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Alexandre Stern, Cryptolog: The dematerialisation of documents: a major cost saving practice for companies when accompanied by a faultless security system

January 2009 by Alexandre Stern, President of Cryptolog

In these somewhat turbulent economic times, companies are more inclined than ever to seek out and implement innovative solutions that will enable them to reduce operational costs. Dematerialising documents is part of a strong trend in this direction and one which has grown rapidly in recent years. Thanks to the progressive unification of the norms and protocols used for financial transactions throughout Europe (the SEPA - Single Euro Payments Area – launched in 2002), dematerialisation has become an important means of reducing the processing costs involved in handling payment methods. In France, there is a strong market trend towards dematerialisation and it is estimated that by 2010, 78% of a company’s documents and in-coming correspondence will be dematerialised (compared to 43% today).

Dematerialisation targets the banking and financial sectors in particular; with uninterrupted services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in a country such as France, it is estimated that 15 million inter-bank payment operations (therefore several hundred million pieces of data) are generated annually by every banking institution. The financial sector is also an industry characterised by data transfer and storage, which requires the increasingly widespread use of digital information systems and multimedia. However, this new trend towards dematerialisation is not limited to the world of banking and finance and concerns numerous sectors of activity, such as telecommunications for example.

The advantages of a “zero paper” objective are multiple and include the reduction of material and logistics costs, improved traceability, a clearer sharing of information and faster processing speeds, as well as playing a significant role in the fight against deforestation. However, given the importance of an environment of confidence between companies and their interlocutors, the concept raises crucial questions about the reliability and durability of electronic signature. There already exists several distinct possibilities of electronic signature for documents with evidential value (contracts, invoices, and cash transfer orders). For example, an individual can today subscribe to a service (bank, insurance, telecoms operator...) either by visiting a sales outlet – where the electronic signature takes place on the premises, using a special custom made electronic device – or in his own home by means of a website. In each case, the electronic signature must have the same value as a hand-written signature. However, an electronically signed document is only fully valid if it has been time-stamped, and hence can be verified at any given moment, even after very long periods of time. For this reason the long term validity of signed archives is necessary whatever the duration of conservation required (sometimes several decades).

Therefore, the automation and the dematerialisation of documents must go hand in hand with the implementation of an evidential dematerialisation infrastructure, based on highly secure and reliable solutions. Cryptolog’s offer, based on the most innovative certification solutions on the market today and available in outsourcing mode, enable the straightforward implementation of a mass signature signing infrastructure which guarantees the integrity of sent documents, while ensuring the traceability of communication exchanges. Also, in order to guarantee the confidentiality and the integrity of electronic communication – which even in-house, contributes significantly to exposing sensitive company information to security breaches – Cryptolog has developed tools based on encryption and signature which confidential exchanges of information to be securely dematerialised. Companies are therefore perfectly equipped to ensure that their dematerialised documents and communications constitute a major asset and enable them to become more competitive and efficient.

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