Manage Business Documents For Free

By Lauren Simonds | Posted May 18, 2006

Does your business struggle to keep track of signed agreements, invoices, approvals and contracts? EchoSign, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, believes that many small businesses do, and it also believes that its document management system — a hosted, Web-based service — is the right tool for the task.

Here's how EchoSign is designed to work: you e-mail any document you need signed using your EchoSign account. The company routes the e-mail to the recipient, along with a custom fax cover sheet and an EchoSign local or 800 number. The recipient opens the e-mail, prints the document, signs it and faxes it back using the provided fax cover.

EchoSign servers automatically convert the signed document into a universally accepted PDF file and then send copies to anyone you've designated: your assistant, the sales team, HR or anyone else involved in the process. EchoSign also stores a copy of each document in your account for archiving. And because this service is Web-based, you can access your account (and the saved agreements) from any Web-enabled device.

And this costs you: nothing. If you're looking for a catch, here it comes. The free basic service lets you send and track an unlimited number of documents. However, EchoSign limits the number of agreements it will archive up to the last 20 you send. Upgrading to a paid subscription lets you archive the last 1000 documents (after which you pay a nominal fee) and costs $12.95 a month.

The SMB Angle
Jeff Zwelling, EchoSign's President and CEO, says that until now, even basic document management solutions were too expensive for most small businesses. "EchoSign is an affordable way for small businesses to keep track of signed agreements, especially companies that don't have the admin staff or a scanning department to archive the documents. This is a full-functioning, legally-binding document managing system for $12.95 a month."

Zwelling cites one Echosign customer who sells bathing suits on eBay. Health codes state that vendors cannot accept returns on suits that have been worn against the skin. "This particular customer uses EchoSign to send affidavits to customers seeking to return a suit," said Zwelling. "They must sign and return the affidavit indicating that they didn't wear the suit before the vendor will accept the return. He can then present the signed affidavits if required."

Addressing Security Concerns
According to the company, documents sent through EchoSign and stored on its servers are fully encrypted using 128-bit SSL security. "Beyond the e-mail encryption, the accounts and documents are all password protected and encrypted as well," said Zwelling. "No one at EchoSign can see your documents at any time, and the PDF files can't be altered."

EchoSign also offers an optional e-signature feature as an alternative to signing and fax back. E-signatures replace handwritten signatures and are legally binding in all 50 states. Zwelling says the company fully compiles with the E-Sign Act of 2000.

In addition to its basic and standard monthly subscription, EchoSign also offers a version that you can customize with your company's logo and a yourcompanyname.echosign.com Web address. This custom version costs $19.95 per month.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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