Silanis Technology Inc. announced on Monday its ApproveIt Collaboration Server (ACS), which allows trading partners to engage in online signing and documentation approvals without each party having Silanis’ ApproveIt Desktop.

Through the Web-based ACS, users can extend the capability of ApproveIt Desktop 5 from internal desktop applications to interact with trading partners and suppliers with a customizable set of control parameters, said Michael Laurie, vice-president of strategic business planning at Montreal-based Silanis.

“The problem with a desktop application is you can’t expect everyone to have that application and you can’t buy it for them,” said Laurie, who is one of the three founders of Silanis. “You control who uses it and how they get to use it.”

The company that owns the collaboration server initiates the signing process by sending a partner or supplier an e-mail containing a link to the server’s Web site, which features the documents to be signed. Once at the site, the partner must register to become an official correspondent for the external transaction. Recurring partners need not enroll each time they connect to the server, Laurie said.

After enrollment and the creation of a digital signature at the site, the partner will have the necessary tools on their desktop to sign the document that was sent to them by e-mail.

Although the U.S. E-Sign (Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act) legislation arrived with a bang last fall amid much fanfare and hype, the technology has failed to take off despite the forecasts of many experts. Laurie points to user confusion about the language of E-Sign and misunderstanding about the technologies that enable digital certificate and authentication as the main culprits for its lack of acceptance.

“Companies are a bit confused. They’re getting different signals on what types [of technology to use,]” Laurie said. “The technology people aren’t sure because of legal counsel. … They look at technology and they’re only getting the infrastructure and not the process that’s required, which comes from the applications that ensure the signing processes.”

Approvit Collaboration Server will be available on March 30. The typical cost for a large department deployment begins at US$150,000, Laurie said.