Japan hooked on this firm's remote access products
For decades people have been working on computers, and remote access tools — controlling their computers from outside the office — provided the freedom for them to work anywhere.
A Korean based remote access "solutions" company has conquered one of the toughest markets in the world, Japan.
"Japan is a market where the best global IT companies fiercely compete against each other," said Rsupport CEO Seo Hyung-su. "For software providers to catch the attention of corporate customers, you need be a company that has world renown technology unparalleled to other big IT giants."
Seoul-based Rsupport has penetrated the neighboring country so successfully that it is the top provider of remote access solutions, beating out competitors such as Japanese tech company e-Jan Networks or California-based Splashtop.
Remote access solutions allow employees to control their computer at the office while being anywhere they want. People can access almost everything back at the office — printers, software installed on company computers, public folders and more.
Rsupport's RemoteView had the largest market share of Japan's public cloud-based remote access market, 70 percent, based on data from between June and September 2020, according to a report by Japan-based MIC Research Institute. RemoteView is a tool that allows users to control their computers from phones and tablet PCs.
The company has been maintaining a market share between 60 to 70 percent for over 10 years in Japan since 2007 due to its high security standards and glitch-free services.
Globally, Rsupport is No. 5 in the remote support software industry with a market share of 5.7 percent in 2014, following companies such as Germany's TeamViewer, California-based WebEx and LogMeIn, headquartered in Boston. Rsupport says International Data Corporation, the institution that conducted the research, "didn't publish any more market share data [since 2014] since there has been not much change in the global market share."
Some 66.3 percent of Rsupport’s revenues of 30.1 billion won ($25.6 million) in the January-June period of this year came from foreign countries. Although the company doesn’t provide a breakdown by country for confidentiality reasons, it said Japan is a major source of sales for RemoteView. Foreign subscriptions accounted for 60.6 percent of RemoteView's total sales in the first quarter.
Video conferencing services such as Zoom or Google Meet first comes to mind when picturing work-from-home technologies, but remote access tools head the market in Japan. The company also offers RemoteCall, a remote access system that allows people such as customer service agents to remotely control their client's devices, and RemoteMeeting, a video conferencing tool.
For most of the world, the Covid-19 pandemic was the first time employees were forced to start working from home. Japan had an earlier introduction: the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.
Commuting to work was impossible in many areas, and companies quickly acknowledged the need to establish emergency protocols for employees to work at home. Video conferencing tools allowed employees to communicate, but remote access services that provided full access to the office computers and internet-connected facilities were also needed.
Many companies subscribed to remote access tools so they would be prepared to deal with future natural disasters, and Rsupport was able to attract customers by providing free trials for months after the earthquake.
Years after that tragedy, the Japanese government started encouraging remote work to ease congestion ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. It designated every July 24 since 2017 as "Telework Day," encouraging companies to let their employees work remotely.
A difference in Japanese work style is another factor. Rather than frequently having in-company meetings, employees tend to spend more time working individually on their computers.
“Some even say that meetings make up for more than half of the work time at Korean companies, but in Japan, working individually on computers, doing research and preparing for a meeting makes up a larger portion of the workday," said Seo. "[Companies in] Japan basically tend to have fewer meetings compared to those in Korea.”
Last May in Japan, the usage rate — time spent using RemoteView — surged 2,280 percent compared to January, when the country had yet to be hit very hard by the pandemic.
Rsupport was established in 2001, and almost immediately tapped into the Japanese market in 2002 by signing a distribution agreement with local IT firm Santec.
The company established an overseas branch in China in 2009 and started to offer services to customers in Australia starting in 2019.
No one likes lags or slowdowns in computer services, or crashes. Preventing technological glitches helped Rsupport improve its business in Japan.
Companies offering remote work tools saw record number of new customers during the pandemic. Although this was an opportunity, keeping up with the sudden increase in traffic was crucial.
Japan’s first Covid-19 case was reported on Jan. 16, 2020. Sensing that this could be the start of a wide-spread pandemic and a surge in remote work applications, Rsupport proactively increased the capacity of its server for RemoteView in January by 40 times the original capacity to prepare for more users. The server for RemoteMeeting was also scaled up by a factor of ten.
The company provided free trials for its three remote work tools — RemoteView, RemoteCall and RemoteMeeting — during the early stages of the pandemic and attracted many customers. The number of RemoteView users in Japan surged 50 times between April 6 and 12, compared to Jan. 6 and 12. Despite the sudden increase, the company was able to provide fast and stable connections due to the amping up of its server.
With other companies failing to manage their surges in business, Rsupport saw an influx of customers.
“A rival company of ours in the Japanese market couldn’t handle the sudden increase in traffic, and many of their clients changed to RemoteView,” said Seo.
A local Japanese IT software distributor decided to carry Rsupport’s products rather than its existing remote access service. The free trial strategy was also successful, with over 50 percent of the companies using RemoteView switching to a paid subscription after free trials ended.
High security standards
With employees working at home, businesses aren’t protected by company’s firewalls.
Ensuring a high level of data protection for its work-from-home tools helped Rsupport win over security-conscious companies.
Its remote access tool has two lines of defense. It uses a 256 bit advanced encryption standard (AES) system, the highest security standard established by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. A 128 bit secure socket layer (SSL) system is a secondary security wall.
The system also has a two-step log-in process: first with each individual’s password and then with a one-time password (OTP) that changes every time users log in.
The company can set up a specific geographical range and time in which people are granted access to company computers, preventing any non-employees from hacking into the business' data.
With high security standards, the service has been popular with financial institutions, which are particularly concerned with information breaches.
Insurance company Sompo Japan subscribed to remote work tools such as VPNs and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) since 2014 to allow its employees work at home during emergencies. However, people working in accounting, human resources and insurance weren’t allowed to for safety reasons.
To allow employees in security-sensitive fields to work from home during the pandemic, the company additionally subscribed to RemoteView in March last year. Employees in those three sectors were only allowed to access company networks via RemoteView.
In Korea, Mirae Asset Global Investments has been using the service since February 2020. The Korea Life Insurance Association has been using RemoteView SE, an upgraded version with even tighter security measures.
The SE version allows an administrator to check and monitor all access history of users connecting to the company computers, blocking users suspected to be non-employees. It also prevents remote devices from downloading and uploading files from and to an external computer and has a watermark function to prevent company data from being screen-grabbed.
A new future in metaverse
Companies have been taking remote work to the next level by creating virtual offices in the metaverse, and Rsupport is betting on the new trend to build its market share abroad.
Real estate listings app Zigbang has had all its employees working on the metaverse platform “Metapolis” since June. Facebook unveiled a beta version of “Horizon Workrooms,” an application that allows employees to work in a 3-D virtual office by using virtual reality gear. The app is at a limited invite-only stage, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a July earnings call that “the metaverse is also going to be the next chapter for us as a company.”
Rsupport in August joined the Metaverse Alliance — a Ministry of Science and ICT-led industry group of some 200 companies interested in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence. The company's goal is to develop a metaverse work platform, and they're eyeing both local and global markets.
“Experts say that a hybrid workforce that actively utilizes remote work and video conferencing tools will be the norm in the post-Covid-19 era,” said Seo. “It is expected that demand for virtual work using metaverse will increase not only in Korea, but also abroad as well.”
Rsupport is in the research and development stage to develop extended reality (XR) technology and in talks to collaborate with other Metaverse Alliance companies.
Someday, avatars of employees will be able to walk around a computer-generated environment exactly like their original office. Sitting at virtual desks and workstations, employees will be able to remotely control their office desktop and communicate with their colleagues.
“Technology and products related to VR and AR are developing at a fast pace with global companies in the lead,” said Seo. “We plan to strengthen our value as an IT company by developing products and features related to newest technologies such as AI and the metaverse.”
BY LEE TAE-HEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]