What is the difference between an electronic signature and a digital signature?

An electronic signature also known as an “e-signature” is simply an image of a handwritten signature (most commonly made with your finger or stylus on a touchpad or screen). Electronic signing solutions may also include single- or multi-factor electronic authentication methods.

Examples include:

  • Email authentication
  • A code or personal identification number (PIN)
  • Password
  • A mouse click on an “I accept” or “I approve” button.

** For clarity, an electronic signature does not include methods that involve physically signing a paper document.


A digital signature uses a PKI-based digital certificate issued by a certificate authority (CA) that binds an identity (such as a person or company) to a cryptographic key pair. When a document is digitally signed with the signatory’s private key, the document’s exact content and the identity of the signatory are bound together to form a unique digital fingerprint.

This ensures the following: 

  • Authentication. The identity of a document’s signatory has been validated by a publicly trusted CA.
  • Integrity. The content of a document has not been altered since it was signed.
  • Non-repudiation. A signatory cannot plausibly deny that they signed a document.



Why should I use Digital eSignature?

This is a more streamlined approach to signing documents and takes away the daunting task of printing forms/documents, signing, rescanning and returning to sender in order to authorize a signature.

Benefits to Digital eSignature include:

  • Easily upload and send documents for electronic signature.
  • Quickly access and sign documents that require signature.
  • Readily check a document’s status, send reminders, view audit trails, and securely store online.
  • Create templates using existing forms to help streamline the sending process.
  • Oversee document workflow by identifying and managing recipients and routing.
  • Make forms available online, allowing for self-service and ease of accessibility.

What systems support Docusign eSignature?

Most modern computers will work with DocuSign eSignature.

Browsers supported:

  • Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Safari
  • Windows Edge.

Where can I purchase this and what is the cost?

Payment may be made by blue 312 requisition or email (FAO required).

$3.95 per envelope.*

Contact the UR Tech Store. You will need to provide:

  • FAO payment information.
  • User(s) name and email address.
  • Number of envelopes requested.

*Users are required to pay for any envelope usage above purchased amount.

How can I get a copy?

DocuSign is available to Faculty and Staff at the University of Rochester. DocuSign is licensed per envelope.  Users may purchase the number of envelopes they need. Once purchase is complete, an email will be sent to the user with information to access DocuSign.

Is Adobe Acrobat or SharePoint acceptable to use?

Use of Adobe Acrobat is acceptable, especially when:

  • The use case is not for agreements with third parties or other documents that are subject to regulatory requirements, such as general internal approvals
  • If a vendor initiates a request for signature and they will except an electronically signed .pdf
    • Examples:
      • Confidentiality Agreement for internal university volunteers
      • PMM Account Authorization Approvals
      • Payment Requests for Treasury


Use of SharePoint is not recommended, but is acceptable in certain situations, especially when:

  • It is advantageous to develop a customized approach to managing documents, customized workflow and recording approval
    • Examples: 
      • PHD Application
      • University IT Invoice Approvals

When should I use DocuSign eSignature?

Docusign is appropriate to use when:

  • Signature requests initiated for agreements with third parties or other documents that are subject to regulatory requirements for either internal or external signers
  • Complex workflow is needed to manage gathering signatures
  • Custom fields/forms or bulk send is a requirement
  • Signed document repository is needed to maintain signature history
  • CFR Part 11B is required (additional cost per envelope)
    • Examples:
      • Clinical Study Consent Forms
      • External Donor Signoff
      • Confidentiality Agreement for non-university volunteers
      • Independent Contractor Approvals

Is DocuSign eSignature secure?

Yes. Legal & University IT recommend the use of this solution as it demonstrates appropriate security procedures that can accurately attribute electronic records / signatures to the individuals that created them.