Virtual Data Room Providers
There are dozens of virtual data room providers on the market, and even more if you include similar cloud storage platforms, but not all of them are created equally. Here’s a list of the major data room providers with our assessment of each one’s usability, features, security, and versatility. For more information, see our full guide to choosing a virtual data room.
Who uses virtual data rooms?
While virtual data rooms are useful anywhere there’s a need for secure document sharing, they are used most frequently by investment banks, law firms, and businesses for certain functions.
Mergers & Acquisitions
Virtual Data Rooms are such a staple in M&A that the terms “deal room” and “virtual data room” are virtually synonymous. Most Virtual Data Rooms provide features that help enable and secure every aspect of the M&A process, from searching for a buyer, to carrying out due diligence, to post-merger integration. The highly customizable security settings in Virtual Data Rooms ensure that the right documents reach the right people, and help prevent information breaches that can stall or derail a deal. Virtual Data Rooms also contain features that help organize documents and make a highly tedious process like due diligence move much more quickly and efficiently. When a deal is over, Virtual Data Rooms also offer options for backing up deal information. Most institutions who engage in deals regularly, like investment banks and business law firms, choose to open a virtual data room subscription so they always have a new virtual data room ready when it comes time for a deal.
Corporate Document Sharing
As any business grows bigger, so does its need for efficient, intuitive, and secure communication tools, and many turn to virtual data rooms for this purpose. A virtual data room offers one simple but powerful way to collaborate across an organization while also reducing the risk of an information breach. Most businesses find that, when compared with other common solutions, a virtual data room is much safer and makes much more sense. Building an extranet is expensive and complicated, and requires full time vigilance from in-house employees to make sure it stays up and running, while freemium services like Dropbox and Google Drive lack the customizable security features that allow for large-scale, multi-layered collaboration. Worse yet, there’s e-mail, which quickly becomes disorganized and is highly susceptible to hacks. Many businesses use a virtual data room for document sharing because it offers an out-of-the-box, institution-wide solution.
Law firms face many of the same challenges as businesses when it comes to organizing, simplifying, and securing communications, but they face the extra pressure of meeting stringent legal standards for distributing information that is critical to cases and client matters. Just like businesses, some law firms choose to build their own extranets, but most find that a virtual data room provided by a SaaS company offers the most secure and easiest to use solution across the whole organization. The customizable security settings on Virtual Data Rooms allow for communication with parties at various levels of involvement in projects, such as external clients and counsel, courts, and colleagues. As with investment banks, most law firms use a virtual data room subscription so they can open a new room instantaneously whenever a new project comes up.
Other common uses
While these are the most frequent uses for virtual data rooms, they are by no means the only ones. Virtual data rooms are commonly used for projects as diverse as investor reporting, corporate restructuring, fundraising, financial auditing, intellectual property management, preparing for IPOs, and much more.
Firmex is exceptional in the virtual data room space, offering the security and usability of bigger players alongside the innovation and cost savings of a newer, disruptive startup. They’re also known for their customer service, which is personalized to meet the needs of individual clients and available 24/7/365. The company reports opening 10,000 new data rooms per year for over 75,000 customers, and they list Deloitte, Omers, PWC, Barclays, CIBC, Deutsche Bank, E&Y, and Etsy among their current and former clients.
With a cloud-based platform that can serve a wide variety of secure document sharing needs, Firmex is used in industries as diverse as investment banking, private equity, tech, legal, pharmaceuticals, mining and energy, and financial services. It is especially useful for M&A deals, with a host of features that make everything from due diligence to closing easier, faster, and more secure, but it is also widely used as an extranet by law firms and for secure document sharing by businesses. In addition to boasting many of the same features as the biggest Virtual Data Room players, Firmex has developed functionalities that go beyond what’s expected of a traditional data room provider. The most recent example is the addition of “View As” to their product offering, which lets project administrators view their data room as each individual user, just like on Facebook, in order to double check that all security settings are properly in place.
Intralinks is the biggest and most established Virtual Data Room player. The company was founded in 1996 and has hosted over $28 trillion in transactions since then. This has been spread over a relatively slim 90,000 customers, meaning Intralinks caters primarily to large enterprises undertaking large deals. This has its pros and cons for users: Intralinks has a deep well of experience, and they are a familiar name on Wall Street, but their prices can be very high and they can be slow to upgrade their interface.
The company aims to be more than a Virtual Data Room provider, presenting itself as a system for teamwork and collaboration across across large enterprises. In 2012, Gartner named them the top supplier of enterprise collaboration and social software solutions, which offers a sense of where they see themselves moving. That said, Intralinks offers the features you would expect from a virtual data room, and they are primarily deal centric, with features for tracking and organizing documents during due diligence and all other steps of the deal process.
Alongside Intralinks, Merrill is the other big brand in the Virtual Data Room space. Like Intralinks, they deal primarily with large enterprises, and boast of being the “global leader” in the virtual data room space with thousands of customers around the world. Another familiar name among major financial institutions, Merrill DataSites are standard in many high-profile deals, and the company charges top dollar as a result.
The main difference with Merrill is that their DataSite is one part of a larger content management, financial services, and consulting company. Their other SaaS platforms include Merrill Bridge, Merrill Connect, and Merrill DPA, which perform a wide variety of communication, collaboration, and workflow management functions. The large number of services Merrill provides can be very useful for a company that wants to focus on their work and hand over major information management tasks to an outside service. But as a Virtual Data Rooms provider, they offer an industry standard product with few bells and whistles. It’s best to use Merrill DataSite if your company is interested in the other parts of their business.
RR Donnelley’s Venue
RR Donnelly is a print, digital, and supply chain company that originally got its start in 1864 as a mapmaking business. As a Fortune 500 company with $11.6b/year in revenue, their services and pursuits vary widely, from print solutions businesses like books, catalogues, and direct mail, to communications for healthcare, automotive, and manufacturing companies. Interestingly, their mapmaking division lasted into the 1990s and was the basis for what became MapQuest.
Venue is their relatively recent move into the virtual data room space, and an extension of their communications services. They’ve decided to focus primarily on financial institutions and have tailored their interface to M&A deals. This makes it very good for that purpose, but somewhat limited when applied to other use cases in other institutions. The positioning of Venue within a larger company with a different focus also means it can be slow to adopt new standards for features and usability.
First developed in 2005 and acquired by Citrix in 2011, ShareFile started as a secure document sharing platform meant to replace overly technical FTP sites. Citrix has since built ShareFile into one of its cloud computing, IT, and visualization SaaS programs, alongside XenApp, NetScaler, and CloudBridge. This has included developing virtual data room functionalities for ShareFile.
Citrix ShareFile has made it their mandate to integrate with other vendors, both SaaS and freemium (like Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, etc.). Businesses can store their files in Microsoft Azure, for example, using their StorageZones feature but still retain ownership of their own encryption keys. This is useful for an organization that relies heavily on freemium services, but since such platforms are not secure enough for the vast majority of businesses, financial institutions, and law firms, ShareFile is somewhat limited when treated solely as a virtual data room. While it is good for smaller to medium operations, and for bridging various cloud storage systems, it is not ideal for highly sensitive information for complicated projects.
Ansarada is the only virtual data room provider that claims to be “designed exclusively for M&A.” As one would expect, this has its advantages and drawbacks. It has interfaces that cater to sellers, advisors, and analysts, and features that are meticulously catered to all aspects of the M&A process. On the other hand, Ansarada is limited when applied to other use cases, such as legal extranets and corporate document sharing. In general, it is a better system for individual projects than for a long term secure data sharing solution.
Founded in 2005, the Australia-based company has made creative moves to disrupt the Virtual Data Room space, then dominated by Intralinks and Merrill. Their “M&A Game,” now on its third version, simulates deals for people who never stop thinking about buying and selling. Their virtual data rooms, however, contain relatively standard features when compared to major competitors.
Brainloop’s Secure Dataroom
Brainloop is a German company that develops SaaS solutions for business collaboration, and their Secure Dataroom is their system for institutional secure document sharing. In contrast to Ansarada, Brainloop emphasizes document sharing first and M&A is just one of their many use cases. This is reflected in their diverse customer base, which has included Allianz, Foursquare, the European Space Agency, and Twitter, among many others.
Their data rooms are like a multi-use Swiss Army Knife, with a number of convenient tools available for multiple purposes with no downloads necessary. The large amount of options can be beneficial or problematic depending on the user – Brainloop is capable of a lot, but it can entail a high learning curve, making it difficult to tackle projects quickly or train employees and clients.
DRSdigital A.G.’s Drooms
Pronounced like “brooms” with a “d” at the beinning, not”d-rooms,” Drooms is a Virtual Data Room service operated by the Swiss-based DRSdigital Focused on the European market, Drooms has hosted more than 200 billion euros worth of deals with 20,000 customers. Drooms stores their customer’s documents on servers in Switzerland and Germany, which can be appealing for institutions wishing to avoid U.S. data security measures.
A relatively small player, Drooms is the only virtual data room provider whose primary speciality is real estate. Much of their revenue has come from supporting commercial real estate development deals across Europe. Founded in 2001 by M&A and legal experts, their platform can still be used for a variety of purposes – it just lacks some of the specific project features of other Virtual Data Room players. With no offices located in North America, it seems they have no current ambitions of expanding their market share among major Wall Street financial institutions.
BMC Group’s SmartRoom
SmartRoom is one of a handful of products designed by BMC Group to streamline communication in legal, medical, and corporate industries. The company’s three specialties are medical record review, restructuring & bankruptcy, and business diligence, which is where their Virtual Data Room comes into play. Other products assist with web hosting, claims management, and distribution services.
Another company taking the Swiss Army Knife approach, BMC Group’s cloud-based SmartRoom can be used for a variety of tasks in capital markets, legal solutions, and corporate exchange. With some features tailored specifically to M&A deals, SmartRoom aims to assist with everything from due diligence to post-merger integration. A versatile solution, it is most comfortably used for BMC’s focus industries.
Although not technically a virtual data room provider, Box is worth including for their Business on Box platform. It takes the Box interface, which should be familiar to users of Dropbox and other freemium document sharing services, and adds features that are designed for heightened security and easier collaboration across institutions. This includes some of the standard features available on virtual data rooms, like adjustable permissions and document expire.
However, anyone looking for the industry grade security or specialized features of a Virtual Data Room should go elsewhere. Box lacks the controls for M&A deals that many virtual data rooms offer standard, and it comes up short when applied to complex, institution-wide systems, like extranets and large-scale corporate document sharing. While Box is a powerful system for consumers, organizations handling confidential information should think twice before making it their central system.
MergerTechnology Pick: Firmex
There are a lot of quality virtual data room providers, Firmex stands above the pack for offering the best combination of innovative features, reasonable pricing, versatility, and high quality customer service. As one of the few providers who focus solely on virtual data rooms, Firmex put all of their attention into their product, and it shows. They’re also new enough that they avoid the trappings of older, bigger players like Intralinks and Merrill, but they have enough experience under their belt that they’ve worked with nearly as many big customers and you can trust them to handle your case with expert care.
How to find the best virtual data room provider
In order to operate a successful and thriving business in the modern day and age, it has actually become quite apparent that amassing large volumes of data has become extremely important. This could be said to be true not only in the context of customers, but employees and the other important stakeholders as well. By gathering all the relevant data, you would be able to understand and even identify emerging trends. It would also help you to get to know your stakeholders and then satisfy them accordingly. In addition, these data can also help you in getting ahead of your competition – something which is pretty crucial in today’s competitive environment.
Therefore, by now you might have a very clear idea about the important role that virtual data rooms have to play. This is because they are considered to be pretty safe when it comes to storing confidential business information. In addition, it is also very easy to retrieve stored data whenever the need arises. The same cannot be said regarding the other file and data storing software.
Things to consider when looking for virtual data rooms
So, if you are thinking about hiring a virtual data room provider for your company, you can pretty much understand that it is not as easy as people make it look and sound. This is because there are a couple of important factors that you would need to take in to account. Based on that, your decision-making process would also become vastly easier. Therefore, if you are curious to find out what these factors are, these are listed below.
• Security which is strong
Even though security is something which is considered to be a given factor in the case of virtual data rooms, it is also something which should be revisited again. This is because all the important and sensitive information regarding your company would be stored here. Therefore, it makes complete sense that you would be looking for a provider who would be able to guarantee you this high level of security. In addition, it would also be a good idea to know their contingency plans and how they would be protecting your data.
• Easy to use
Out in the world, you would be able to find virtual data rooms using top of the line and extremely sophisticated software. Based on that, you would automatically jump to the conclusion that they are indeed the best. However, looks can be pretty misleading. So rather than going for the shiniest and fanciest of the lot, look for one which uses easy to use software. In this way, not only will you be able to grasp the basic and fundamental concepts, but it would be easy for you to use as well.
• The structure of pricing strategy
Lastly, in the case of virtual data rooms, you would be able to find that the pricing strategy tends to differ from one company to the other. However, choose the one which seems to make the most sense in the context of your company.
Best way to share documents online
There is absolutely no doubt that thanks to the introduction of the internet, it has become easier than ever before to share documents. This is because now no one rarely believes in getting the documents delivered to you personally or right at your doorstep. In addition, they also do not seem to have the time or patience till you go through it, get it approved, or make the necessary changes. With the help of the internet, people are sharing large volumes of documents with people from all over the globe. In addition, this is something which could only be done in a handful of minutes.
Therefore, regardless of what kind of profession you find yourself to be in, virtual data rooms is something which would be your utmost priority. After all, you would not like all these files falling in to the wrong hands, regardless of what case it might be. It is for that reason that you might be on the lookout for applications or website which would promise you about secure file sharing. In addition, your requirement might also be one in which it would be free or a very low rate being charged.
In that case, you would not need to take the additional hassle of looking for these sites. This is because we have taken the responsibility upon ourselves to do that work for you. So all you would have to do is go through the list and find one which is the most suitable for you.
There is absolutely no doubt that Google is considered to be one of the fastest and most reliable search engines out there. Regardless of what you are looking for, you would easily be able to find it in Google, and more. Thus, when Google introduced Google Drive, you can pretty much assure yourself that it would be meeting all your needs and requirements. It is also because of this reason that it is considered to be the most popular thing for virtual data rooms and hosting.
Therefore, if you already have a Gmail account, you can pretty much understand that you have already completed half of the work. This is because Google Drive would already be integrated in to your system. All you would have to do is go to Google Drive, click on the file that you want to upload and it would be done. The best part about this whole thing is that you would be able to add other recipients or members to work with you on a particular document. In addition, another advantage that you would be able to find is that the work can be conducted in real-time.
Other than that, you would also have the option of sharing it with your social media accounts if you would like people to know what you are working on.
On the other hand, if the file is in a PDF format, then certain changes would need to be made. However, it is not something which you would not be able to do.
Microsoft Office Online
Microsoft Office is something which all of us find ourselves to be familiar with. After all, this is the second thing which comes on the list after Google. Therefore, if you can find an online version of this for virtual data rooms, you might feel that all your prayers are being answered.
So, if you already find yourself to be familiar with Microsoft Office, you would have no problem at all in operating the online version. This is because the entire interface and features are exactly the same. The only difference is that you would be working online and making the changes in real time.
If you are in search of a more sophisticated publishing host for virtual data rooms, then you would not be able to find one better than eDocr. Particularly targeted towards businesses and professionals who are involved in publishing marketing material, you would have no problem at all in getting the hang of it.
In this, you would be able to find two versions – the free and the paid versions. In the free version, you would be able to upload five documents at a go. On the other hand, if you are looking to upload a larger batch of documents, then you would be able to do that by paying a very small fee. This would allow you to upload 25 documents in a batch. In addition, when you would be uploading the documents, the website would automatically convert the file in to a HTML5 format. This would allow for easier reading in the mobile devices.
Even though this website is slightly different than the other publishing hosts that you would be able to find out there, it would still help in fulfilling your purpose. This is because Issuu functions as a newsstand which includes newspapers, magazines, and many more. However, it still provides the opportunity to convert the documents to HTML5 format which would make for easier reading. In addition, you would also be able to customize the outlook and theme in order to appeal to different audiences.
Just like the other virtual data rooms websites, you would also be able to find Academia.edu on the list. This is one which has been particularly targeted towards academics and students who want to pursue something in their field as well as come up with something new. This is because this website tends to combine itself with social media platforms so that the users would be able to get access to more content.
Lastly, PDFy is the easiest document sharing website that you would be able to find. Just with a click you would be able to upload all your PDF documents for the entire world to see. In addition, it is also completely free of ads and hosts your files permanently.
Not only that, an embedded version of its open source PDF format could also be found. In this way, not only would you be able to make all your desired changes, but this would also be kept in the archive for preservation.
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