What’s an electronic seal and should you be using one?

An electronic seal serves the same purpose as a physical seal: it ensures the integrity of a document. A seal shows that the document is fully finalized and that the contents of that document have not been altered since the time the seal was applied. Electronic seals work in the same way, just in digital form.

A seal is often used in conjunction with signatures. The identity of the signee(s) should also be verified, and there are a variety of methods to go about this depending on the type of document at hand.

Before we get more into the current application of seals, their importance, and how they can be easily used in your business, let’s take a look at how they came about and what purpose they have served over the years.

A brief look at the use of seals

Perhaps a “seal” reminds you of letters from much earlier times - melted wax spilled onto folded paper by candlelight and stamped with an elaborate, one-of-a-kind design such as a coat of arms.Then if the seal is broken…the drama!

In a time when writing was not very common, the use of seals served as a personal identifier - assuring that the seal belonged to the person for which the document was intended. When writing became more widespread, signatures became more the norm and the use of seals became a crucial part of developing security for paper-based processes.

But in fact, we use different types of seals regularly in modern life. Not by individuals, but by companies and different types of authorities. Wax seals are still used in some circumstances. Stickers are also common, as well as stamps - creating impressions in the paper itself with an embosser, or in ink-based form. For many types of documents in different countries, seals are still even a requirement to verify an official document.

Seals in the digital world

However, with companies pursuing digital transformations, wax stamps are just a little bit more difficult to apply when it comes to finalizing documents. With modernization of work processes, attention moved to how certain processes could be handled.

It goes without saying that the requirements for document integrity did not disappear with the move to digital documentation. It was quickly realized that a digital solution would need to be found in order to be able to ensure that an online document was final and unaltered.

It’s arguably difficult to determine how a non-physical item can be safeguarded in a way that would allow it to be considered in business dealings and even legal or regulatory proceedings. But with advancements in how documents are handled came advancements in the related technology.

Electronic seals have become more popular and critical for the security of online documents. When a company is working with important documents - in anything from onboarding of new customers or employees to highly confidential sales or trade agreements, all documents must live up to official requirements.

This means ensuring that once the digital document has been shared with the relevant parties and authenticated electronic signatures collected, it should be time stamped and e-sealed in order to protect the contents.

Electronic seals are essentially data that are attached to the document that show that a company has given a document their stamp of approval. It’s usually applied in conjunction with the time stamp, adding to the level of security on the document.

Working with electronic seals

While it might sound complicated, as mentioned above, technology has enabled the development of some easy solutions for working with important documents and applying electronic seals.

Cloud-based software means documents are handled in a secure online environment and that access can be limited to a select group of people. Electronic signatures with two- or multi-factor authentication serve as identifiers, and the document can then be time stamped and e-sealed before being stored in a designated location.

Whether your business should be using electronic seals depends very much on the type of documents it is handling on a regular basis. But a simple way to determine it is to ask whether a seal would be required in the physical world - then you will have your answer about whether an electronic seal is needed for the digital version.

If you do need to start working with electronic seals, the right tools are ready-made for use with a minimal amount of introduction and easy implementation to start today.