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Pros and Cons of Plugins and Other Downloads


As a data room user, you are looking for a solution that is secure and allows all participants to work quickly and efficiently, without unnecessary delays in getting started.

Many VDRs require users to download a plugin or an app on their computer. This is often considered an undesirable feature, as it may lead to delays in the Due Diligence process and pose security risks.

Not all plugins or downloaded apps are necessarily “bad", however. If the software is safe and easy to install, it can improve the functionality of the data room and enhance the overall user experience.

When do plugins and apps enhance functionality, and when do they cause delays and pose security risks?

Delays in installation risk delays in the deal

Installing plugins or apps on your computer in itself does not have to be a problem. However, it may require administrator rights. As most users in a professional setting do not have such rights, they will need to ask their IT department to install the software. That means it can take hours, or even days before they can get started. This can be an issue both sell-side and bidder-side.

SELL-SIDE. A plugin or app on the sell-side is often required for uploading data. Requiring your IT department to upload it could delay the start of the online Due Diligence process. However, though inconvenient, this does not have to be a show stopper, as you can plan for this.

BIDDER-SIDE. On the bidders’ side, plugins often pose the biggest issues. A plugin may even be required to view documents in the VDR securely. Often the plugin issue surfaces only when the bidders are given access to the VDR. As bidders need to be able to start immediately, serious delays and frustration will result, even if no admin rights are required.

Ideally, the VDR provides a suite of solutions. A solution that is completely download free, allowing even the least computer-savvy user to get started right away, and another solution that allows advanced functionality (such as detailed inspection of Excel files) but requires a download or app to be installed, albeit without requiring admin rights.

Security Risks associated with plugins

At this point it is important to highlight the difference between plugins and apps? Browser Plugins, such as Adobe Flash, are often employed to add additional functionality outside the standard browser operation. Plugins can make the browser vulnerable to cyber-attacks: in recent years hackers have used vulnerabilities in plugins to gain access to operating systems. Obviously, you don’t want to expose the data on your computer to such threats.

Because of this, IT departments are increasingly blocking the use of certain plugins altogether. As a result, with certain VDRs, basic functionality, such as opening documents, reports and/or Q&A may not be available to sell-side or bidder teams at all. This would bring the online Due Diligence process to a complete standstill, while you seek out an alternative VDR provider.

Apps, on the other hand, are stand-alone computer programs that do not necessarily pose such security risks. They are considered safe because they do not influence the functionality of other computer programs.

From a security perspective, apps are more acceptable than plugins. It is expected that professional VDR providers will phase out browser plugins altogether in the near future.

Conclusion: A quick guide to selecting your next data room

How should you select a VDR provider for your particular project? You may want to ask the following 3 simple questions:

  • Are completely plugin- and download-free solutions available for both the sell- and the buy-side, to facilitate both getting started right away?
  • If a plugin needs to be installed, are you sure that it is not blacklisted by your IT department, or at the bidder companies?
  • If a plugin or app does need to be installed for enhanced functionality, can it be installed without admin rights?
At Imprima, our solutions tick every box. If you would like more information, please CONTACT US.