An alternative to the physical data room involves the setting up of a virtual data room in the form of an extranet to which the bidders and their advisers are given access via the internet. An extranet is essentially a website with limited controlled access, using a secure log-on supplied by the vendor, which can be disabled at any time, by the vendor, if a bidder withdraws. Much of the information released is confidential and restrictions are applied to the viewer’s ability to release this to third parties (by means of forwarding, copying or printing). This can be effectively applied to protect the data using digital rights management.
In the process of mergers and acquisitions the data room is set up as part of the central repository of data relating to companies or divisions being acquired or sold. The data room enables the interested parties to view information relating to the business in a controlled environment where confidentiality can be preserved. Conventionally this was achieved by establishing a supervised, physical data room in secure premises with controlled access. In most cases, with a physical data room, only one bidder team can access the room at a time. A virtual data room is designed to have the same advantages as a conventional data room (controlling access, viewing, copying and printing, etc.) with fewer disadvantages. Due to their increased efficiency, many businesses and industries have moved to using virtual data rooms instead of physical data rooms. In 2006, a spokesperson for a company which sets up virtual deal rooms was reported claiming that the process reduced the bidding process by about thirty days compared to physical data rooms.