The Anatomy of an Audit Trail: Electronic Signature Simplified

The Anatomy of the Audit Trail and its Electronic Signature Implications

An audit trail can be the deciding factor between a valid and invalid electronic signature document. Going by the actively surging electronic signature adoption rates and growing number of online businesses, there’s no arguing that eSignatures are here to stay.
Since eSignatures are soon to be the new normal, we thought we should discuss what an audit trail is and why it’s an important part of an electronic signature.
You may be familiar with the difference between electronic signatures and digital signatures, in case you’re not, an electronic signature is information in electronic form (can be sound, symbol, process, etc.) that is associated or attached to a document. This means that as long one can demonstrate that the signature is associated with a person and that there was intent to sign, everything is legally binding and accepted.
A digital signature is actually a form of electronic signature that uses an encryption algorithm that helps validate who the signer is. It also ensures that the document cannot be tampered with, as the signature becomes invalid if the document is changed after signing.  You can read about the differences between electronic signatures vs. digital signatures here.
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s get to what an audit trail is and why it plays an integral part in the process of validating of a document.
Technopedia, the IT education site defines an audit trail, in the context of information technology, “as a chain of evidence in the form of hard or electronic business transactions or communications resulting from business processes, functions or programming executions.”
In other words, an audit trail is a detailed list of critical data points, pertaining to the transaction, that are recorded and reported. These data points help verify the validity of the transaction.
In terms of Electronic Signatures, an audit trail helps keep track and reports user data, furthering the validity of the signature process. Most, if not all serious eSignature vendors out there — including Signority — provide an audit trail with every electronic signature transaction.
Below is a list of important components we display in Signority’s audit trail:

  • Unique Document Title
  • Secured seal (Digital Signatures)
  • Email Address Of Signers And Viewers
  • The IP address of the involved parties
  • Documents viewed by each signer
  • Signers consent to terms of service
  • User authentication: SMS and Email
  • Signature creation (by each signer)
  • Party agreement to / acknowledgement of document
  • Document downloads after signing
  • Signer’s Status
  • GUID (or ‘Globally Unique Identifier’)

For the sake of avoiding any form of confusion, let’s go over what these components mean and what value they add to the entire electronic signature validation process.

Unique Document TitleBreaking down the Audit Trail

Unique Document Title

A unique document title is the unique file name of the document that was originally created by the document creator. The unique document name can be found in the first page of Signority’s audit trail.

Secured Seal
Secured seal (Digital Signatures)

The secured seal is native to Signority’s digital signatures audit trail, the Secured Seal is both “Tamper-proof” and “Digitally Encrypted”. Meaning that, if the audit trail document was tampered with or edited in a third-party software such as Adobe’s Photoshop, the seal would immediately break and be considered invalid.

Signority’s Secured Seal is only available with our digital signature plans. In order to make digital signatures available to our customers, we use a Hardware Security Module (HSM) provided by GlobalSign to help store and manage the digital keys used in the digital signing process.  

Want to know more about digital signature? Check out our post on the difference between electronic signature vs. digital signatures to learn more!

 

Email Address Of Signers And Viewers

The audit trail records and displays the email addresses of all parties involved, which can be either signer or viewer.

  • Signer: Signers’ are users who are required to sign a particular document. A signer could be a primary signer or a witness.        
  • Viewer: A viewer is a user with view-only capabilities.

IP address of user
The IP address of the involved parties

According to IP Location, an IP address or Internet Protocol is A unique address that computing devices such as personal computers, tablets, and smartphones use to identify itself and communicate with other devices in the IP network.”
In terms of Signority’s audit trail, the IP address associated with a particular signer or viewer, at the time of viewing the document is recorded and reported — adding an extra layer of validity to electronic signature documents.


Documents Viewed By Each Signer

The Documents viewed by the signer or viewer is displayed in the name section in the Audit trail. The audit trail also displays the exact time the document was viewed.
 

GUID (or ‘Globally Unique Identifier’)

GUID’s of Globally Unique Identifiers, are defined by BetterExplained as “Large, enormous numbers that are nearly guaranteed to be unique.”
They usually look like this:
fa06cc7a-8a32-44c2-9e4d-2192818ab076
At Signority, every document created is assigned a Globally Unique Identifier and can be viewed in the audit trail.
 

Signers consent to terms of service

cSigners consent to use terms of service, refers to the signer or viewer agreeing to abide to the rules in order to use services provided by Signority.

 

User authentication: SMS and Email

Verifying the identity of a user before granting access to secured information is the main intention of the User Authentication feature.
With Signority there are two additional methods that can used to verify signers and viewers — i.e. SMS and email — when email and /or SMS password authentication is turned on by the user, Signority sends a randomly generated unique code to the recipient. The code is required to access the document.
The type of user authentication used is displayed in the “Authentication” section of the Signority’s Audit Trail.
 

Signature creation (by each signer)

The Signature Creation section is a critical component of the audit trail, it is the original signature of the required parties.
At Signority and most other eSignature providers, a party’s signature can be created by:

  1. Using a touch pad/screen or mouse
  2. Typing their signature using a keyboard
  3. Uploading a scanned copy of their signature

 

Document downloads after signing

Once the document is finalized by all of the signers, all parties involved are notified via email with an attached copy of the finalized document for safe keeping.
 
Signers-Status

Signer’s Status

The signers status reflect the final action taken by all required signer’s, the status can be: “Rejected”, “Waiting to Open”, “In Progress”, “Finalized and “Viewed” — depending on the action taken by the signer.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan.

11 Essential Resources For Your New Paperless Office

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Starting a digital office can seem a daunting task. You want to go in and go all the way – but what if you overlook a key aspect and everything stops working together? Not to worry. Here’s the list of resources you will need to utilize in your new paperless office. With nothing missing. Well, expect the paper.

Paperless invoicing

Freshbooks is a great service that can convert your billing and invoicing system to a secure electronic database. This “cloud accounting” service delivers a fast, accurate, easy to use, and professional interface for all your billing needs. Automated invoicing is available, as is integrations with Paypal and other online payment services. Use the system to generate reports, track expenses – even get the app to ride along.

  • $39.95 per month, plus $10 for each additional user; unlimited client entries and invoices.

paperless meetings 

TeamViewer lets you conduct paperless meetings and manage data within the paperless. You get remote access to any device 24/7 from ay computer or mobile device. Hijack your colleagues’ laptops to access data during meetings, plus use screen sharing, video and file sharing, included whiteboards, and teleconferencing to be effective and paperless. When meetings are over, upload slides and info to Dropbox or Basecamp easily and share the digital copies.

  • Licensing starts at $600 for three devices

Doodle and SurveyMonkey provide free service for conducting and scheduling meetings but don’t provide device connectivity and takeover capabilities.

Paperless scanning and faxing 

Turboscan is an excellent app that allows phone cameras to be used as scanners which then convert captured images to PDFs. High-quality photos are editable and may be stored and sent singularly or as large files.

  • $4.99 on iPhone or Android

Your office may also need a larger scanner for digital imaging. Here’s a PC World review of the best scanners for a paperless office.
eFax takes incoming faxes and puts them into your email box and easily-searchable emails. Send and receive faxes from any smartphone, tablet, or computer.

  • $15 per month

paperless memos and notes 

Evernote lets you organize notebooks of digital notes, tasks, and can sync all your devices. Whether you use a laptop or an Android phone, you can have all your notes and thoughts wherever you go. Circulate ideas between team members

  • Free

PAPERLESS payments 

Square and PaypalHere let you process credit cards from the convenience of any mobile device and send paperless receipts to customers.

  • Fees range from 2-3% per transaction

Shoeboxed lets you send your mass of paper receipts into the Shoeboxed office and receive digital versions in return. They’ll scan your papers and index them in your account, letting you get reports and integrate the data into your database systems.

  • Pricing starts at $9.95 per month for 50 scans

PAPERLESS signatures 

Signority streamlines the essential process of acquiring customer signatures with one seamless digital application. Send and receive signed documents via a user-friendly interface usable across any device. Great for the most agile businesses, sign PDFs instantly, edit and store documents with one touch, and move forward faster.

 
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan.

5 Habits of Highly Effective Insurance Brokers

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Do you use electronic signatures (eSignatures) for insurance?
Do you have the right contacts?
Are you on the right way to be the best insurance broker in the business?
As with any other profession, there are habits and best practices an insurance broker has to acquire in order to be on the top. I developed mine while working in the Canadian insurance industry for over 7 years, and I’d like to share them with you.
We all know that highly effective brokers use certain tactics to inspire confidence in their prospective clients to convince them on their choice. Which of them do you need to make a habit? Let us see!

1. Get yourself a good backup system

Whether it be the company you work for, your assistants or mentors, make sure that you have solid help to fall back on in challenging situations.
If you’re pressed for time, your eSigning service and means of communications should be ready for you. When what you need most is advice, your mentors should be there, and in cases where the key to getting a good deal is contacts and acquaintances then you should know where to go to get it.

2. Stay organized

Albert Einstein once said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
To me a cluttered desk means an organized mind. While this may be true only for a few people, what is most important is that you get a system working for you.
Take your Post-It’s out, get some cheerfully colored highlighters, use bookmarks, red threads and pins, whatever works. Make sure you feel comfortable navigating this system and you’re set. What worked for me was getting all unnecessary items out of the way. I got my office paperless, automated my assistants and did most money transactions online. The time-saving was considerable and infinitely helpful.  

3. Stay up-to-date

If you want to crush the competition, the key is to know it well. Go to trade organizations, keep up with the latest news, know what you’re doing inside and out. Attending industry events will not only give you valuable insights, but also make you friends in the right places, and that is also highly beneficial for business.
Don’t forget to keep notes on what standard practices everyone around you is following. While some of them may end up not being right for you, you can learn from them. If electronic signatures for insurance or TeamViewer is a popular choice, then there might be a reason for this. Conducting meetings over Skype is saving your competitor money? Try it out!

4. Cross-sell

One of the best qualities an insurance agent should have is the ability to cross sell products to customers. Remember that just about everyone needs more than one policy; combining homeowner’s or renter’s insurance with car or life insurance. Getting clients to buy additional products or services is key to maximizing profits and offering your customers a good deal.
Don’t skip on offering a bundle of products instead of just one policy. If they agree on a deal like this then good for you, if they don’t, then you’ve just done some publicity for another of your products.

5. Follow-up

Follow-up.
Your clients will notice, potential buyers and colleagues will appreciate it.
According to Follow Up Success, even though, 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact, nearly 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect.
Don’t hesitate on the follow-up. Send your customer or potential a personalized thank you note. Even if you didn’t land the deal at first, keep the interests of your prospective client at heart and drop them a line in case you can fix something up for them, it can become a successful arrangement in the future. Establishing good relationships with clients and colleagues alike can become a good foundation for growing your business.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan.

Going Digital: Modernize Your Business for Under $1000 Per Month

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Do you hear about “go digital or go home” initiatives and instinctively tighten your purse strings? Many entrepreneurs feel completely spent, and it’s understandable considering all the money they already shelled out to get their businesses off the ground. Let’s not mention all the money they may still owe the bank, friends, relatives, and crowdfunding sources that all contributed to the humble beginnings of their start-up.
And just when they think they are standing on fairly solid ground, someone tells them that the next trend is to go green by shifting to digital business practices. But here’s where they’re misinformed; going digital isn’t a trend nor should it be referred to as the “next big thing.” There is an undeniable progression towards digital operational processes and it has been gaining speed based on historical evidence. It was something that we explored in-depth and shared with you in our piece on The Paperless Journey: The Evolution and Future of Document Signing
First of all, digital business practices aren’t just about living the childhood dream of growing up in a world straight out of the cartoon “The Jetsons.” Going digital has become far more than just the ease of having everything automated or disappear into the virtual cloud and plucked out by voice control. Well, yes, it can be all those things but more importantly, digital business practices has become a social responsibility.
A digital transformation would mean a significant decrease in human error, having multiple devices access all your content, and information would be shared throughout your company easier and faster. You’d be cutting costs by reducing the need for printing, binding, and distributing documents which can all be done via email or digital system. Your people would be communicating more efficiently and getting their work done faster. Furthermore, you are contributing to the bigger picture by lessening your carbon footprint and changing your environmental impact.
Perhaps the issue here isn’t winning the argument on whether a digital transformation for your business is something you should desire but rather if it is possible given the costs it would require to make the shift. Do words like “investment” and “consider the returns” not sweeten the deal nor make you sound like Scrooge any less?

Paperless practices within your reach

But what if there was a way to go digital for less than $1,000 a month?
We’re not talking about cheap alternatives or knock-offs here. Many don’t realize that with the digital “trend” on the rise, more and more options are also riding the wave and developing services to help organizations go green. If you were one of those people who still think that technology costs more than a pretty a penny, then you will be surprised to know just accessible and affordable it now is.
You may think that modernizing your outdated business model will take thousands of dollars. But we said go digital or go home, not go big or go home; meaning you don’t need to make drastic changes immediately. Greener, more digitally driven organizations really start with individuals willing to make the shift.
Not only will going digital and paperless cost you less than $1,000/month, but it will actually save you money in the long run. Your digital beginnings can include signing up for paper-free billing for all your business correspondence with your vendors, suppliers, and utility bills. And your next step would be exploring all the options to modernizing your business.
We’ve done the legwork for you by finding inexpensive ways for your organization to begin its evolution to the modern, eco-friendly business model that so many other companies have already adapted to.
Whether your needs are email marketing or accounting, a cloud service will meet your needs taking into account your technological thresholds and more importantly, your budget. An excellent cloud service will guide you through everything from project management (PM) to customer relationship management (CRM) and even backing up all your precious data. And yes, all these suggestions for each department of your organization costs less than $1,000/month:

Administration

Good CRM software should go beyond tracking and maintaining client information and viewed as just a sales tool. If your company is still passing along information through a shared spreadsheet or long email threads, then it’s likely that you’re missing something or forgetting it entirely. CRM software keeps all your information in one place and organizes it efficiently.
CRM services like Zoho CRM, Insightly, Apptivo, and Pipeline Deals all offer free trials. CRMs can cost as little as $12/month to as much as $300/month. Find one whose services, apps, and add-ons apply to your business.
With business plans that are only $50 per month, Signority is trusted by over 150,000 businesses and individuals for their document signing needs. As a business owner, you deal with multiple forms and contracts that all need to be signed. Signority ensures your recipients can view and sign documents from anywhere and on any device.
You would spend less time managing the details because all your documents would be stored in Signority’s centralized location and easily managed with an intuitive dashboard. Our business plan offers unlimited documents, unlimited templates, bulk sending, bulk signing and electronic & digital signature. For those of you wondering how digital signatures work or the differences between electronic and digital signature solutions, this should help: “The Breakdown: Electronic Vs. Digital Signature”.

Information Technology

Yes, building an IT infrastructure for your business can become a mammoth task, that can take months to set up. You’ll be constrained by your limited resources, lack of expertise, time, and inability to understand the tech jargon. Lucky for you, software companies have taken into account non-teck folk — like me — by building tools that don’t require a master’s degree in computer sciences.
Virtual infrastructures and cloud-based data centers are expensive and probably not something you want to undertake at this point. If your only concern is making sure your data is secure, then a service like Dropbox guarantees that your data if protected against human error, hardware failures and any other reason under the sun.
Costing only $8.25/month or $99/year, Dropbox Pro gives you the option to subscribe monthly or annually and the subscription includes 1TB of space. Dropbox Business, on the other hand, is meant for organization and groups and depends on the size of your team and billing country. Dropbox Business for teams cost $12.50 per user and comes with unlimited space to work with.

Sales and Marketing

Depending on your industry, you may still need to take customer satisfaction surveys regularly. When was the last time you were handed a printed out paper survey? With so many people preferring to type or click buttons, we doubt that any of your clients will be happy to hand-write anything for you.
Zoho Survey is a survey management software that costs just $19 per month. You can create online surveys in a matter of minutes and reach your audience across all devices.
And at just $25/month, MailChimp will automate your emails for 1,501 – 2,000 subscribers for your email marketing campaigns. You can pay as you go as your email list grows. With Mailchimp, you create, send, and track your email marketing campaigns while also managing your contacts and segmenting your customers list. Furthermore, you can automate your emails to send on schedule without having to login and doing it manually.

Finance and Human Resources

With service rates that start at only $39.95 per payroll run, SurePayroll is not only affordable, but it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete enrollment and set up within five business days. It boasts that it the only full-service online payroll solution in the market by making all the calculations, paying and filing all federal, state and local payroll taxes while even working with IRS, if needed.
For your business, this means saying goodbye to writing multiple checks every month just to pay your people. SurePayroll is your digital option to paying all your employees including independent contractors and even hourly workers, including employees that are working in other states. Furthermore, SurePayroll offers the free option for clients to go mobile with their payroll through their apps for both IOS and Android devices giving you complete control wherever you are.
All in all, modernizing your business can be hassle-free and affordable — whether you are a small or large business.
Know of an app that’s has helped transform your business? Let us know, we’d love to add it to our list!
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan for 14 days.

The Future of Electronic Signatures and What You Should Expect

The future of Electronic signatures and general trends to look for

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES LOOK LIKE?

When machines do the work of humans, “signing on the dotted line” will be a thing of the past. Until then, we may still need to pay attention to signing and getting documents signed — whether through paper or electronic signature. So let’s dive into it: what is the future of electronic signature?
It’s true that we’ve come a long way from Egyptian manuscripts, that served as contracts, to where today’s electronic signature gurus and futurists believe we’re heading towards — let’s just say it has a lot to do with biometrics and chips (secured under your skin) used to authenticate transactions.  
All in all, the future looks golden. But for now, let’s discuss why we think the market is set to grow.  According to a report from MarketsandMarkets, one of the largest market research firms in the world, the eSignature market is expected to grow to $2 billion by 2020. In another three years, the market will quadruple in size.
So, what’s driving this incredible growth?
There are three primary factors driving the growth and future of  electronic signatures and its market:

1. ONLINE Business continues to Explode 

More online business is good for the eSignature market. As more and more business moves online, more legally-binding documents are required to govern such business. eSignatures are a necessary part of online business, which is said to continue double-digit growth through 2020, when sales will top $4 trillion, according to a recent article by eMarketer. As one grows, so does the other.

2. ELECTRONIC security is more important than ever 

While the internet has made it easy for us to shop, socialize, learn and even work, it has also made us more vulnerable to fraud. It should be relatively easy to see the relationships forming here. As more business moves online, there’s more reason to protect that business.
Electronic signatures make it incredibly easy for business owners to protect their most important documents. eSignatures use a combination of public and private keys to encrypt and secure your important documents, further reducing the risk of online fraud. Most electronic signature platforms, similar to Signority, are built to protect you and your client’s information. Ensuring that you and your customer’s data is secure.

3. Businesses will always be in the business of making money: 

And eSignatures can drastically reduce operational costs, thereby increasing profit margins. For example, it costs U.S. businesses nearly $8 billion each year to manage their paper documents.
Going paperless can be quick, easy and affordable — in case you’re not aware, we recently did a how to go paperless post: “A paperless business and 5 ways you can achieve it now”. A paperless business brings drastic (and nearly instantaneous) cost benefits. In the end, money talks.
Even still, electronic signatures simply make sense for nearly all businesses, regardless of size or industry. It simply makes business easier while saving companies time, money, and unnecessary headaches. When it’s all said and done, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see the global electronic signature market outperform its three-year projections.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access for 14 days to Signority’s Business Plan.