Comparing the cost of one virtual data room (VDR) to another is much like trying to compare the menus of different restaurants. Some offer buffet-style flat rates, while others have menus akin to “dinner for four” or “dinner for six,” with different options available according to your needs or taste. Still others dress up a value meal with cordon bleu terminology, while others don’t list the prices on their menus at all.
Understanding the different pricing structures in the VDR industry, as well as the primary cost drivers, should make it easier to compare one menu to another and to compare apples to oranges — or apple pies to duck a l’orange.
Virtual Data Room Pricing
Today’s VDR evolved directly from physical data rooms that were used primarily for M&As (mergers and acquisitions). In former days, a group of investors would sit in a physical room and go through paper documents during an allotted time frame.
Back then, pricing would be based on factors like the size of the transaction, as well as the number of pages that were involved. After all, storing, organizing, sorting and making copies of those pages for each person in the room took time and money. As paper gave way to digital documents and physical rooms were replaced with virtual rooms, these old pricing structures moved along with them — and they’re still used by some companies today.
Cost Per Page
Some VDR providers still charge clients based on page-count or the number of documents. If you have 1,000 pages to store and share, you might be charged anywhere from $400 to $850 to upload them. Of course, if you have ten times that amount, the charge would be multiplied by ten as well.
Using this model, it’s not unusual for companies to receive bills of $50,000 or even $100,000 after a project has been completed. This may not seem like much if you’re working on a $500 million M&A, but this pricing model isn’t justified in a digital world. Fortunately, it is less common than it used to be.
Cost Per GB
Instead of charging by the page, the major VDR providers today tend toward charging per GB (gigabyte) of data used. Not only is this easier for clients to calculate than pages, it’s more reflective of the provider’s costs.
Cost Per User
Another popular way to determine costs is to base the amount charged on the number of people using the service. This is often divided into two classes: the number of administrators who will be managing the VDR, uploading documents and monitoring guests, as well as the number of guests who will be accessing those documents.
Cost Per Room
If a company is only using a VDR for one project or using it to store files for a single department, you should only need one VDR. Additional projects or departments would require a different group of files, different administrators and different guests requiring access, so providers will charge additional money for additional rooms.
Cost Per Month
Another common element in a VDR’s pricing structure is a monthly fee. This is the same as in any software subscription service or premium cloud storage service. While some providers will charge a flat rate, the amount of time you’re able to access your documents is seldom unlimited. Some companies, of course, charge an annual fee, instead of a monthly fee.
Putting Pricing Plans Together
Few VDR providers use just one method for determining the cost of your VDR solution. Instead, they combine two or more of the above elements to get to your price. For example, if you have 2GB of documents to be shared by one administrator with ten guests, you would pay less than someone who needs 100 GB of storage managed by ten administrators to be shared with 100 guests.
Virtual Data Room Features
The cost of a VDR is meaningless if it doesn’t give you the features you require for your specific projects. Features can vary as widely as the pricing structures. While most of the major VDR providers offer similar features, there are, unfortunately, some companies in the market that offer very little beyond what you would expect in a basic cloud storage service.
For organizations that require a reliable VDR, some of the most important features to consider include the following:
The most important feature for any VDR, security is crucial to assess when comparing virtual data rooms. Look for the level of encryption, the presence of two-factor authentication, auditing capabilities, digital watermarks and document recovery features.
This is generally the second-most important feature of a VDR. Document management centers around the ease of uploading and downloading documents, the presence of version control and tracking abilities, document editing capabilities, and in-platform search tools. Look for APIs or apps that facilitate quickly and easily uploading large amounts of files.
This involves how users interact with information in the virtual data room, including permission roles and password protections. A reliable VDR should allow you to manage user permissions at a group level in order to reduce timelines and to reduce errors in per-user configuration models.
A virtual data room should facilitate easy communication between people in that room. This includes providing an in-room chat interface for discussing projects as well as for asking and answering questions. A VDR should also offer a mechanism for collaborating on documents, commenting on them and making required changes, all within the room, while tracking all changes. A third important feature is the ability to issue alerts or instant messages to groups.
At a minimum, a VDR should provide a trail of activity showing who accessed documents and when. This is extremely important for auditing activity, as well as for ensuring compliance with most regulatory agencies, when it comes to the protection of confidential documents, like employee health records or client account information.
Compliance and certification: Industries like health care and finance have rigid requirements for the storage, retrieval and auditing of confidential documents that are not to be disclosed to the public. Reputable VDR providers already have approval, proof of compliance, and certification from regulatory bodies and standards organizations, so you don’t have to worry about violating their requirements. Caplinked, for example, ensures that the following standards are met:
- ISO 27001 certified
- AICPA SOC 2 certified
- EU-US Privacy Shield certified
- PCI SAQ-D-compliant
Even if your organization isn’t in a regulated sector, your clients may be. Failure to adhere to their regulatory requirements could jeopardize your relationship with them.
Ease of Use
Using a VDR should not require a three-day training seminar. If a VDR offers a complicated interface, this not only reduces your administrator’s productivity, it can lead to costly mistakes. Configuring the VDR, setting permissions and tracking documents should take only a few minutes to learn.
Hand-in-hand with ease of use is accessibility. Your employees and clients should be able to access the VDR from any browser, without the need to install additional software or hardware. Easy access from mobile devices should be of paramount importance as well, particularly if you want clients or outside investors to access your data.
Full client management features aren’t always needed and aren’t available from all providers, but they become essential if you are working with outside investors or your own clients. These features include the ability to blind guests from each other, so your clients don’t get a list of all of your other clients, as well as the ability to provide investor or deal summaries.
Another important feature is the ability to configure multiple project permissions, so each guest has access to everything they need, without access to the documents they should never see.
Integration and Customization
Finally, your organization’s VDR should be uniquely your own. It should work with the other software and tech services you currently use, such as Microsoft Office, SalesForce, or Google Drive. While you use the VDR, it should also reflect your brand, not the VDR service provider’s. This includes embedded features like branded login pages, user alerts and even the digital watermarks applied to documents.
Pricing and Requirements: Putting It All Together
With an understanding of how VDR providers price their services, as well as an understanding of what features you should be looking for, you can now determine what the cost of a VDR should be, based on your specific needs.
The list below shows virtual data room pricing variables that differ between the tiers. Use this list to begin mapping the scope of services you need from a virtual data room. Don’t be concerned if you can’t “fill in the blanks” on all of these services. Most vendors will help you determine the solution that meets your needs.
Also, if you see a feature you like from one vendor, but don’t see it on another vendor’s list, be sure to ask. Often, the same or similar feature is actually available, but described in a different way. Client accounts, for example, are often described as guest accounts.
Below are some pricing variables you may encounter in VDR plans:
- Amount of storage needed in GB
- Number of rooms or workspaces required (typically one for each department or project)
- Number of administrators (those who will upload documents, give permissions and track activity)
- Number of guest users
- Document management tools required (including collaboration, auditing, etc.)
- Level of document security required
- Level of customization desired
- Level of client support (including training) via email, phone or online chat
The Caplinked VDR Pricing Model
To keep things simple, Caplinked has divided its pricing using two tiers. There are no complicated menus of features with different rates, so you don’t have to design your own spreadsheet to determine how much a plan will cost based on your needs.
The Team Plan is designed for SMBs (small to medium businesses). It should be ideal for most small companies, as well as for larger companies who want to start using a VDR on a few projects before scaling up their use with additional projects. The price for this starts at $149 per month and it includes the following:
- 5 GB of storage (This is roughly about 3.4 million pages of text or about a million emails.)
- 1 workspace (data room)
- 10 administrators
- Unlimited guest users (non-administrators, like clients, investors, etc.)
- Custom watermarking
- FileProtect digital rights management (DRM)
- Timed expiration of user access to documents
- Activity tracking / Audit trail
- Email support
Caplinked’s Enterprise Plan is designed for enterprises, as well as smaller companies who have additional requirements beyond the Team Plan. Pricing for this is customized based on your unique needs. The Enterprise Plan includes all of the features you would get with the Team Plan, as well as the following:
- Flexible storage, based on your usage, with no ceiling on the amount of storage or the number of documents you need
- Additional workspaces
- Additional administrators
- 99.9% Guaranteed Uptime Service Level Agreement, so you will never have to worry about servers not being accessible to your team, investors or clients
- Additional security features, including real-time virus scans and Single Sign-On (SSO) powered by Okta and SAML 2.0
- Priority customer support from a dedicated customer success manager, who knows you, your company and your unique business requirements
- The ability to securely send files via email custom URL
- Enforceable two-factor authentication
- Custom branding / Invitations / Login page
- Custom dynamic watermarking
- Full-text advanced search
- Collaborative document editor
- Real-time virus scanning
- Desktop bulk uploader (FTP support)
Customization and Partnership
If these look like a lot of features, keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list. The primary difference between Caplinked’s Enterprise Plan and self-serve plans available from competitors is the level of partnership clients can receive. This includes, for example, Caplinked’s Concierge Service, which delivers the services and expertise you require for your specific needs, like customized team training and priority phone support. If you need help at 2 a.m., whether you’re in California or Calcutta, you will immediately get the answers and help that you need.
If you’re uncertain which features you need, or how Caplinked’s VDR plans compare to the competition’s, contact our sales and support team for a candid conversation. To try Caplinked’s VDR for yourself, register today for a free trial. Find out what is available, discover how easy it is to use, and feel free to talk to our support team at any time.
Caplinked: Enterprise Information Control