Contract signature

Data security in the paper free world

When the slow but irresistible shift towards paper-free businesses first began around the turn of the millennium, the security and integrity of documents was one of the biggest concerns. There was a general feeling that sending and storing files electronically was OK, provided the documents in question were not of critical importance.

Even today, we still see it – from customer contracts and service agreements to final invoices and warranties, it is one thing to send over an electronic copy, but the “real thing” arrives by post and is reverently filed away in a cabinet. Are we hanging on to 20th century preconceptions more than we like to think?

Physical safety

Businesses create, store and consume more data than would have seemed possible 20 years ago, and a whole new discipline of data analytics has been built around the phenomenon. But what, and even more to the point where, is all this data?

In the pre-digital age, it would have been in filing cabinets for immediate access, and all too soon, packed into archive boxes and stored away in accordance with each business’s retention policy. Anyone who has searched an archive for a physical document is well aware of what that means – boxes that are dusty and damaged, filled with papers that are damp or have been chewed by vermin. This is to say nothing of the fire risk – a document archive is like a tinderbox, just waiting to go up.

Until recently, electronic documents were typically saved on a server that would be backed up to discs or tapes daily – at least that was the theory. Data backup has long been a bugbear, and is an area in which many businesses were weak. The advent of cloud backups has changed all that. Every file is automatically saved to the cloud, where it can be retrieved quickly and painlessly, on any device.

Signatures and document integrity

One perceived shortcoming of electronic documents is the potential for forgery. Anyone can mock up a PDF using a scanned letterhead, and it can look reasonable convincing at first glance. This is why a physical document with an ink signature is still seen as the gold standard. Yet even here, there are paper-free options that are as good or even better.

The innovative services of allow businesses to send or receive faxes without the need for a fax machine. It provides a way to get an original, signed document sent straight to your phone, without the need to actually print it. Likewise, a form or letter can be signed, photographed and faxed in a matter of seconds.

Even the need for a physical signature is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Electronic signatures carry legal weight, and specialists claim that the latest technology makes e-signatures even more secure than physical ones.

A truly paper free era?

There is a common belief that no business can go truly paper free until every one of its customers and suppliers does likewise. However, innovations like Faxburner and Docusign prove that this is not necessarily the case. The fully paperless era might be closer than we think.

Photograph by Free-Photos