What is eSign? Everything you should know about electronic signatures

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Andrew Rybalko)

It wasn’t that long ago when signing essential documents required actual pen and paper. Today, however, you can sign documents online rather than have to print and sign physical copies, thanks to eSign technology. Conveniently, electronic signatures now hold as much weight as physical ones.

There’s much to learn about eSign, whether for business or personal use. This includes the type of programs necessary to get the job done and the critical legal component. Many countries, including the United States, now have laws that govern the use of electronic signatures.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about eSign and electronic signatures.

Reader Offer: 40% off annual plans

Reader Offer: 40% off annual plans
Sign.Plus is designed to make workflows faster, more secure and reliable across various platforms. Save 40% off annual plans. 

Preferred partner (What does this mean?

How are electronic signatures used?

Like their physical counterparts, electronic signatures bind someone to the conditions outlined in the signed documents. In this case, they are digital records, not handwritten ones. Electronic signatures are often used on contracts, agreements, proposals, company invoices, etc.

For an electronic signature to hold some weight, you must use a third-party platform. Otherwise, it’s just a squiggly line on your computer screen. The platforms offer mechanisms to create and send signed forms and track the signing process. DocuSign, Adobe Sign, and HelloSign are the most familiar signature platforms. However, there are many others.

To use an e-signature platform, you’ll first need to create a free account. From there, you must upload the documents you wish to get signed. If your signature is required, you’ll be given directions on how to sign the document immediately. Otherwise, the platform must know the email addresses of those whose signatures you request.

Once everyone signs the document, the e-signature platform will send the completed forms to you and anyone else you choose. The process is quick and seamless — assuming everyone signs the paper on time.

An essential point about electronic signatures is that they are tied directly to the signer and can’t be modified by a third party. And each specialized eSign program uses a highly secure process so signatures remain untampered with and legally binding.

For example, Sign.Plus uses full AES-256 encryption to keep your documents safe. In addition, transport layer security (TLS, or the older SSL) encryption is used to keep all data transmissions protected from prying eyes. This enables you to establish provenance and prove that signatures aren’t tampered with.

What are the benefits of using electronic signatures?

There are three important reasons you might want or need to collect e-signatures. First, there’s the matter of convenience. With eSign, you no longer need to print out the document, which saves time, paper, and ink. Additionally, being able to sign documents from the comfort of your home and office means not having to go somewhere else to get the job done. It also means no more trips to the post office.

There’s also the security factor. Electronic signatures are secure, tamper-proof, and designed to leave a digital trail. This combination means you’re less likely to be a victim of fraud. E-signatures also benefit from being completely legal, although specific rules can differ according to the country. A legal document holds as much value as a physical document with a handwritten signature.

The E-Sign Act and what it means

In the U.S., rules about e-signatures are governed by the 2000 Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, or E-Sign Act. This legislation, signed by President Clinton, established the legal validity of electronic records and signatures related to interstate and foreign commerce.

However, not every type of e-signature is covered by the E-Sign Act. Those include contracts, agreements, invoices, purchase orders, receipts, medical records, and most legal documents. The documents expressly excluded from the act are trusts, wills, powers of attorney, and health care directives. These include termination of health care notices, product recalls, and others.

Why are eSign programs useful?

You’ll need to select an eSign software solution to use electronic signatures. There are many of these available online waiting for your business. They come in various sizes, with some offering more services than others at different price points. The best eSign providers make it easy for you to transition from physical to electronic signing.

All the major players providing solutions will enable you to sign documents safely, then send them out to others as needed. When selecting a provider, be sure they use military-grade encryption and fully comply with the E-Sign Act. And pick a solution that makes tracking a signature pain-free. 

Sign. Plus is one provider that checks all the boxes, but it’s not the only one. Other leading options include Adobe Sign, signNow, and DocuSign.

What do eSign solutions cost?

Electronic signatures are priced like other online services — the more you want or need, the more you’ll have to pay. Free services typically restrict the number of files you or others can sign a document. Basic packages, which cost up to $20 per month, add extra features like unlimited signatures, tracking, templates, and reminders.

There are also business plans that take things a step further by adding third-party integrations, custom workflows, branding, and more. They can run upwards of $60 monthly, although many are cheaper. 

Sometimes, you can pay a one-time fee to use the service minimally, although many don’t offer this service.


With today’s eSign software solutions, you can get digital documents signed securely and hassle-free. In the U.S., the use of electronic signatures is regulated by the E-Sign Act. Other countries have their own rules. 

Online signatures are just like physical ones regarding being legally binding. There are many benefits to using eSign solutions, including convenience, security, and legality.

Legitimate online signatures are treated the same as physical ones and are legally binding. However, there are various benefits to switching from physical signatures to electronic signatures, including saving significant amounts of time and money.

Take a closer look at our guide to the growing potential of e-Signatures.

Bryan M Wolfe

Bryan M. Wolfe is a staff writer at TechRadar, iMore, and wherever Future can use him. Though his passion is Apple-based products, he doesn't have a problem using Windows and Android. Bryan's a single father of a 15-year-old daughter and a puppy, Isabelle. Thanks for reading!

With contributions from