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The 3 Types of eSignatures: Which One is Right for Your Business?

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Learn how to choose the right eSignature method as your business and technology evolve.

With a host of business benefits like increased efficiency, cost savings and stronger security and compliance, it’s easy to see why electronic signatures are playing a powerful role in the transformation journey for many organizations.

But did you know different types of eSignatures exist? Three to be precise—each with distinct capabilities and use cases. Getting up to speed with each method can help you plan for the future and ensure you invest in the most secure and compliant eSignature solution for your business requirements.

Here is a simple guide with the most important facts to know about the different types of eSignatures.

Choosing the Best Electronic Signature Methods for Your Business

The European Union’s Electronic Identification, Authentication and Trust Services (eIDAS) regulation defines the legal structure for electronic identification, signatures, seals and documents throughout the EU.

It classifies eSignatures by the level of assurance they offer across three types:

1. Simple Electronic Signature (SES)

The Simple Electronic Signature is the most basic method that works for many day-to-day signing requirements. It works by simply proving acceptance or approval by the signer. This can be a scanned image of a signature, a signature manually drawn on a desktop screen (and digitally saved) or a click on an “I accept” button. Simple Electronic Signatures are a quick and efficient way for businesses to send offer letters or request terms and conditions to be signed by stakeholders.

While there are multiple use cases specific to each method, be sure to check your country’s regulations in advance. Read Section 4 of our Ultimate Guide to eSignatures for more details on country-specific laws.

2. Advanced Electronic Signature (AES)

Advanced Electronic Signatures offer more security than Simple Electronic Signatures. They provide a higher level of signer ID verification and tamper-sealing which means the document cannot be changed once it is signed. The signature needs to be uniquely linked to the signer and created under the sole control of the signer.

Advanced Electronic Signatures can help drive a seamless employee experience. With remote and hybrid work here to stay, organizations can make processes like employee onboarding more efficient and convenient.

3. Qualified Electronic Signature (QES):

Security and authenticity are key considerations when choosing an eSignature. A Qualified Electronic Signature offers the highest level of security and is considered the equivalent of the handwritten method.

It binds the signer’s identity to its signature by means of a personal, qualified certificate issued by a Qualified Trust Service Provider (QTSP). This ensures the signature is not only valid in the EU country where it has been assigned, but is recognized as a valid, legally binding signature in every other member state of the European Union. Unlike the other signature methods, the burden of proof lies with the party that disputes the signature(s)—not with the initiator.

Qualified Electronic Signatures can help secure and streamline high-value transactions like purchase contracts and leasing agreements.

What is the Difference Between Electronic Signature Types?

The primary differentiators between eSignature methods are based on four key elements:

  • Authenticity
  • Identity
  • Integrity
  • Authentication

To help you understand each of these elements in more detail, let’s break it down further:

An overview of simple, advanced and qualified electronic signatures.

What eSignature Method Do You Need?

Choosing an eSignature method that aligns with your business needs and your global regulatory requirements is crucial. Ask these three questions to set yourself up for success:

1. What do you need to get out of an eSignature solution?

Define what it is you want to achieve from using electronic signatures. Will these goals evolve as you progress on your digital transformation journey? While you may only have the basic requirements today, you may need higher levels of security and compliance in the future as you grow.

2. How will you be using eSignatures within your existing workflows?

Considering the different use cases for eSignatures in your business is important. Are you looking to complete day-to-day tasks or will you be focused on high-priority, complex projects? Analyze your existing workflows and identify where eSignatures could add potential value.

3. What are your compliance and security requirements for electronic signatures?

Take a closer look at the transactions you’ll be eSigning and the associated risk. If you operate in a highly regulated industry, you'll require the top level of security. Laws and regulations surrounding eSignatures can also vary across regions and countries. For specific details on legality and enforceability, read Section 3 of our electronic signature eBook.

Once you have determined the most suitable method for your organization, the next step of choosing an eSignature vendor will be much easier. Check out our evaluation checklist to help you make an informed decision.

See How eSignatures Can Drive Business Results

Whether you’re onboarding a new employee or signing a real estate agreement, Nitro can help you navigate your eSignature journey and choose a solution that’s right for your business.

Get your complimentary copy of the 2023 GigaOm Radar Report for eSignatures today to learn why Nitro Sign was again named a leader alongside Adobe and DocuSign.

Reach out to ask any questions, discuss a free trial for your business, or experience Nitro Sign’s electronic signature capabilities in action with a personal demonstration.