it a choice worth considering for security-minded users.
4) KeepSolid Sign, made by privacy and security experts
- Created in 2013
- Quick fact: KeepSolid Sign users can add signatures to documents from virtually any major cloud or email repository, including Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and iCloud.
- Pricing: $9.99/month for 1 user
- Free Trial: Yes, 14 Days
- Website: https://sign.keepsolid.com/
KeepSolid Sign is part of a line of products started by the virtual private network (VPN) software KeepSolid VPN Unlimited. Similarly to OneSpan Sign, it benefits from the strong security background of its parent company
Some of KeepSolid Sign’s key security features include:
- A peer-to-peer architecture preventing third-parties to interpret files using strong protocols
- A data distribution technique breaking down encrypted user data over several servers
- PGP encryption that protects data in transit and at rest
Despite user reviews reporting an inferior user experience compared to other products, KeepSolid Sign offers a very comprehensive solution for those with a security focus.
5) HelloSign, an affordable, secure choice
- Created in 2012
- Quick fact: HelloSign was acquired by the file hosting service Dropbox in 2019 for $230 million
- Pricing: Free plan up to 3 signature requests per month, then $15/month
- Free Trial: Yes, 30 days
- Website: https://www.hellosign.com/
HelloSign is an American company delivering legally-binding electronic signatures. It is available via a web interface, a developer-friendly API or a Salesforce add-on. Focused on customization, the platform also highlights a strong security mindset with a number of features.
Hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), HelloSign ensures the confidentiality of customers and their documents with non-editable audit trail, tracking every action to provide defensible proof of access, review, and signature. Documents are safely stored and encrypted at rest using AES 256-bit encryption.
With an average score of 4.6/5 out of 568 reviews on G2, HelloSign shines from its affordable pricing and easy-to-use interface. Coupled with a security focus, it makes for a valuable option to consider.
6) Adobe Sign, the big player
- Created in 2006 (as EchoSign)
- Quick fact: As of 2019, Adobe has more than 21,000 employees worldwide
- Pricing: Starting at $9.99/month
- Free Trial: Yes, 7 days
- Website: https://acrobat.adobe.com/us/en/sign.html
Adobe Sign started from the acquisition of e-signature platform EchoSign in 2011 by Adobe. It grew in size and features since, adding remote online notarization capability into the product in 2020 for example.
Thanks to its parent company Adobe, the platform offers integrations to a number of apps and services, from Microsoft to Workday, Salesforce and SAP. Adobe Sign users also benefit from the company’s expertise in security and compliance. For example, it offers the necessary regulations to fields such as life science and pharmaceutical companies.
With a global offering and very specific security features, it’s a strong contender for the most secure e-signature platform.
While they didn’t make the top 6 this time, these options are also worth looking into when choosing e-signature software:
- RightSignature, an alternative by the software giant Citrix, focused on speed
- SignNow, mobile-friendly option at an affordable price point
- Secured Signing, digital signature platform featuring notarization
- ZohoSign, great choice if you’re already using the Zoho suite
Now that you have a good grasp of what is available out there, you can consider your existing tech stack and how best to integrate your new e-signature solution internally.
How to avoid preventable challenges: E-signature integrations
No matter how good the e-signature software you end up choosing is, a successful implementation will be determined by how it integrates with your existing processes.
Thankfully, most e-signature software provide users with integrations to popular platforms. For specific integrations however, automation platforms such as Integromat can help face challenges and ensure your e-signature tool blends in your tech stack perfectly.
Using this template for example, automatically store signed documents in a secure location. This will allow you and your collaborators to keep a safe copy of documents for your records, with no risk of forgetting.
Deciding on an e-signature software is an important choice. It will impact your company internally as well as your relationship with collaborators, vendors and customers.
By going over the top e-signature solutions for security and privacy, we’ve been able to narrow down to 5 popular options. Ultimately, your choice should be focused on your specific needs and how each solution can address them.
When choosing your e-signature provider, make sure it ticks all the boxes for you:
- Security compliance: The solution should provide the necessary certifications to ensure appropriate encryption, storage, tampering protection and authentication
- Local and industry-specific regulations: From the GDPR data protection laws in Europe to HIPAA for handling personal health information in the United States
- Volume of documents: How many documents do you sign in a month? This will influence pricing
- Types of documents: Are you limited to signing straightforward employment contracts, or do you work with financial information for example? You must determine which documents and which level of security applies to your needs
- Integrations with other apps: Successful implementation will also be determined by how well the e-signature software integrates within your existing process
Following these guidelines along with the recommendations given throughout the article will set you up for an effective e-signature setup.