For the reasons of cost, efficiency, and security — and due to the global pandemic — virtual data rooms have spread widely across different industries.
Virtual data room is a high-security online repository of documents available for granular distribution.
Virtual data room is a software that allows companies to store, manage, and share their corporate documents online.
This tool protects sensitive information from data leaks and provides businesses with all the features required for making work with documents easy. Companies use this software for all data-related processes such as M&A. For the reasons of cost, efficiency, and security — and due to the global pandemic — virtual data rooms have spread widely across different industries.
Data Room Selection Assistant
How many projects do you need to include to data room?
For which deal types do you choose a data room?
Where your data room should be hosted?
Do you need product demo presentation?
Do you need to have access to data room 24/7 (including weekend and holidays)
Do you need to have multiple people access documents at the same time?
Now that you have the data room provider situation sorted out, it’s time to learn how to set up a data room. Below are nine simple steps on how to set up your data room from scratch:
Step 1: Define your purpose
An effective data room experience always starts with thorough planning. Establish the purpose of the virtual data room from the perspective of your industry and the specific project. Pay extra attention to the different stages of your task and the parties who will require access to the data room.
Pro tip: ask your data room provider if they have worked on a similar project before. Utilizing a template can be a great asset to a successful VDR setup.
Step 2: Engage in data room training
Once you know who will be accessing the data room you are building, ensure they get trained on how to use it. Consider different levels of experience with technology and take advantage of the data room’s support team.
Pro tip: a conference call is an ideal solution to educate all data room users.
Step 3: Prepare the documents
Depending on what you are planning to use the data room for, you will be dealing with a specific range of data. Note how many documents you need to upload and choose the most suitable formats. In case you are dealing with physical paperwork, put extra effort into labeling the actual documents and their scans for easy access.
Pro tip: create or download a data room checklist to simplify document preparation. A typical list might feature the following:
A database of all current employees with titles and salaries
All legal disputes
Previous meetings’ minutes
Past and current intern, contractor, and consultant contracts
Step 4: Outline the VDR’s internal structure
The next step on how to set up a data room is mapping out the sections and folders within it. Come up with the most logical and easy-to-comprehend organizational model for your case. Color-code and compartmentalize as much as possible.
Pro tip: Picture a physical storage facility to plan the data room software outline in the most straightforward way.
Step 5: Upload the files
Fill the pre-designed folder structure with the required documents and files. Pay special attention to naming and indexing the items.
Pro tip: the best data room features for effortless and fast file upload are Drag&Drop and Bulk Uploading.
Step 6: Establish appropriate access permissions
Granting and restricting access are the key elements on how to set up a data room in the most secure way. Make sure that you establish a permission system that is both convenient and safe. Use tools like IP restriction and time limits to further enhance the security.
Pro tip: implement a level-based access hierarchy to easily manage permissions for entire groups.
Step 7: Sign the NDAs
Protect sensitive information within your data room by requesting all participants to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). Same as with the access permission, you can connect the non-disclosure rules to separate documents and full sections of the data room.
Pro tip: use dynamic NDAs for the documents that will constantly update. This way, the viewers will sign the agreement each time they access a newer version.
Step 8: Double-check the settings
Taking a step back and evaluating the whole picture is a crucial stage on how to set up a data room. Make sure all settings match your project’s specifics and requirements by checking the access permissions, browser and device compatibility, and established security protocols.
Pro tip: use the View As option to ensure you’ve set up the data room in the most optimal way for everyone.
Step 9: Invite other users and begin managing the project
Finally, share the invitations with all the users and start using the data room you created. Provided you followed all the suggestions on how to set up a data room, this process should be simple.
Pro tip: ensure you have an appropriate amount of data room administrators for your company’s size and the particular project.
How to choose the best data room provider
Choosing the best data room provider is the most challenging part of setting up a virtual data room (VDR). To help you navigate through the current offer of the best data rooms, we listed down the scope of their typical features.
Standard VDR features
These are the features found in almost every data room provider on the market.
Archiving. Every online data room provider will allow you to quickly access all past records. This comes in handy for referencing previous deals, accessing historical data, and optimizing governance.
Activitytracking. The activity reports will tell you who accessed each file, when the file was accessed, and for how long the file was accessed, helping you to oversee both activity and security.
Branding. The common solution for customizing a data room would be adding a logo and brand colors.
Permissioncustomization. Clear and intuitive access hierarchy setup is another universal feature. You can establish permissions for standalone documents and entire segments of the data room.
Watermarking. Adding watermarks to documents is an excellent approach to limiting unwanted duplication and sharing. The best virtual data rooms will also feature dynamic watermarking, making it impossible to distribute the file without appropriate crediting.
Advanced VDR features
Keep these in mind when trying to figure out how to choose the best data room provider for your needs.
Analytics and reporting. Interactive analytics, dynamic infographics, and up-to-date reporting are key to keeping track of the deal’s progress.
API integration. Re-arranging the interface to your company’s specific needs and preferences is an option featured on some of the best virtual data rooms.
Bulk uploads and downloads. Adding and retracting documents in bulk can save a lot of time and make your VDR experience a lot more effective.
Interactive tools. Features such as polls, live chats, and Q&A can significantly streamline any data room process.
Specialized interfaces. An established virtual data room provider will offer interface templates for specific projects.
5 key aspects of virtual data room selection
Once you’ve outlined the best virtual data rooms for your company’s needs, the next step on how to choose the best data room provider is evaluating the following criteria:
Lookfor: a “fence-view” feature to avoid unwanted glances, multiple-step verification, IP-restricted user access, page-by-page document viewing history, ISO27001 and SOC2 compliances.
Ask: Where are the data centers located? Is there an option for physical storage?
Lookfor: versatile deployment solutions, Drag&Drop file upload, intuitive interface, and broad file format support.
Ask: How long will it take to set up the solution? Does the online data room provider operate via plug-ins? What is the rate of the VDR’s uptime?
Lookfor: 24/7/365 availability, free access to VDR knowledge base, multiple languages, single-point-of-contact resolution, and minimal response time.
Ask: Who will train my team to use the data room and how will they be trained? Who will manage the data room throughout its existence?
Lookfor: brand logo and colors incorporation, interface adjustment, and project templates.
Ask: To what extent can I customize virtual data room? Is it possible to integrate data from a different provider?
Look for: transparent and comprehensive pricing plans, the payment methods, fixed rates, and the ability to create a custom package.
Ask: Are the fees linked to the number of guest viewers or the amount of data to be stored? Can I upgrade and downgrade the initial plan I chose?
Who uses virtual data rooms?
Data rooms were used initially by legal companies and banks for convenient and secure operations in the exchange of documents during due diligence in mergers and acquisitions (M&A). However, many more companies in a wide range of industries now also use VDRs. Online data rooms are now used by any company that works with a significant number of sensitive documents, far beyond the legal and banking industries.
Today, companies use virtual data rooms in different ways: to work with investors, for bankruptcy proceedings, to store internal company’s data, etc. It is an excellent solution for M&A, due diligence, corporate document sharing, IPOs, real estate deals, biotechnological licensing, litigation, clinical studies, investment banking, etc.
Here are some of the most popular use cases:
Use case 1: M&A deals
M&As are the most popular use of virtual data rooms. Sellers need to share significant volumes of confidential information as part of the deal and due diligence process. Data room services become a one-stop-shop for sellers, bidders, and buyers to exchange, review, and comment documents. It’s also worth mentioning that the use of VDRs helps reduce paper waste, which makes the process not only eco-friendly but also cheaper since the involved parties do not need to print paper documents and pay for delivery.
Use case 2: Court proceedings
All court proceedings parties, e.g. attorneys, regulators, etc., access confidential documents remotely with zero risks that the documents will be stolen. If the matter requires the involvement of international teams working on the same case, they can access all required documents from a single hub.
Use case 3: Initial Public Offering (IPO)
Due to the number of parties involved in IPO (company employees, investment bankers, attorneys, etc.) and the amount of paperwork required for signing and verification, it is crucial to avoid unwanted access, copying, printing, and editing of the documents.
Use case 4: Sharing of any sensitive documents
As much as in M&A deals, data room vendors are used for storing and sharing documents enjoying an additional level of security. That is why this solution has gained popularity in industries that often enter into deals involving the sharing of sensitive documents:
Life science projects
About virtual data room pricing
Many factors affect virtual data room pricing: the amount of storage needed, number of workspaces, administrators or users, document management and collaboration tools, level of document security, customization, onboarding, and customer support.
The price of a data room depends on the provider and can be:
usage-based – when a client pays for the volume of data used
per-user – when a client pays a price for every user
tiered – when a client pays for a set of features collected in a package
flat – when a client pays a fixed price and gets a full list of features
per-feature – when a client pays a price for specific features it uses
The most popular virtual data room pricing models used by providers are tiered, per-user, and per-feature. Each of these pricing models has its pros and cons, therefore, when choosing among virtual data room providers pay attention to its focus when developing a product (usually this can be gleaned from the provider’s marketing materials). Also pay attention to the features or value that the product provides to its users (think of 64 GB of memory or virtual data room unlimited storage vs. a thousand songs in your pocket).
No matter what pricing model you choose, most data room services provide a free trial that allows you to test the virtual data room software first before paying to use it or to use virtual data room cost comparison tools to make the right choice.
Virtual data room review and comparison
On our site, you can find independent reviews of virtual data room providers and data room M&A to help you choose the vendor that fits your business needs.
We analyzed all providers and selected those that meet several crucial criteria. When we were compiling the ratings, which are regularly updated, we take into account not only the number of features that are presented in a particular product but also the experience that gathered from interviews with actual users. We also considered virtual data room reviews and comments from our website and from third-party resources. We use a five-point scale for comparison of virtual data room providers for each category. Also, we indicate the difference between the scoring rating of different providers so that the strengths and weaknesses of all data rooms are clear.
We regularly analyze information on the internet to provide you with the latest data on virtual data room comparison and help you find the best data room.
Also, we have prepared pages with a comparison of different characteristics of data rooms: we carefully analyzed the offer of each of the providers, their functions, combined all the points, and got the final rating, which you can read at the comparison pages. For comparison, we take into account several factors such as files and folders management, file protection and digital rights management, data hosting and infrastructure security, accessibility and ease of use, customization, support and services.
Not everyone is ready to pay for data to be stored but some companies need to use reliable and secure cloud storage for keeping corporate data. For those businesses, we’ve created our website.
How do I create a virtual data room?
To create a virtual data room, you should:
Find a provider that is trusted. Review sites and recommendations from client companies will help you make the right choice.
Create groups and invite users. Administrators can manage the platform by deleting or organizing groups.
Allow or restrict viewing, downloading, original downloading, and editing of documents.
Uploading files and folders to workspaces. The bulk upload and drag-and-drop tools simplify this process.
How does a virtual data room work?
A virtual data room works as a repository and tool for paperwork. The developers took the needs of today’s business as a basis.
Built-in security mechanisms ensure the safety of every file and user. Companies exchange data without the risk of hacking and breaches. Functions available to administrators enable workflow management and analytics.
For employees, VDRs work to complete tasks faster. It is possible through the use of automated processes.
What is in a data room?
Important data are stored in virtual workspaces. Since providers guarantee protection, companies have no fear in storing sensitive documents. Files and folders may contain:
These files are organized and easy to find within the data room. The online platform also supports all formats so you can upload video, audio, presentations, and others. Some developers place templates in data rooms to make it easier and faster to create documents.
Users and guests should review the built-in non-disclosure agreement. By agreeing to its terms, the platform visitors take responsibility for their actions.
What is a data room in M&A?
A data room in M&A is the repository of documents essential for merger and acquisition transactions, which involves the preparation and study of a large volume of documents. In this case, virtual workspaces contribute to the deal-making without delays. Both parties get:
space for cooperation,
safe information exchange,
source of sensible solutions.
The tool can make a partnership between buyer and seller possible even from a distance without risking security. To do this, the provider implements encryption, electronic signature, watermarks. This method is cheaper than using physical storage. No travel resources are required to review the data.
What is a data room for investors?
Data room for investors allows parties to study a large number of documents needed to make decisions before finalizing an investment transaction. In this way, they assess the risks and potential opportunities from the investments made. As a rule, the parties agree on a list of data that will become the subject of a detailed examination.
Virtual data rooms are a convenient format for investors. Regardless of the time of day, their location, devices, access to information is open on the platform.
What is a secure data room?
A secure data room is a private virtual workspace that is safe. It is where companies can store sensitive information. To ensure security, potential users first make sure protection features are available. For example, these are encryption, access control, compliance with international standards, and others. Quality providers apply virus scanning. This program prevents breaches and leaks.
High-quality portals are all about:
safe collaboration with partners.
When buying a VDR, clients must pursue not only security but also high performance. That is why the platform should be easy to use.
How much does a virtual data room cost?
The cost of a virtual data room differs. Cost may vary depending on the contract length, feature set, availability of technical support, among other factors.
Pricing is one issue to consider before finally deciding to purchase a VDR. Sometimes organizations have to pay extra to invite more users or get gigabytes.
Most service companies offer a free trial. Users can check if this tool is appropriate for meeting their challenges.
Often the cost is changed because of the customer’s requirements. In that case, the developers customize it. Pricing also includes tariff.