Electronic Signature - Online Article

Electronic signatures mean that you can exchange information with others electronically and securely – safe in the knowledge that everyone is who they claimto be and that only the right people can access the information.

Electronic signatures – sometimes known as digital signatures – are the electronicequivalents of written signatures; they allow businesses to sign documents and carryout business transactions electronically. They provide assurance that the authors andsignatories of e-mails or electronic files are who they claim to be.

An electronic signature is not a picture of your handwritten signature; it is anelectronic means of connecting individuals with important electronic documents ande-mails, which also verifies the sender’s identity and ensures that the content is
uncorrupted.

Where there might be doubt about the validity of your signature, you can add adigital certificate to authenticate the signature itself. A digital certificate vouches forinformation about your identity – your name, e-mail address and the name of yourbusiness, as well as the date the certificate was issued and by whom, and key databelonging uniquely to you.

The benefits

All businesses need to exchange information speedily, accurately and securely, bothinternally and externally. Doing this electronically, rather than on paper, providessignificant advantages:

  1. Information arrives nearly instantaneously, regardless of distance.
  2. Once set up, the cost of sending each item is virtually nothing – no stamps,no post room, no envelopes, no fax machine, no fax paper.
  3. Information can move directly from individual to individual – desk to desk -without any other humans being involved.
  4. Information generally arrives uncorrupted, or there is a warning andretransmission easily follows – no more garbled faxes.
  5. Examples of products and companies included in this leaflet do not in any way implyendorsement or recommendation by DTI. Bear in mind that prices quoted are
    indicative at the time it was published.

Features of E-Signature

  1. The need to re-key data into other computer systems disappears as do all theattendant risks and costs of errors.
  2. Automatic logging of who sent what to whom and when, and even when therecipient received and read it.
  3. But electronic exchanges, particularly ones with external parties, seem to lack thesame legitimacy as paper exchanges with their printed letterheads and inksignatures. They seem too easy to produce, to alter and to copy and hence open toimpersonation and ultimately fraud.
  4. Electronic signatures solve these problems, providing the confidence that allows youto realise the benefits of secure electronic transactions for your business.
  5. Electronicsignatures are not merely convenient alternatives to written signatures – they havethe potential to offer much more to your business.

Improved security

Electronic signatures are more secure than their handwritten equivalents. They offer:

  1. Additional security – when used properly it is impossible for someone to copyyour signature, and your electronic signature applies to the whole documentand not just the last page.
  2. Protection for the integrity of the data – you can be sure nothing has changedor been maliciously altered.
  3. Proof of message transmission (time stamping) – businesses can use thirdparty authorities to verify the transmission dates and times of criticalelectronic messages for legal and commercial purposes.
  4. Protection against repudiation – they provide strong evidence that a messageand its contents was signed and sent. This means that, if a contractualdispute did arise, the sender could not deny knowledge of the message.
  5. Additionally, with the cooperation of the recipient, the sender can optionally ensurethat only the intended recipient can retrieve and read the message content.

Streamlining business

By removing the need for paper copies of documents, electronic signatures providethe final link in the e-business chain. This streamlining of processes offers numerousbenefits:

  1. Increased efficiency – posting or sending contracts by courier takes time andcosts money. Now simple contracts can be instantly set up online.
  2. Location is no longer a factor in signing contracts.
  3. Electronic orders can link directly into your office systems – this saves timespent on processing and fulfilling customer orders by removing the need forfaxing, posting and re-keying information.
  4. Documents, files and orders can be tracked and managed online – foraccurate record keeping, automated receipts and faster confirmation.
  5. Re-keying errors disappear, resulting in correct deliveries, fewer paymentdisputes and more satisfied customers.
  6. Enhanced trading opportunities for smaller businesses – electronic signaturesare available cheaply and offer a level of security that should be acceptable toeven the largest and most technically advanced organisations.

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