Electronic Signatures vs Digital Signatures – Is there a difference?

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Electronic Signatures vs Digital Signatures


Electronic signatures, such as Certinal eSign, are a legal means to obtain digital approvals on a document, contract, or group of papers. Electronic signatures can speed up practically any paper-based, manual signature process by replacing your handwritten signature.

What is a digital signature?

An electronic signature, such as the ones created by Certinal, is a symbol or other digital data that is attached to an electronic document and accepted by the “signer” or recipient of the signature request. E-signatures are typically displayed as a picture of a physical signature. Electronic signatures are made and applied to documents via the internet. You receive an email request for your signature instead of physically signing with a pen. The entire “signing” process takes place online.

Why use electronic signatures?

Electronically signing papers saves time, eliminates the need for paper-based processes, and allows you to sign documents from nearly anywhere, on practically any device. Certinal can assist you with:

  • Streamline processes
  • Eliminate manual signatures
  • Execute transactions with confidence

By minimizing hard costs such as paper, postage, and printing, eco-friendly Certinal saves you an average of $36* each agreement. (*source Certinal usage data)

What can Certinal be used for?

Certinal eSign can be used for a variety of use cases, here are some examples you can use Certinal for:

  • Invoice processing
  • Purchase orders
  • Expense reporting
  • Vendor agreements
  • Internal compliance
  • NDAs Letters of intent
  • Sales contracts
  • New hire documentation

Electronic signatures vs Digital signatures – Is there a difference?

Although the terms “digital signature” and “electronic signature” are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not interchangeable. Digital signatures are a sort of electronic signature that adds an extra layer of security to the transaction. Both electronic and digital signatures, such as Certinal, are legally binding.

Legality of eSignatures

In practically every country on the planet, electronic signatures are legally binding in most business and personal transactions.

A variety if documents can be signed with electronic signatures. Documents such as

  • Permission slips
  • Rental/lease agreements
  • Liability waivers
  • Offer letters
  • Sales contracts
  • Financial documents

Public Key Infrastructure’s (PKI’s) – The key to security

PKI stands for public key infrastructure, which is a collection of software, hardware, and procedures for securely managing digital signatures. A public key and a private key are used in every digital signature transaction. All individuals who need to verify the signer’s e-signature will have access to the public key. The signer’s private key is not shared with anyone else and will only be used to e-sign documents.

PKI also mandates the use of a certificate authority (CA), enrollment software, a digital certificate, key management tools, and certificate management.

Public Key Infrastructure’s (PKI’s) - The key to security

Certificate Authorities (CA’s) – Making wet and digital signatures equal

A public and private key are required for each digital signature transaction. To prevent tampering with digitally signed documents, those keys should be protected. Certificate authorities are widely acknowledged as industry-trusted entities that ensure key security and digital certificates.


Digital signatures are at the basis of many modern standards, ensuring greater data and document trust and security. Some are technical standards handled by the IETF, such as the PKCS#7/CMS standards, while others, such as eIDAS and standards groups like ETSI and CEN, meet legal and business demands.

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