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The Difference Between Digital & Electronic Signatures

by Ayla El Assaad

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

Learn about the difference between electronic and digital signatures. We’ll also talk you through their legality and pros and cons.

With the growing popularity of e-signature software in the workplace, it’s important to get to know the types of signatures they usually handle before deciding which is more suitable for your business needs. The two most popular types are digital signatures and electronic signatures. Before we take you through them, let’s dive into the process of signing itself.

What Is Digital Signing?

Digital signing, sometimes also referred to as e-signing, is the process of signing a digital document as opposed to the traditional method of physically signing a printed document or contract. Usually documents for digital signing are shared by email, but can sometimes involve tablets or mobile phones.

What Is an Electronic Signature?

Simply put, an electronic signature or e-signature is a reproduction of your signature in electronic format on a digital document. There are several types of electronic signatures and they vary depending on the security requirements and the type of data linked to them.

Is a Digital Signature Better Than an Electronic Signature?

Digital signatures are an advanced form of electronic signature with increased security features. These features safeguard the authenticity of the signee and ensure the document hasn’t been tampered with or manipulated.

When a document is signed with a digital signature, a certificate issued by an official certification authority is generated. This certificate is unique to every signee and can be used to verify them. There are other security features that are available depending on which e-signature solution you use. With Smallpdf eSign, for example, we offer Long Term Validity timestamping (LTV) and timeline activity management. Smallpdf is also ISO/IEC 27001 certified and GDPR compliant and we use secure TLS encryption for all files processed on our site.

Is a Digital Signature More Legal Than an Electronic Signature?

Both digital and electronic signatures are legal, but digital signatures are more secure. The type you choose to use will depend on the kind of documents you need to sign and the country you’re signing in.

Countries have different criteria on the security levels required for different types of legal documents and agreements. It may be that an electronic signature is suitable for an employment contract, but a digital signature is required for a rental agreement, for example. It’s essential to look into the requirements in your country.

If you’re interested in learning more about Smallpdf’s digital signing solution, eSign, you can check it out below. The basic features are free to use and you can also sign up for a 7-day free trial to access its Pro features, including timeline management and LTV timestamping.

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Ayla El Assaad
UX Writer @Smallpdf