Learn how to select a secure, trusted and scalable eSignature vendor for your business.
Today’s fast-paced, digital-first economy brings both challenges and opportunities to companies of all sizes. Times have changed. People have changed. Technology has changed. And, of course, the way we need to sign documents has changed.
Signing, copying, scanning, mailing and faxing (yes, some people are still faxing) paper documents is not a sustainable or profitable way to run a business. It can be extremely time-consuming and risky.
If you are evaluating eSignature solutions and vendors for your business, we are here to help you with straightforward advice and resources to make an informed decision. Let’s start with some important facts to understand about eSignatures.
What is an eSignature?
An electronic signature, or eSignature, is the digital counterpart of a handwritten signature. This can simply be an image of your signature pasted into a document. Legally, an eSignature captures a person’s intent to agree to the content of an electronic document, contract, record or set of data.
There are many business benefits of eSignatures, including a more efficient, secure and compliant way to sign documents anywhere in the world, on any device. A scalable eSignature solution has become a must-have tool in your technology stack to support growth and digital transformation.
No matter which vendors you are evaluating, we encourage you to download and read the 2023 GigaOm Radar Report for eSignature Solutions. Nitro Sign was honored to be named a leader in this report which provides an in-depth breakdown and review of several vendors in the eSignature category. You will see how vendors rank across key criteria such as advanced digital signatures, flexibility, scalability, ease-of-use, security, compliance and more.
What are the 3 types of electronic signatures?
Knowing which types of electronic signatures you need to support will be very important in determining which eSignature solution you need. While you may only need simple signatures today, keep in mind that you could need high-trust, qualified electronic signatures in the future as you grow.
There are 3 types of electronic signatures, and Nitro Sign supports them all. The differences between them are primarily based on the level of Authenticity, Identity, Integrity and Authentication.
Basic or Simple Electronic Signature (SES): A simple or basic electronic signature must simply prove acceptance or approval by the signer. This can be a scanned image of a signature, a signature manually drawn on a desktop screen (& digitally saved), a click on an “I accept” button, etc.
Advanced Electronic Signature (AES): An advanced signature must meet specific requirements providing a higher level of signer ID verification, security, and tamper-sealing (meaning the document cannot be changed once it is signed).
Qualified Electronic Signature (QES): A qualified or non-repudiation signature is the only electronic signature type to have special legal status in EU. Unlike the other signatures, the burden of proof lies with the party that disputes the signature(s), not with the initiator.
Is an electronic signature the same as a digital signature?
No. The terms electronic signature and digital signature are often used interchangeably, but a digital signature relies on encryption/decryption technology and is the most advanced and secure type of electronic signature. Digital signatures provide an extra layer of security and integrity. They are used to comply with strict regulatory requirements with assurance of the identity and authenticity of the signer and document.
A digital signature is always an electronic signature, while an electronic signature is not always a digital signature.
Are eSignatures legally binding?
Yes. In most parts of the world, an electronic signature is legally recognized and enforceable. However, the laws and regulations surrounding eSignatures can vary across regions and countries. For specific details on the legality and enforceability of electronic signatures, read Section 3 of our whitepaper, Ultimate Guide to Electronic Signatures.
Now, how do you choose the best eSignature vendor?
The first thing to be aware of is that not all eSignature solutions are created equal. Vendors can vary significantly in functionality, regulatory compliance and even hidden costs. Thorough research is critical.
When choosing a vendor for your business, you must ensure their core signature capabilities are aligned to your business requirements and your global regulatory requirements. While there are several components that make up an eSignature solution, below we have five key focus areas for your decision.
Your Evaluation Checklist for eSignature Solutions
1. Is the solution flexible and scalable?
Just because you might be a small to midsized business today, your eSignature solution should be able to support you no matter how large your business becomes. In addition, your document use cases and workflows are likely to change over time. You will add people, add locations and/or add global, cross-border transactions for eSigning. A Software as a Service (SaaS) eSignature solution like Nitro enables you to adapt to changing needs and scale as you grow.
Questions to ask vendors:
- Are the file types you use supported? (PDF, DOC, DOCX, TXT, XML, etc.)
- Can you easily add or remove users?
- Can you custom brand the eSignature solution?
- Is the solution easy to implement and access?
- Will the solution support current and future needs?
2. Is the solution easy to use with built-in automations?
When you invest in an eSignature solution, you want it to be easy and intuitive so your people love to use it! A poor user and admin experience leads to poor ROI. Ensure you can try the product before you buy to minimize your risk. Beyond having a simple, clean interface, you also want the ability to automate document and signing workflows from simple to advanced.
A big time- saver for Nitro Sign is our Template portal that automates repetitive eSignature requests. You can select a pre-defined workflow, add signers, customize configurations and apply changes on demand—without having to re-configure your workflows every time.
Questions to ask vendors:
- Is the solution easy to learn and use?
- How do you prepare documents for signature and send requests?
- Does the solution come with automated signature flows?
- Can you offer signers a choice of signing methods on any device?
- Can you sign packages of documents?
3. Is the solution secure and compliant with your specific regulatory requirements?
Every business needs to make eSignature security and compliance a priority. This is particularly important if you are in a highly regulated industry like healthcare or financial services, or if you perform cross-border transactions.
To protect your data and business, ensure your eSignature vendor and their data centers are compliant with industry and international standards such as eIDAS, UETA, ISO 27001, SOC 2, HIPAA, QTSP, etc. With an increase in identity fraud and data breaches, sophisticated security measures and certifications are essential. If your vendor uses subprocessors, you will want to ask about their security and privacy policies as well.
Nitro ensures your data, documents and electronic signatures are protected and we stay up to date on security and compliance, so you don’t have to. We verify our controls through annual compliance testing and certifications. Nitro Sign Premium meets and exceeds some of the most stringent international laws and regulations on electronic signatures applicable in the European Union, United States of America, Switzerland, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Questions to ask vendors:
- What are the vendor’s data security and privacy policies and certifications?
- Does the solution comply with cross-border electronic signature laws and regulations?
- Does it enable anyone to validate the signature, even without access to the system?
- What is the vendor’s process if a data breach occurs?
4. Can you integrate the solution with your other business applications?
Integrating electronic signatures into your favorite business and web applications, across different devices, improves efficiency and collaboration companywide. You will want to make sure your eSignature solution includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and connectors that work with your specific browsers and applications. Think about your use cases and workflows in these applications. Do users need to send and track signature requests within Salesforce or Microsoft Outlook?
Questions to ask vendors:
- Is the eSignature solution compatible with the latest versions of common operating systems (both PC and mobile)?
- Does it offer a completely responsive design?
- Does the solution have a flexible Application Programming Interface (API)?
- Are there out of the box connectors available for programs such as Salesforce, Microsoft SharePoint and Power Automate?
5. How much does the solution cost? What is the total cost of ownership (TCO)?
How much does an eSignature solution cost? Vendors vary widely on licensing models and costs, and you want to watch out for hidden fees or overages. For a true cost comparison, use total cost of ownership vs. just upfront costs or per user license fees.
For example, with Nitro Sign Essentials and Advanced, you get unlimited signing. For Nitro Sign Premium with advanced high-trust, qualified signature capabilities, you only pay for each successfully completed signature. Ensure costs are clearly defined so you can empower everyone to meet the demands of any eSignature use case across your organization—without surprises later.
Questions to ask vendors:
- What is the cost model of the solution?
- Do you pay per user, per signature or for the complete solution?
- Do you need to buy a perpetual license or is subscription pricing an option?
- Are there overage fees?
Get Expert Advice for Choosing a Trusted eSignature Partner
It's so important to choose an eSignature solution and partner that can support you as your business and technology evolve. Nitro experts are here to help you explore your options and make the best decision for your future. Get in touch any time for a personal conversation or demonstration.