7 Things You Should Look for in an Electronic Signature Vendor

Posted by Emily Maxie on 11/11/13 8:31 AM

So you’ve decided to start using electronic signatures. They’re going to make your life easier, and your customers are going to love them!

But you need to be careful when you’re picking an electronic signature vendor. The vendor doesn't just need to meet your needs for convenience, but the service should also produce documents that will be legally valid forever. Here are seven key factors to consider when you look for an e-signature provider. 

1. Authentication and Identification

e signature vendor

What to Look For: Signers must prove they are who they say they are by providing or confirming some type of shared information.

Questions to Ask Vendors:

      • Does the e-signature service require users to authenticate themselves before signing?
      • How strong is the authentication method?
      • Are there multiple options for identifying signers?

 

2. Information, Notice and Consent

What to Look For: The ESIGN Act and other laws require that the user know they are engaging in an e-signature process.

Questions to Ask Vendors:

      • Is the signer presented with an appropriate and visible notice about using e-signatures?
      • Is the signer given a chance to decline using the service?
      • Is the consent to use e-signatures presented clearly?
      • Is the consent tracked in the audit trail?

 

3. Detailed Audit Trail

What to Look For: An audit trail is a feature that tracks all of the actions of signers and documents in each transaction to provide comprehensive evidence of the entire transaction taking place.

Questions to Ask Vendors:

      • Does the signature solution track every event in the signature process?
      • How detailed are the events being stored?
      • How is the audit trail stored?
      • Is the audit trail secured against tampering with a digital certificate?

 

4. International Standards

What to Look For: The e-signature service should provide signatures that follow international standards and can be validated independent of the vendor.

Questions to Ask Vendors:

      • Are the documents produced with a proprietary system?
      • Are documents and signatures readable, accessible and independently verifiable using free viewing software?
      • Is each e-signature part of the document?
      • Can signatures be validated without checking with the vendor’s servers?
      • Do the signatures comply with international cryptographic standards?

 

5. Signature-Document Association

What to Look For: The signature of the user must be linked to the data or records being signed to prove the connection between them.

Questions to Ask Vendors:

      • How is the signature linked to the documents being signed?
      • Is the signature a permanent part of the document that can’t be separated from it?

 

6. Tamper Evidence

What to Look For: Your clients expect the documents they sign to stay the same after signing. E-signature products must protect documents against tampering before, during and after signing.

Questions to Ask Vendors:

      • How are documents protected during signing?
      • Does the service provide strong tamper evidence for the documents?
      • Can the service protect and also prove the integrity of a document at any point from the first signature to the last?

 

7. Long-term Standing

What to Look For: Many businesses cultivate clients who maintain their relationships for decades, not months. Documents may need to be valid for three months or thirty years. Businesses that rely on these kinds of documents need to be mindful of how their signature systems deal with this issue.

Questions to Ask Vendors:

      • Does the e-signature service use technology that is based on standards that can be validated in the future?
      • Are the systems used for signing proprietary to the vendor or based on established cryptographic tools and standards?

If your business considers all of these factors when picking an e-signature vendor, you can be sure your decision will be one you and your clients will be comfortable with. 

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