Starting a new business is an exciting and sometimes scary endeavor. Even if you spent years as an employee in the industry, you’ll be heading into uncharted territory as a business owner. Your understanding of the economy of your business as well as legal matters will be put to the test. One of the most confusing parts of starting a new business is dealing with contracts.
Enter the Electronic Signature
Since June 2000’s ESIGN act was passed, electronic signatures have given rise to a whole new way of getting contracts validated and signed. Since 2000, signing documents with an electronic signature was considered as valid as a handwritten signature. Various systems exist to make it easy to send, sign and archive electronic contracts.
However, not all these systems are created equal. Electronic signatures have often been challenged in court. The deciding factor almost always came down to the system used to capture and file the signature. Systems without strong auditing and identity validation can impact the level of trust and legality of the signature should a court case arise.
Contracts In The Cloud
Cloud computing has helped further expand the reach of electronic signature services. Since most of these systems are web-based and supported by cloud infrastructure, they are accessible anywhere. Users are not tied to their home computer where a specific application is installed locally. This helps further streamline the solution.
However, there are security concerns intrinsic to any cloud infrastructure. Numerous clients of the hosting company share the same hardware in a cloud system. For this reason, sensitive information contained in contracts that end up online could present a security concern. Fortunately, most reliable and established signing companies utilize best practices and regularly submit to security audits.
Additionally, cloud computing security standards and regulations are now in place. Most serious companies take the time to make sure they are compliant with these security guidelines that include things like extensive activity auditing, proactive monitoring and physical site security. It is worth the time to ask about the security plans and certifications that a cloud-based signing service uses before signing up.
One Composer’s Experience
“Beats” is a music producer and composer in Chicago who recently started a budget audio service for independent game developers on Apple’s iOS platform and various Android platforms. “Most of my customers are hoping to create the next Angry Birds of mobile gaming success. Something simple that doesn’t take long to build that can still be a lot of fun. Many of them are one-man shops working on shoestring budgets in their spare time”, says Beats. Both Beats and his customers do not have time for sending hardcopy contracts back and forth or getting involved in lots of legal discussion.
How do electronic signing services help Beats stay in business? “When I first started, I was scanning signed documents, sticking other people’s signatures together in PhotoShop and generally just doing a hack job of contracts. I often worried that this cut-and-paste signature stuff wouldn’t hold up in court.” Like many entrepreneurs, Beats was learning as he went. Soon, he discovered electronic signature services.
“I have a feeling I lost some customers early on just because of the delay of getting signed contracts in order. Now, with an electronic service, I basically just click a few buttons and everything is all set. Plus, I know it’s properly backed up and a third party company was involved. This makes me feel like it’s a lot more legitimate. I think the ease of it all makes the customer very happy as well.”
What are some of the best things to look for in a signing service? Beats relates, “I love signing services that make the signing process painless but also offer some level of verification of who is signing it. I also want to know services are using strong security solutions and that my documents are secure. Having everything in the cloud means I’m not tied to a single computer with my contract software on it. Sometimes, I’ve even conducted an entire contract process from my iPhone!”
If you’re just getting started in a business of any size, take a minute to evaluate some of the electronic signature signing services that are available. It’ll help you and your customers to have real peace of mind when it comes to their legal contracts.
About the Author: Jess R is a business owner and freelance writer who specializes in technology subjects. He brings 15 years of experience in IT/financial industry to the table, and enjoys jogging in his spare time.