SS&C Intralinks pioneered the first Virtual Data Room (VDR) in 2002 to empower M&A teams on either side of the bargaining table to share sensitive electronic files securely and in a controlled manner. Over the next decade, Intralinks grew to rank #1 worldwide for market share revenue among enterprise file sync and share solutions (EFSS). And Gartner recognized the company’s leadership position year-after-year in its Magic Quadrant report for EFSS.
Today, Intralinks has the largest community of financial service professionals among VDR providers and 99% adoption across the Fortune 1000s, with big-name customers including Goldman Sachs, Ares, Whole Foods, Starbucks, L'Oréal, and DuPont. Intralinks SVP of Design & Product Management Cengiz Satir stated, "We've been the de facto standard in the VDR space for some time. Now it's about leveraging the underlying technology and broadening the use cases we can solve."
In 2019, Intralinks set out to capture additional customer workflows with innovative redaction tools online. Partnering with PDFTron, Intralinks could bring a unique web-based redaction offering to market in just 2.5 months, with the new web-based features then winning adoption among billion-dollar companies demanding the highest data security and privacy.
"It was, definitely, an opportunity to leverage those years of expertise and experience, and the breadth of capabilities PDFTron brings to the table, so we could achieve the best user experience and make the product increasingly better in a very short amount of time," stated Satir.
- Intralinks customers include Fortune 1000 companies doing billion-dollar deals, with mistakes potentially costing billions
- Needed a 100% secure and easy-to-use redactor to ensure adoption across high-profile accounts
- Desire to maintain its reputation as innovator in the VDR space
With PDFTron, Intralinks centralized on a single "universal" viewer and document technology platform, enabling ROI in several areas:
- Consolidated redaction workflows with various document file formats in one easy-to-maintain and easy-to-use viewer
- Enabled rapid deployment of innovative web-based redaction features in 2.5 months, start to finish
- Reduced operational costs and consumption of network bandwidth
- Achieved high levels of user adoption of new features across important accounts
- Support for future addition of key document features to continually enhance the Intralinks redaction offering
In the context of M&A transactions, where billions of dollars are often at stake, the wrong information revealed to the wrong person at the wrong time could impact deal valuation -- or contribute to deal-killing delays. In other contexts, privacy breaches carry millions of dollars in potential regulatory fines, expensive litigation costs, and damaged reputation.
Serving the enterprise market with VDRs, therefore, requires Intralinks to deliver features to control, track, and audit every file shared on its platform to ensure the utmost security, privacy, and compliance. And Intralinks wanted to give its customers the same extensive control over sensitive information within their shared documents via professional PDF redaction capabilities.
In adding redaction to its VDRs, Intralinks ventured to solve several pains associated with less-optimal redaction methods. These included re-work and errors in proof-reading -- as well as wasteful, old-fashioned practices, such as manually marking up printed documents with a Sharpie and re-scanning into the system. It also included PDF redaction with a web-based tool to apply dark highlights, annotations, or images over sensitive areas but not eradicate the content underneath, leaving the content not actually redacted but just masked. Such improvised methods have been the source of many high-profile redaction failures and data breaches, such as during the Paul Manafort trial and Jeffrey Epstein investigation.
In its attempt to eliminate delays, human error, and failure to redact with the appropriate technologies and best-practices, Intralinks looked to the commercial document SDK market for a professional solution.
“We looked to implement a viewer tab and wanted a true universal viewer to standardize across all our products and to easily extend with additional capabilities,” stated Satir.
Intralinks also required this solution to be easily configurable to minimize the transmission and editing of files. Any significant back and forth over the network and recursive edits to files would add latency to the user experience; it would also complicate the embedding of redaction capabilities from a security and compliance standpoint.
Intralinks Consulting Software Engineer Peter Cassin explained: “Any time files are changed within Intralinks, it’s a heavy-duty process; we need to track every file and audit who updated it and all of the changes.”
“What we didn’t want was someone coming in and doing a one-word change, having to push the file over the wire into our server, and having another person perform a redaction -- only to have the whole document go over again.”
Intralinks came to PDFTron drawn to the SDK’s unique ability to redact documents directly in a web client application via PDFTron’s WebViewer, a WebAssembly port of the cross-platform (core) PDFTron SDK. Webviewer’s client-side capabilities would simplify adding redaction from a security standpoint, as files could be interacted on and edited locally in the web client, without transmission of unencrypted sensitive data over a network.
The Intralinks team was initially concerned whether WebViewer would be easy to deal with and reliable when building their POC, as other web-based libraries had proven to be of lower quality and difficult to work with when stress-tested.
But Intralinks Principal Product Manager Bryan Mannetta found that with PDFTron, “it was painless getting it in there. And it all just worked by and large. We weren't able to lock WebViewer up, even when I threw a thousand redactions at it and had them all sit there and burn down at once."
He also said, "The support from PDFTron was superb, both in reaching a developer whenever to get immediate responses and the breadth of example code across the multiplication of every possible OS, library, and modern UI frameworks. These made it so much easier for us to just dive in."
While Intralinks came to PDFTron for its client-side solution, WebViewer, PDFTron ultimately enabled Intralinks with a comprehensive and flexible cross-platform framework. This allowed Intralinks to combine PDFTron's complementary server-side document processing and client-side viewing technologies empowering its users to perform professional redaction on large documents with the utmost speed and confidence.
Cassin stated, "It wasn't just the underlying technology but the ecosystem of PDFTron products. With so many options and ways of customizing them, including the WebViewer client and the server-side APIs, that gave us a lot of chances to come up with new ideas and products, and rapidly push those out."
Instead of passing entire files around for each change, Intralinks found it could have users apply their redaction annotations with WebViewer and resolve issues via the comment features, while retaining the original source document as users worked in draft mode.
"Using PDFTron's built-in annotation features, we could grab the XFDF markup and shift that over to the server instead," said Cassin. "Since there are no actual physical changes made to the original document, it saves pretty quickly."
Proof-reading would be accelerated by PDFTron's advanced PDF search engine, including the advanced regular expression (regex) search, allowing for fast identification of potentially sensitive strings in documents such as phone and social security numbers, in addition to basic keywords. Intralinks had no problem quickly styling the open-source WebViewer UI to add buttons for advanced search. These would enable users to identify their regular expressions in a file at a click, without any understanding of the math behind regex.
Finally, Intralinks used PDFTron's powerful server-side processing to accelerate even the most extensive redaction operations, to eradicate all traces of sensitive information within redacted areas, before uploading a modified version of the document back into its VDRs. At any point thereafter, users could revert their redactions with the unredact feature, using PDFTron to reveal deleted content selectively, without users having to restart their edits from scratch, making for a great user experience.
The partnership with PDFTron enabled Intralinks to roll out a unique web-based redaction offering in 2.5 months from its initial planning brainstorm to product launch, according to Satir. More importantly, the new, PDFTron-powered viewer tab with professional redaction capabilities proved a hit with customers, who appreciated the level of control over their redactions it offered and how PDFTron’s advanced search capabilities made it possible to rip through their redactions on large documents accurately.
Mannetta stated, "Since we implemented the redaction capability, the feedback we've been getting has been extremely positive. We've seen very high levels of adoption among our customers, like William Blair and DuPont, including strong adoption of the regular expression feature, with users saying it's powerful."
Satir added: “It was a great end-to-end process. Having that level of collaboration with PDFTron in the early stages of planning and across our journey was super important in validating our use cases and MVP, to get the product out the door and across all our initiatives going forward very quickly.”
Cloud-based financial technology provider for global banking, dealmaking and capital markets
Intralinks facilitates strategic initiatives like mergers and acquisitions, capital raising and investor reporting by enabling and securing the flow of information. More than two decades after pioneering the virtual data room, they are still the leading innovator in financial technology, trusted by more than 99% of the Fortune 1000. Learn more at intralinks.com.