Once the preserve of corporate financials in the execution of mergers and acquisitions, virtual data rooms are quickly becoming must-haves for many organisations and corporations. These online file repositories, renowned for their security and ease of access revolutionised the way corporates stored, accessed and protected their confidential data when they first emerged on the market over a decade ago.
Since the early 2000s, VDRs have caught the attention of directors and business owners across a multitude of industries and have slowly begun to appear as file storage and data transfer solutions in organisations of all shapes and sizes. They are particularly popular with companies attempting move away from a capital expenditure (CAPEX) model towards one of operational expenditure (OPEX).
For small to medium sized firms, or the IT departments of larger firms, VDRs provide an affordable and secure alternative to in-house data centres. This shift mirrors a wider move towards cloud computing that is taking effect across the country.
Whilst the technology is certainly not new, the concept is an unusual one for many directors and hence knowing where to start and what to look for can be challenging. This is an introductory buyer’s guide for those considering implementing a VDR solution in their firm.
The key difference between a standard file repository and a VDR is the several manifestations of security the latter provides. Even the most basic VDR must implement strict access controls, the ability to set up user groups, assign them permissions and restrict access to certain directories or folders based on those permissions.
It goes without saying that the solution must provide encryption for all file transfers (look for 128-bit), strict server access restrictions and a personalised firewall for each client. Servers must be hosted in carefully protected data centres, audited to ISO 27001 standard and equipped with stringent access control.
Furthermore, audit features should come packaged as standard allowing you to keep track of documents for compliance and due diligence. On a similar note, servers should be hosted in the country in which your organisation resides in order to stay within relevant data protection laws and legislation.
A 24/7 service package should come integrated as standard rather than as an afterthought or an add-on. This involves everything from inception and implementation planning through to round-the-clock user support.
Look out for an implementation service, do the VDR providers training on how to use the solution and is the set up process simple and intuitive? Moreover, your staff should be able to use the interface with a minimal amount of training so ensure the solution provides slick controls and a seamless UI. Look for minimal installation; VDRs are software solutions and should require no hardware installation on your side.
The support team should also be experienced and helpful; look for client reviews and testimonials and ask about the VDR support procedure.
Reporting and audit features are useful, particularly for organisations intending to share access to their VDR with third parties. The tools should allow you to see detailed versioning history of all your documents as well as a log of who accessed each document and when.
In addition, reporting tools and searchable audit trails can be especially useful for many organisations.
Finally, the price you pay for your VDR solution should mirror the collection of things discussed in this guide. How much security does the VDR provide? What auditing tools does it include? What sort of service does the company provide and what level of support can you expect? Will there be an operator to deal with your queries at 2am on a Saturday morning? Or will it have to wait until Monday 9am? These are all major factors in determining the price of the solution.
The other essential factor to consider which has not yet been mentioned here is the size of your VDR. As you might imagine, the more storage your firm requires, the higher you will have to pay for your monthly subscription. Moreover, VDRs with more users, multiple rooms and more collaboration sites will come at a premium to single room, lower user count repositories.
As a rule of thumb expect to pay somewhere in the region of £100 per month for the most basic VDR solutions. This will rise steadily with the number of users and storage size. A mid-sized company might expect to pay somewhere in the region of £500 to £2000.