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What is a digital signature?

02/03/2015

Businesses are already used to receiving documents in a digital format, using technology as simple as email or as efficient as an EDI platform. Thanks to these novelties, we can digitally file almost any kind of document: contracts, work orders, e-invoices… So, if we are ready to electronically accept documents, shouldn’t we be prepared to electronically sign them too?

Since the year 2000, when the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act was passed by the U.S. Congress, electronic signatures may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form. This means they are just as good as their handwritten equivalent.

On the other hand, how trustworthy can an electronically signed document be? Surprisingly, it can be even more secure than a handwritten signed document, especially when we talk about a digital signature and not an electronic signature, two terms which you must learn how to differentiate.

Why are digital signatures different from electronic signatures?

According to the Electronic Signatures Act, electronic signatures are all electronic sound, symbol or process attached to a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record. This definition is way too vast: it makes reference to, for example, the scanned version of your signature on a document but also to that “Place Order” button on an e-commerce that you need to click to agree.

When it comes to documents concerning your company, like e-invoices, you need a far more secure system. This is why a digital signature, a type of electronic signature, is the solution you are looking for. But how are digital signatures different? They use a specific technology, involving a public and a private keyword, to ensure authentication. They also assure the integrity of the document, since once it has been digitally signed any modification will be clearly visible.

Digital signatures are slightly more complex, and they need specific software. They are especially relevant in documents like e-invoices which, in some countries, must be authenticated on a mandatory basis. Not only this, but digital signatures must also respond to a specific format. All this can be achieved through Edicom’s EDI solution and, more specifically, their international e-Invoicing solution, constantly updated by a Permanent Electronic Invoicing analyst desk.

Saving money and time and contributing to an environmentally friendly society by saving paper is good, which is why the electronic signature is a great improvement. But, for companies, achieving a secure, efficient and integrated way of working is crucial, something the digital signature can definitely help with.

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