Montreal-based e-signature firm Silanis acquired by Vasco

Canadian electronic document signing company Silanis is to be acquired by e-signature and authentication firm Vasco Data Security. The deal, worth US$85 million, will enable Silanis to expand its international footprint, the company said.

Silanis sells e-SignLive, a SaaS-based electronic document signing service that has to date largely targeted U.S. and Canadian customers. Its CEO Tommy Petrogiannis said that the company differentiates itself from competitors including Docusign and RightSignature in several ways.

Firstly, the company focuses on regulated market segments and has recently started offering regional data storage to help customers remain compliant. Last November, it signed a deal to host customer data with IBM Canada.

Security and data sovereignty

IBM Canada is a separate subsidiary of IBM and it stores data on Canadian soil, meaning that its data cannot be commandeered under the Patriot Act, Petrogiannis said. Silanis is also rolling out local storage capabilities in other regions.

Silanis, which encrypts everything both in transit and at rest, is SOC2-certified, and audited every six months by KPMG. It offers companies the option to manage their own encryption keys within its Hardware Storage Modules (HSMs), and also lets them deploy its code base behind their own firewall, if regulations prevent them from putting the documents in the cloud. This is the case with NASAès Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is a Silanis client, Petrogiannis said.

e-SignLive has relied on document signing techniques including click-to-sign, live handwritten signature capture, and fax back signing. Vasco offers two-factor authentication (2FA) with its Digipass product line, which will provide an extra level of authentication for regulated users.

Making e-signatures work for you

What should CIOs consider when folding electronic document signing into their own operations? It can certainly drive efficiencies into corporate processes by eliminating paper and speeding up document transmission. Is it legal, though?

Petrogiannis explained that electronic document signing has been legal since 2000 in Canada, and that there are only a few specific documents that must be hand-signed, such as last will and testaments. “In Canada, we were slightly ahead of the US. In 2000 it became available in pretty much all jurisdictions,” he said.

In Canada, the 2000 PIPEDA privacy law defined electronic signatures in law. It lists two types: a electronic signature, and a secure electronic signature. The secure one must be tamperproof, according to definitions laid out in Canada’s Evidence Act. Modern document management solutions take account of these requirements.

CIOs thinking of incorporating electronic document signing into their business processes should design things carefully from the outset, though. “Existing systems in place are often designed to do batch processing,” warned Petrogiannis. “The batch process typically creates packaging in the print room that then gets FedExed to the relevant organizations.”

Moving to documents that are instantly sent and signed may require companies to rethink their processes, he warned. Customers signing and returning documents electronically may want a dynamic response. “Then, you have to service your customer 24×7,” he warned.

The electronic signature market has been dynamic in the last few years. Last October, Citrix acquired RightSignature, adding electronic document signing to its portfolio. A month earlier. Kofax purchased signature verification firm Softpro.  Back in 2011, Adobe purchased web-based e-signature firm EchoSign.


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Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with over 20 years' experience writing about security, software development, and networking.

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