How do you compete with hugely successful cloud storage service companies like Dropbox or Box.net? You add a feature to your service that plays to one of the biggest challenges keeping offices from becoming more paperless: how to collect the signatures needed for legally binding documents.
That's what SurDoc, one of the emerging online backup and document processing services, is using as its latest pitch.
Like other cloud backup and storage services, SurDoc automatically synchronizes your computer with files that you have been creating on your notebook or desktop. The service offers up to 10 gigabytes of total storage for free. It doesn't limit the size of your document files, but it does provide some limits on different file types (probably to keep people from uploading scads of images and videos). There is a 2 gigabyte storage limit on "nondocuments" and they are limited to 10 megabytes in file size. (A smart thing for the service to do in the wake of the Megaupload debacle.)
The latest twist on SurDoc is that the company has introduced a digital signing feature. The company is giving out a digital pen that allows users to sign and date documents that are stored on the service. When the document is printed later, the signature appears. The solution is intended to help people such as realtors, government employees, sales people and anyone else who has to collect signatures. Usually this requires someone to download a document, print it, have it signed, and then scan it back into digital form for processing.
A big waste of time, right?
I haven't seen the SurDoc solution in action, but I like the spirit of the idea. It would have saved me at least a week during my recent paperwork processing here at CBS Interactive, when I had to update some of my contributor contracts. Because I was traveling, I wasn't able to handle this while traveling for a week, because I didn't have access to a printer, let alone a scanner.
As more of us become more mobile, digital signatures will become an even bigger consideration for cloud storage, collaboration and backup services. Watch this space.
SurDoc went into beta in December 2011. The company is backed by $4 million in venture capital from IDG Funding.