Virtual Data Room Definition
A virtual data room is an online file repository that supports and enables the remote processing of various transactions. Virtual data rooms are often used for mergers and acquisitions, fundraising, corporate restructuring, due diligence, and more.
One of the main challenges for the new users is the sheer volume of virtual data room solutions on the current market. Online data room providers showcase a wide range of products and services for any industry, any budget, and any project. Which makes you rightfully wonder: what is the best virtual data room for my case?
There are two stages to answering this question.
- First is evaluating the virtual data room providers through a set of objective factors, such as software quality, feature sets, industries of operation, and global ratings. This approach allows to filter out the top performers on the secure virtual data room scene and compare them to each other.
As you will see below, we have gathered all the relevant data on the best data rooms to help you fast-forward through this process.
- The second step is to assess how any of the top virtual data rooms will benefit your company. Here you will need to take a closer look at the requirements of the upcoming project and link them to specific data room features offered by different vendors.
Further on, you will find the exact solutions to selecting a fitting virtual data room for your case and maintaining it according to the industry’s best practices.
Ultimate Data Room Selection Guide
As discussed earlier, there are two main stages to comparing and selecting the most fitting virtual data room solutions for your case. First, you need to look at the virtual data rooms from a technical perspective.
- Note: The table above will help you compare virtual data rooms by the top providers on the market.
Next, you will need to assess the virtual data room tool from the point of your company’s goals and requirements. You can start this process by answering the following questions:
1. Assess the length of a data room usage
Virtual data room platforms offer solutions for all project lengths. For example, you might use the online data room for a couple of months for secure file sharing during due diligence. Or you can choose to process all deal stages in the same data room over the course of a year, rearranging and adding data as you go.
2. What amount of storage do you require?
Similarly, depending on your company’s size and the project’s type, you will be dealing with different amounts of documents. When establishing how much storage you will require, account for:
- The number of files you currently have
- The files that might be added in the process
- The ratio of sensitive documents to public-access ones
- The file types and formats.
3. How many users will be accessing your data room?
The most important thing here is to differentiate between administrative and visiting users. Virtual data room administrators are the ones who can amend the data, regulate access permissions, and generally direct the processes inside the data room. While the visitors can only view and sometimes comment on the documents.
- Note: When determining how many users your virtual data room will have, focus on the admins. Most providers allow for a very high or unlimited number of visitors.
Choosing the best virtual data room for your business
The next step to selecting the most suitable virtual data room software for your project is further zooming into your expectations and needs. The general idea is to look for a secure data room that will create a platform for fast and simple data management and supply all the necessary tools for streamlined decision making.
4. Define your needs
As you already know, virtual data rooms go far beyond file-sharing capabilities. They allow you to control and exchange sensitive and confidential data on multiple levels, analyze the teams’ performance, and strategize. Gather your future virtual data rooms’ administrators to brainstorm which software solutions will benefit your case.
5. Outline the necessary features
Continue the previous step by pinpointing the exact instruments you will need from the virtual data room solutions you consider. They divide into must-have and nice-to-have, which are also strictly individual to your case.
Security features are always a must for a safe and productive electronic data room experience. Look for secure deal room features such as:
- Complete activity reports on confidential documents
- An option to restrict access on user and file levels
- In-transit and at-rest data encryption
Additionally, look for tools that simplify and equip effective file sharing, for example, bulk uploads, intuitive interface, and real-time editing.
Depending on your project, you might need extra capabilities in document management, interface customization, user rights management, or other areas. This can include anything from an ability to simultaneously work with multiple files to data sharing across several integrated platforms.
To better navigate the nice-to-have features, you will need to become familiar with different providers and their offers.
There are numerous secure platform options for all scenarios, including private equity projects, corporate development, intellectual property, and more. To ensure the highest possible document security and usage convenience, you have to explore the available secure cloud storage data rooms and shortlist the candidates that best appeal to your case.
7. Allocate the budget
Virtual data room services come at a price. What’s more, secure data rooms with diligence processes expertise tend to cost higher than others. After you get to know the virtual data room solutions market, establish the funds’ amount you are looking to invest.
- Note: When allocating the budget, consider the potential cost additions, for instance, extra authorized users or storage space.
8. Request a free trial
Any reputable virtual data room provider will allow you to test their data room software for free during a free trial period. A free trial will give you an opportunity to understand the data rooms better and begin to employ the collaboration tools for your project.
To get the most out of the free trial, experiment with the ways you will share sensitive data once the virtual data room launches. This includes using the “View as” feature to observe the data room space from the perspectives of different users and ensuring they have the right access privileges.
The Most Important Virtual Data Room Features
These are the primary factors we consider during virtual data room providers’ comparison.
Virtual data room providers that allow free trial periods have nothing to hide. They are confident about their product’s quality and want users to experience the value as early as possible.
- Note: Look for a data room provider with at least 14 days of a free trial. Two weeks is the minimal amount of time to get familiar with any new software and experiment with its settings.
Virtual data room vendors take different approaches to cost-formation. The most common solutions are flat-fee monthly plans, per-feature, per-storage, and per-user models. The flat-fee pricing is usually the most straightforward and cost-effective option as it announces a specific level of features beforehand.
Knowing the provider’s threshold price will allow you to better understand how any particular virtual data room solution fits into your budget. By the rule of thumb, the virtual data rooms that serve larger, higher-profile companies will typically charge more.
You will need access to an always-available and competent support team throughout your experience with the virtual data room. The support representatives will coordinate the training and show your colleagues how they can benefit from the tool, resolve any technical difficulties, and help you transition the data room to a different stage if needed.
Virtual data rooms simplify the way you approach business by offering the utmost flexibility and access convenience. No-plugin web-based access is a must for all virtual data room solutions as it will allow you to collaborate from any time and place.
Desktop extensions offer better performance during potential offlines, and smartphone applications facilitate better mobility.
The virtual data room must be equally effective when accessed from any device. This includes desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones with all possible display sizes.
- Data center certifications
With virtual data rooms, your confidential data is stored via cloud technology powered by sophisticated data centers. Such centers must undergo independent certification according to industry-wide standards. These standard protocols include ISO 27001, SOC 2, HIPAA, and others.
A secure virtual data room simultaneously monitors and controls the way different users interact with sensitive data. And you should always have a sufficient toolset for establishing access parameters for multiple levels of confidentiality.
- Multiple levels of user permissions
Permission-based user roles allow better organization in large companies or during complex deals. The more levels available, the better you will be able to manage who, how, and when can access the confidential files inside the virtual data room.
Protect specific files by establishing who can view them, which parts of the document will be visible, and how long the data can be accessed for.
Simplify access settings by templating configuration parameters for entire teams. This is particularly effective during internal collaboration and deals that require intradepartmental contributions.
Customized virtual data rooms allow your team to better navigate the new platform and present your brand in the eyes of any third-party visitors, such as investors.
The ability to upload data in bulk allows for a much faster and streamlined data management process. And features like automated indexing and labeling will further elevate this effectiveness.
This feature enables intuitive data migration into the virtual data room and inside it.
Instantly locate relevant files, necessary forms, contacts, and more. Ideally, a virtual deal room will allow several levels of text search, including keywords, phrases, and file indices.
- Microsoft Office integration
A lot of business-critical documents are created and edited in Microsoft Office tools such as Word or PowerPoint. Virtual data room software integration, in this case, can save you time and increase efficiency.
Built-in Q&A seemingly enhances the communication between various parties during complex projects. Well-equipped virtual data room solutions will allow you to sort and address the questions publicly or personally and publish them wherever needed.
A no-plugin virtual data room can be easily accessed from any device, time zone, or location. All you need is your login credentials and access to the phone or email you used for the multiple-factor authentication.
Targeted company size
The size of your business dictates the operating power requirements for your virtual data room software. For example, large enterprises deal with higher volumes of confidential documents and active users than smaller companies.
A data room provider that caters to higher-scale businesses will also need specific expertise and compliances to deliver the services on the expected level.
Experience in certain industries allows providers to develop more robust products. This way, if you are looking for a virtual data room to process an M&A deal, you will majorly benefit from M&A-focused data rooms. Such software might offer:
- Pre-established deal pipeline solutions
- Interactive due diligence document checklists
- Granular access control for various users, etc.
Virtual Data Room Software Benefits
Surely you have already noticed the numerous advantages of virtual data rooms, which provide maximum efficiency, engagement, and security. However, we would like to get this straight for your deeper insights:
- Compliance with international standards
Today, global business has no boundaries, so organizations must follow certain rules. The most common regulations among virtual data room providers are GDPR, HIPAA, SOC1, and SOC2. All these standards ensure your high-tech privacy protection.
So, security is the most significant solution that attracts millions worldwide.
Virtual data room administrators have complete control over data and users. Thus, at their discretion, they open data to employees, potential buyers, and partners based on their tasks, which significantly reduces the likelihood of a leak. It is worth noting that the permissions functions work so that no user can change or circumvent them in their favor.
- Consolidation of all technology stack
The versatility of electronic data room software saves you from turning to any other tools, be it file-sharing or communication applications. Therefore, all-in-one virtual data room solutions will become your integrated system to complete any task successfully.
- Breathing new life into your team
All team members with the installation of virtual data rooms receive an exclusive service that facilitates all processes. Thus, employees have more time to achieve the company’s most critical missions. Another advantage is the organization’s image in the eyes of partners, investors, and other parties because a data room demonstrates a responsible approach to work. Thus, your team is inspired inside the company and prestigious outside.
Start Using Your Virtual Data Room
Once you start using your virtual data room software, consider these practices to share confidential documents with confidence and convenience.
Keep it organized
Confidential documents inside your data room software will continuously fluctuate in volume. Keep the deal management process straightforward and productive by
Thought-out document management makes business document sharing faster and more streamlined. Consider using your provider’s pre-set layouts for due diligence processes and other projects, or develop your unique organizational style.
Replace the confidential information files with their most recent copies for relevant file sharing. Use file tracking to ensure the utmost document security during data sharing and address the less-protected areas of your secure data room.
Ask your virtual data room provider to assist you with archiving the outdated files or closed deals. If you require the physical copies of the archive, make sure your confidential data is transported and stored according to the best security practices.
Supervise all user actions inside your secure online repository via access and file sharing reports. Activity reporting is also a helpful solution if you need to reprioritize the ways you share confidential documents with all interested parties, during private equity deals, for example.
Review user permissions
Remember that you need to continuously control the file-sharing processes inside your secure virtual data room. This includes configuring data room software settings to allow authorized users to access the necessary files, ensuring the utmost data security, and directing the visitor flow during M&A and other business-critical projects.
To utilize the full potential of your data room software, continue to discover new confidential information handling practices, innovative virtual data room services, and corporate development trends. Log in to your secure platform to review data and access rights, even when you don’t require the full data room capacity.
How We Rank Top Virtual Data Room Providers
To give you a better idea of how we measure the performance of different virtual data room software, here is a summary of all the factors that go into the evaluation process.
Independent global ratings
Review platforms like Capterra, G2, and Software Advice have professional teams monitoring the performance of software instruments in various sectors. On top of users’ virtual data room reviews, these sites account for providers’ technological developments and achievements, sometimes awarding them with titles.
The most important aspect of independent rating platforms is their strict reviewer authentication procedures. Simply said, it is nearly impossible to submit illegitimate feedback there without going unnoticed. Such thorough filtration grants review platforms with substantial credibility and allows you to use their data confidently.
Customer satisfaction scores
Measuring user satisfaction goes beyond weighing the positive virtual data room reviews against the negative ones. We look for detailed testimonies from long-term users to analyze the provider’s ability to address arising issues and adapt their offer to the clients’ most pressing needs.
Customer support teams typically play a significant role in the user’s final impression, which automatically downgrades the providers who weren’t as attentive.
- Note: Once you begin using your virtual data room, find time to leave a detailed review on one of the independent rating platforms. This will help others make a more informed decision and allow your provider to improve any weak areas.
Client base growth dynamics
You will quickly notice that established data room providers are very open about their performance metrics, particularly the number of users and large accounts. As we define the highest-ranking virtual data rooms, we look at the advancement of the providers’ user bases over the years of operation.
Data room companies that steadily increase their influence and gain new clients are often the most sustainable and attention-worthy.
A successful virtual data room vendor is the one that delivers on the promise to keep your sensitive documents secure. Therefore, when measuring the performance of data room providers, we look for any history of data leaks, security breaches, or similar mishaps.
We also consider corporate expansions, mergers, and acquisitions that allowed the data room company to widen the range of its services and deliver a better product to clients.
When it comes to the particular tools providers include in virtual data rooms, we look at the:
- Feature advancements: how many unique solutions the provider delivered and how often they supply new tools.
- Ultimate ROI: how the user’s payment corresponds with the overall functionality and specific value for their project.
- Feature variety: how many various instruments does the data room offer, and how many of them are essential to a productive virtual data room experience.
What is virtual data room software?
A virtual data room is a business-leading secure place to store and exchange confidential files. The high demand for software is driven by business needs for paperwork and document protection tools. Equally advantageous, however, are advanced collaboration options that enable teams to work efficiently and quickly.
How to set up a virtual data room?
The best virtual data rooms do not require time and effort to set up, as providers value their customers’ time. However, there are a few steps you must follow before entering into a trade:
Choose the best virtual data room provider
Since there are many offers on the market, you need to analyze the virtual data room services of each suitable software and weigh pros and cons. Therefore, use dedicated review platforms that do not cooperate with vendors and offer only honest virtual data room reviews. By the way, to try out a solution, use the free trial version.
Create groups and invite users
Providers implement super easy-to-use features for inviting members. So, all the admin needs to do is enter email addresses, after which the program sends out invitations to everyone.
From this stage, you can manage the functions of each user, allowing or denying them to view, download, and share confidential information. To do it right, take into account the tasks of each participant in a project or deal.
Thanks to special bulk uploads, this process may take a few minutes, no matter how much data you have.
For more information, see the Virtual Data Room Set Up Guide
What is a data room index?
A virtual data room index is a table of contents listing documents on the platform. The advantage of this option is easy navigation through the content, and, therefore a quick search for the necessary data.
What is secure data room software?
A secure virtual data room is a space equipped with security mechanisms for storing data in ultra-reliable data centers. Moreover, providers are not limited to functions only. They undergo regular checks by independent organizations to obtain certificates confirming compliance with international privacy protection standards.
What is the cost of a virtual data room?
The pricing policy of service providers differs and usually depends on the number of authorized users, projects, or storage size. Some vendors offer a flat rate, meaning you pay a fixed amount per month. Hence, you first need to discuss your needs with a virtual data room provider and then clarify the price issue.
For more information, see the Virtual Data Room Pricing Guide
What features does the virtual data room provide?
Since some providers offer dozens of features, it’s hard to list them all. But, in short, the main useful tools are:
- Security. It includes data encryption, watermarks, user permissions, digital rights management, remote wipe, compliance with data protection standards, etc.
- Artificial intelligence. While not all data rooms offer this feature set, it greatly speeds up complex business processes. For example, AI-powered virtual data room platforms provide valuable action tips and can even help you remember the name of a folder.
- Activity tracking. Virtual data room solutions generate audit logs with all the information on data usage by each user.
- Drag and drop. This option makes uploading data fast and convenient. To place information on the secure platform, a user needs to transfer documents from the desktop with one click.
- Communication tools. A variety of functions for keeping in touch eliminates the need to use additional messengers. By the way, data rooms protect the content of chats as well.
Virtual data room services vs. file-sharing programs
Virtual data rooms are designed specifically for business and everything related to it. Consequently, providers introduce innovative mechanisms for a high level of security, considering all the pitfalls of each transaction. But as for file hosting, there is basic protection against unauthorized use and leaks.