So, what is a data room provider? Virtual data room providers equip interest groups, firms, and corporations with a secure, online platform to upload, store, and distribute information. Some M&A data room providers may provide consulting and administrative services in conjunction with their VDR to facilitate a smoother transaction.
Here is a list of well known virtual data room providers:
Companies no longer have to wait for documents to be delivered or run the risk of them getting “lost in the mail.” As long as there is Internet access, their cloud-based software provides firms with fast and constant accessibility. VDRs create an online rendezvous and facilitate collaboration, which prevents common pitfalls of miscommunication and things not going as planned. The crux of VDRs is their security. They help negate the likelihood of document leakage and misuse.
Free Virtual Data Rooms
VDRs can be a heavy financial investment, so it’s totally reasonable to question if there are free options out there. Unfortunately, a majority of virtual data room providers charge after a free trial period ends. However, we discovered a handful of free alternatives.
With that being said, there are a few important considerations. First, they all have storage or usage limitations. We detailed what you receive for each in the descriptions. Second, and perhaps most important, is security and advanced capabilities. At their core, all of these options offer a virtual space to collaborate and share information. Beyond that, not everyone may have the necessary safeguards to protect information or advanced and analytical features that expedite projects, deals, and due diligence.
What it really comes down to is knowing your project and needs. From there, you can discern if one of the options below will work or if you should invest in something else.
The options for free virtual data rooms are:
Data Room Providers Usage
Due to their speed, convenience, and safety, VDRs are utilized among several different fields for various purposes. Some examples include:
IT and Telecommunications
Private Equity and Venture Capital
Consulting and Advisory Services
We understand that choosing the right virtual data room provider for your firm or transaction can be taxing. To alleviate that burden, we have detailed and compared the industry’s top virtual data room providers. Now, you can close your next deal or collaborate on a project in confidence that you made the right VDR choice.
Data Room Companies Overview
Built upon Agile principles, DealRoom was created in 2012 to revitalize inefficient processes associated with project management and M&A. By unifying tools associated with creating, executing, and monitoring projects, DealRoom provides a dynamic data room that revolutionizes traditional methods. DealRoom’s VDR is well-suited for a multitude of industries at a price well below competitors. Aside from M&A project management
, they cater to every party and phase in the due diligence process and M&A lifecycle.
DealRoom equips users with features from simple file management to integrated AI and in-depth analytics. A comprehensive dashboard lets you spot and negate potential issues before they become problems. Reviewers have not only commended advanced, customizable functionalities, but also usability and intuitiveness. DealRoom eliminates complexities so users can learn the system within minutes.
DealRoom has a secure virtual data room with all necessary compliances and data encryptions.
DealRoom offers a free trial.
Since its inception in 2008, iDeals has become renowned for its security throughout the VDR industry. iDeals caters to various industries, including life sciences, M&A, and real estate. iDeals emphasizes security, reliability, and capability.
Each data room is protected by multiple levels of encryption. They provide other safeguards such as advanced user and document permissions and dynamic watermarking. With their 99.95% uptime, iDeals boasts dependability and 24/7 access. One of their most well-known features is a Q&A section that encourages communication and collaboration.
Other functionalities include information management, a scroll-through viewer, drag and drop upload, any file format support, and restrictions by IP.
The main area where iDeals may not surpass competition is their interface. Reviewers reported it as looking outdated and sometimes was not intuitive.
Awarded as a “Rising Star” by FinancesOnline, FirmRoom is taking the industry by storm. Although they are most acclaimed for their M&A solutions, FirmRoom is suited to fit a wide variety of industries. Renowned users include Pfizer, Baird, and J.P.Morgan.
FirmRoom offers the essential functions of other VDR providers such as drag and drop, bulk file upload, and permission settings. Security is a priority with advanced user settings, an ISO 27001 certification, and multiple other compliances. FirmRoom’s claim to fame is their intuitive interface and clean design. FirmRoom can integrate with Salesforce, Slack, and Office 365 so that you have what you need in one spot.
FirmRoom offers a free trial.
Intralinks was among the first to pioneer data rooms in 1996. With over 20 years of experience, Intralinks works mainly with Fortune 100 companies and massive deals. Their speciality is offering a secure platform for tons of data.
Intralinks’ allows dealmakers to choose between three main models. Users are able to build upon those with extra modules to better suit their deal. However, users often report that Intralinks rooms are not customizable enough. In terms of capabilities, Intralinks provides all of the basic data room services to conduct due diligence and facilitate collaboration. Intralinks equips users for success with consulting services, optional training and round-the-clock support.
Intralinks is sold at a premium versus their competitors, even though they do not seem to offer as many functionalities. However, when working with large-scale deals, Intralinks could provide just the support you need.
Another notable factor when considering Intralinks is that they do not offer a free demo.
Although Firmex is newer to the data room market, they are quickly rising to fame -- supporting over 120,000 enterprises worldwide. Firmex provides solutions to a multitude of industries, including renewable energy, M&A, and government and infrastructure to name a few.
Firmex offers the expected features of VDRs: security, document management, user invitations and activity, file organization, and audit trails and reporting. Their claim to fame capability is a “View As” option. Here, you are able to see exactly what other users see to ensure an extra level of protection. They also tout unrivalled customer service that is available 24/7/365.
Firmex users note cons being their less-advanced search features and a small, unexpandable window for diligence questions.
Firmex also offers a free demo.
Much like Intralinks, Merrill specializes in large-scale, complex deals with sizable corporations and a bit higher of a price tag. Merrill offers solutions in corporate development, investment banking, private equity, and law.
Merrill’s VDR provides most basic VDR capabilities, such as branded website, bulk uploads, drag and drop files, and Q&A sections. Clients can also opt to utilize other services to alleviate the burden of minute tasks and focus on more important matters. They have a team of experts to help with any transaction and 24/7/365 customer support.
Their other forte is security, boasting of their EU-US Privacy Shield certification and GDPR compliance, AES 256-bit encryption, protocols, etc. Overall, Merrill offers a variety of features, dedicated support, and superlative security but at a premium price. Users also report that Merrill’s VDR is most optimal when employing their other services.
Merrill also offers a free demo.
With over $100 billion worth of deals in 122 countries, Securedocs has been financial transactions and daily business operations. Their values are security, simplicity, security, and savings, claiming that you should not compromise functionality and safety for a low price.
Securedocs boasts of their intuitiveness and ease of use, 10-minute set up, and transparent pricing. They offer most VDR necessities, such as permissions, notifications, drag and drop uploading, audit logs, and watermarking. When projects change, companies can simply recycle and tweak existing user roles and restrictions.
Against competitors, Securedocs falls short in terms of collaboration capabilities. Theirs are not as intuitive or present, which may cause some speed bumps during due diligence. Additionally, Securedocs does not offer solutions for Procurement Management as other VDRs do.
Securedocs offers a free trial.
Sharefile was created in 2005 as an avenue for safe data exchange as opposed to traditional FTP sites. In 2011, Sharefile became a part of Citrix to add to their software portfolio as a VDR.
Sharefile offers secure solutions for various industries and business functions, such as human resources and marketing. Sharefile is able to integrate with other systems such as Google Suite, Microsoft OneDrive, and others. However, utilizing Sharefile in conjunction with free systems may compromise security. They offer typical VDR functions such as view-only access, click trails, dynamic watermarking, reporting, and granular user access.
Users have also critiqued Sharefile’s reliability. Some reviews report Sharefile either crashing or locking up when used in conjunction with other applications.
Sharefile offers a free trial.
Box virtual data rooms arose in 2005. Since then, their VDR services have been utilized by over 85,000 companies around the world, including GE, Nationwide, Gap, and Pandora. Box’s solutions serve a variety of industries such as healthcare, finance, education, and construction. Users enjoy Box’s Business line for its intuitiveness and security.
Box’s Business line offers the most basic secure file sharing capabilities as most VDRs. However, Box does not provide more complex, innovative functions such as custom workflows and features or secure fence view. Box is well-suited for daily operations or small transactions. They may not offer the necessary support and capabilities for larger, more intricate M&A transactions.
Box offers a free trial.
Since their founding in 2010, CapLinked has been used by over a quarter million companies worldwide. Similar to other VDR providers, they tout simplicity, cost-savings, and resourceful support for a variety of industries.
CapLinked offers common VDR capabilities and security measures. Their more notable features include a dashboard, instant messaging, and the ability to edit Excel or Word documents within the VDR. CapLinked enables users to integrate with other applications such as Box, Office 365, and SalesForce.
Users have reported limitations with Excel files with macros and unadvanced search and reporting functions.
CapLinked offers a free trial.
Midaxo is another one of the newer VDRs on the market today. Headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, they serve customers in Europe, the US, and worldwide. Midaxo specializes in solutions for M&A and due diligence.
Midaxo offers features and security measures that are comparable to most VDR providers. Beyond the basics, Midaxo also provides advanced analytics, playbooks, a comprehensive dashboard, and target scoring for newer deals.
Midaxo is not certified for agile M&A nor is it FINRA/SEC compliant. They also do not offer quick, 24/7 phone support.
Midaxo offers a free demo.
How to compare virtual data rooms and choose the right one?
Beyond the basics, different virtual data room providers may range in their functionalities, security, storage, and support. Additionally, they may employ various pricing models. All of these different variables can make comparing and choosing the best data room a bit of a headache.
What it really boils down to is being able to delineate what you need from the data room. You can sort through hundreds of virtual data room reviews online, but none may speak accurately to your project. One option that many providers offer is a free demo or trial. Utilizing these services are a great way to see whether or not it would be worth the long-term investment.
1. Compare the Functions which Virtual Data Rooms Offer
Essentially, virtual data rooms act as a secure platform to house, manage, and distribute confidential information. VDRs also have other, often customizable functionalities. These may differ on a case-by-case basis depending on the provider, the user, and the project. The key is to ensure that you choose one that is efficient, intuitive, and secure. VDRs are supposed to make workflows easier, not more complicated.
Some common functionalities of virtual data rooms include:
Digital Rights Management
Document Filtering Tools
Advanced Search within the Whole VDR
Activity Tracking and Audit Log
Drag and Drop Files
Possibility to Have Numerous Projects within One Account.
Print Screen Button Disabling
Questions and Answers (Q&A) Functionality
Microsoft Office Integration
2. Compare data room pricing and pricing models
With so many options of VDRs and providers in the market, it is hard to know how much you should pay. It’s a big decision and investment. You should not haphazardly choose a cheap virtual data room that won’t pay off in the long-run. Some virtual data room providers may lack necessary security and confidentiality safeguards. And, to make matters more complex, online data room providers often employ different pricing models. Different bases for the cost may include:
Complexity of capabilities
Extra or premium features
Amount of rooms or workspaces
Number of users and/or administrators
Additional consulting and/or administrative services
To simplify your decision-making process, we have compiled a list of questions that you should ask yourself when comparing prices:
What are the security measures required for your project and/or transaction?
On the outset, a free virtual data room may sound great. However, these free online data room providers may lack substantial security features. Thievery and breaches of data may be costly, difficult, and if not impossible to recover from. If your dealing with large amounts of confidential information like in mergers and acquisitions, the extra investment may be wise.
What is the size of your project and/or transaction?
You often have to pay above the market for VDRs that are apt for handling big data. Regarding smaller projects, it may not be cost-effective to choose a renowned VDR just because Goldman Sacs did.
How complex is your project and/or transaction?
Some VDRs charge a premium of complex or customized features whereas others lack the capability. That is why it is integral to forecast what functions you will need your VDR to perform. Otherwise, expensive, fancy features may sit at the wayside when the expense could have been avoided altogether.
Will you need extra services, i.e. consulting, training, or other support functions?
Many virtual data room providers offer additional support services to ensure a smooth transaction. These may be offered at a cost-savings when bundled with their VDR. This could be a worthy investment for smaller firms or complex transactions. These additional services help alleviate the burden of minute tasks so you can focus on your business.
3. Compare additional options available
When implementing virtual data room software for your organization or project, you don’t want to be stuck with unresourceful help. This will only further plague your processes. Luckily, many VDR providers on the market offer additional help and options so you have just what you need.
Listed here are some questions you can ask to better navigate and compare the additional options they offer:
Is there a virtual data room free trial?
Is their customer support team available 24/7/365?
Are you granted a single, dedicated company representative? Or are you waiting on hold and then tossed between reps?
Are you able to request new features post-implementation?
How comprehensive are their training and onboarding services?
4. Compare ease of use and flexibility
Virtual data rooms can be rendered useless if you can’t figure out how or have the means to use it.
Here we have detailed a few questions you can ask yourself when judging a potential VDR’s usability and flexibility:
Is the VDR available on all operating systems?
Does it have to be accessed via desktop or does it offer iOS or Android applications?
Is the interface attractive and intuitive?
Are capabilities such as invites or uploads efficient or do they require multiple steps?
Is the VDR’s uptime at least 99.95%?
5. Compare virtual data room security
Perhaps the crux of VDR’s is that they are a platform to store and transmit confidential information. Online data can be subject to thieves, hackers, and breaches. These occurrences can be detrimental to individuals and businesses alike. This means that security is priority.
Below are some questions you can ask yourself when gauging how secure a data room provider is:
How many of encryption are there for the data room?
Does the data room abide by necessary compliances?
What security certifications does the provider have?
What control features does the data room offer, i.e. advanced user settings?
Is there an option for two-factor verifications?
6. Compare data rooms to Find the Best for Your Industry
Beyond document and file management, many VDR providers offer a multitude of other, more advanced capabilities. These options can make it difficult to gauge which VDR provider will best cater to your industry and needs.
Here are some items to consider:
Many product and service-oriented firms utilize CRM applications such as Salesforce. During a transaction, these applications may house important data that you would need in your VDR. The ability to integrate with different software can bolster efficiency and save the headache of manually transmitting data. Some providers offer the same capability with other collaboration software such as Office365 and Slack.
Depending on the size of your firm, you may not need to forgo the extra dollar on storage space. Some providers may offer different packages for virtual data rooms for startups versus billion dollar M&A transactions.
Some VDRs may not have the capability to upload and support certain file extensions. Ensure to check all features before committing to a provider.
Compliance standards vary from industry to industry. Certain providers cater to specific industry standards, so check security and compliance standards carefully when choosing a VDR.
7. Compare virtual data room reviews
If you are unsure of which virtual data room provider you want to use, try looking at software review sites to read about other users’ experiences. Some of the popular virtual data room review sites include: TrustRadius
, G2 Crowd
, and Capterra
. Also, it’s important to note though that while many of the software review sites feature true and honest user feedback, some allow vendors to purchase reviews. Just be sure to do thorough research and look out for the word “Sponsored”.
Virtual Data Room Benefits for Your Business
Imagine walking into a workspace that isn’t pervaded with a city of disorganized file cabinets. Information can be transmitted at the blink of an eye -- anytime, anywhere. Regardless of your industry, market, or business model, a virtual data room can improve productivity and efficiency. VDRs improve workflows for everyday operations and special projects such as raising funds from potential investors. VDRs equip you with an online platform to not only store information, but also communicate, delegate tasks, and track project progress. No other software can offer the same combination of collaboration and security.
Detailed is an even more comprehensive list of benefits:
Secure data storage
Fast data organization and transmission
Achieve better control over information
24/7 accessibility anywhere with an internet connection
Glean helpful feedback and analytics
Better accountability measures
Efficient, non siloed collaboration
Get deals and projects done faster