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A Guide to Choosing the Right PDF & E-Signing Software for Your Business

by Jen

You can also read this article in German, Spanish, French, Indonesian, Italian and Portuguese.

Simple steps to plan for and research the right PDF and e-signing software for your business.

Business is seeing a rapid shift towards a paperless environment, accelerated by increasing environmental concerns and a global movement towards remote work. Even though PDF software and e-signing tools can provide an invaluable infrastructure for businesses to move to digital document management, it's important to do this strategically to secure the right PDF tools for your business.

Step 1: Find Out What PDF Tools Your Business Needs


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Before you invest in PDF tools or e-signing software for your business, it's really important that you check in with your team to find out what they need—and want—from document management software.

Perhaps your business is in real estate, so your primary concern as the manager is to implement secure digital signing and document sharing capabilities, so you can close deals faster? Or maybe you're a design agency that needs simple compression software for easier file storage and sharing?

These might be your core needs as you pursue the dream of the paperless office, but your team, the people in the trenches every day, will be your best guide as you refine what your business really needs from document management software.

Sarah over in marketing might need to convert PDF to Word documents so she can get that blog post published today. James, your best-performing sales rep, is desperate to be able to split and merge PDF files quickly, so he can get custom proposals out to hot leads before they go cold. And Aliah in accounting? She's tired of having to recreate locked PDFs and secretly wishes there was a simple PDF editor out there.

Your team is an incredible resource in finding out what type of document management software your business needs. Send them all a mail, ping them in Slack, or run an anonymous survey to gather their insights on the kind of PDF tools they need to be able to work better—and faster.

Top tip: Note all these PDF tools down somewhere, so you have a list of requirements available when you start researching software options.

Step 2: Figure Out How Many Licenses You'll Need


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Working out how many software licenses you need will be a much quicker exercise than working what PDF tools your team needs for your business to run effectively. This will depend on you and your business entirely, but business owners and managers usually opt for the following options:

  • Purchase software licenses for total headcount.

  • Purchase software licenses for staff that require the software to function.

  • Purchase minimum required software for the team, plus a few more licenses to assign later on as needed.

Remember, most software providers worth their salt will provide flexible licensing options, so you can easily upgrade your software plan as your team grows.

Step 3: Set Spend Parameters With a Budget

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Photo by Stefan Coders from Pixabay.

Ask anyone in accounting and you'll find out how important a budget is for running a successful business. You might first want to check what pricing options are out there for PDF and e-signing software for businesses and teams before you nail down a budget. Work out an average price based on your quick assessment and decide if you're happy with it or would prefer to pay less, or even more.

Some pricing structures you'll come across might look like this:

  • Price per user, per month.

  • Price per user, per year.

  • Price per team, per month.

  • Price per team, per year.

Then decide how you might like to pay for such a software. You might get better pricing if you sign up for an annual subscription, but this is a commitment you might not be ready to make. In this instance, a monthly subscription could be a better option for your business, even if you pay a slightly higher premium, so you can really get to grips with the software and decide if it's worth that longer-term commitment.

Step 4: Use Your Team's Size to Leverage Preferential Pricing


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You might be worried that getting PDF or e-signing software licensing for your entire business will blow the budget, but it doesn't have to. There are people behind every business and they're usually open to leveling with customers to find them a great deal if they’ll sign up for their product. Instead of fearing costs, use your team's size to show a potential software provider what sort of business you plan on bringing their way and ask them what they can do to make it a little easier to get your whole business on board.

Step 5: Ask Questions About the PDF & E-Sign Software


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If you're signing your team or business up for PDF or e-signing software, you're bound to have some detailed questions that they might not have addressed in the FAQ section on their website. It's your full right to speak to someone, like a sales representative, or a customer success manager, who can walk you through all your questions and help you make the best-informed decision about buying document management software.

Here's a list of the right questions to ask to get you started...

Question 1: What Type of Security Features Do You Offer?


In the paperless office, security is king. Make sure your information and documents will be safe with your software provider and that nobody without the right authority will have access to delete or tamper with your documents. Here are some handy security features that a document management software should carry:

GDPR compliance: GDPR (or General Data Protection Regulation) is a European Union (EU) law covering privacy and data protection in the EU and the EEA.

CCPA compliance: CCPA (or The California Consumer Privacy Act) acts a lot like GDPR, but it's there to protect both the consumer and their privacy rights. CCPA is intended for people living in California, USA.

ISO/IEC 27001 accreditation: ISO/IEC 27001 is named after its joint-issuing organization, the International Organization for Standardization. The international standard was released in 2013 and outlines best practices for organizations to manage information security via people, processes, and technology.

SSL encryption: SSL encryption, or Secure Sockets Layer encryption, is a special protocol for internet servers and browsers to encrypt, decrypt, and authenticate transmitted information.

Digital signing: Digital signatures are very useful in business, as they come with a level of security (through authentication) that e-signatures do not. Note: Both e-signatures and digital signatures are legally binding. Check your country's laws for localized regulations related to digital and e-signatures.

Digital seal: A digital seal, or Advanced Electronic Signature (AES) includes a Long Term Validation (LTV) timestamp. This helps users to authenticate each signature's timestamp and invalidate documents that have been tampered with.

Question 2: What Level of Customer Support Is Available to Me & My Team?

Some software companies offer customer support via email, telephone, or chatbot. This might be appropriate for an individual user, but as a business owner or manager, you'll probably want priority support from people who know—and understand—your business needs. Find out what kind of support is on offer for accounts with multiple licenses and what this channel of communication will look like.

Question 3: What Preferential Pricing & Payment Options Are There?

Again, you have an opportunity here to negotiate better prices for your business if you're looking for bulk licensing. Always ask what these pricing options are and whether or not, as a bigger business client, you could access custom payment options, such as annual, instead of monthly, payments, or digital invoices in place of direct debits. These are questions worth asking.

Question 4: Do You Have Training or on-Boarding Services?

Nobody wants to buy document management or e-signing software for their business and not get the most from it. Many providers do not offer this kind of service, but there are a few that do. This is usually a complimentary offering to help new users make a quick transition to using their new tools, so the business can start seeing a return on this investment as quickly as possible.

Question 5: Is a Customer Success Manager Assigned to My Account?

A customer success manager can be a wonderful asset to a team, not only in helping them navigate new software, but in finding the right solutions to complex and human problems. A customer success manager should be a partner in your business, there to walk the long road with you. You might not find one of these with every software provider, but it's definitely worth checking.

5 Quick Tips for Buying PDF & E-Sign Software for Your Business


When it comes down to investing in document management software for your business, always start with your team and remember these five handy tips on choosing the right software for you business:

  1. Do some research into what sort of PDF tools your team needs.

  2. Calculate the number of software licenses you'll need.

  3. Create a budget for the software you want to buy.

  4. Try to negotiate better pricing based on the size of your team.

  5. Ask the right questions about the PDF or e-signing software before you sign up.

We hope this article has equipped you to make an informed choice when it comes to investing in PDF or e-signing software for your business or team. If you're keen to put Smallpdf for Business to the test, sign your business up for a Team or Business plan, or register for a free trial today and experience a world of premium PDF software—on the house!

Jennifer Rees
UX Writer