Telecommunications & customised satellite solutions

Key facts

  • • Country: Singapore
  • • End users: over 10,000 ships
  • • Request: reliable remote support on 64 kbps stream or below

Remote Support in a Low Bandwidth Environment

Singtel Satellite is Asia's leading provider of customised satellite solutions for corporate customers in various industries, such as shipping, offshore, oil and gas. In 2008, Singtel has set a strategic focus on Maritime communications and launched their "Office-at-Sea" suite. With their services installed on more than 10,000 ships, Singtel enables their customers to maintain critical business communications between their global offices and remote operations at sea.

Singtel was intensely searching for a snappier and more responsive remote access and support software, as their previous solution didn't prove reliable on low bandwidth connections and was using up too much data.

"Most of our clients operate in satellite network where data transfer is a scarce and expensive commodity and run their business on a limited bandwidth data plan, which limits them to transfer no more than 250Mb per month," points out Sunil Janardhanan, product developer and senior engineer at Singtel Satellite and continues: "That is why our aim was to find a remote desktop software working reliably in a low bandwidth environment, such as 64kbps."

ISL Online turns out to be an exceptionally efficient tool when it comes to low bandwidth and high-latency networks. "We have been providing remote desktop software since 2003. Back then, many people were using dial-up Internet connections. So, that made us focus on overcoming the low bandwidth constraints," explains Jure Pompe, ISL Online CEO.

How does ISL Online work on a limited bandwidth?

There are several factors that affect the size of a transferred data, most decisive are screen activity, meaning changes which happen on a remote screen, streaming screen resolution and colour depth.

In collaboration with ISL Online's support team, Singtel Satellite performed various test sessions with different configurations of the above-mentioned factors to make sure ISL Online runs smoothly without disconnections on bandwidth 64kbps and below.

The tests have shown that screen activity has a dominant impact on a data usage, yet the idle state (no screen activity except for a clock in a taskbar) and medium screen activity (moderate command prompt usage ), do not overflow the 64kbps limit. Screen resolution (1280x1024 vs. 1024x768) seems to add a little to the overall bandwidth, while the difference between very low (8 colours) and low (64 colours) colour modes did not have significant impact on the bandwidth consumption.

ISL Online is a remote desktop software designed for two usage scenarios, to provide remote technical support, or to access unattended remote computers. Once in session, there is no significant difference in data usage between the two scenarios. In both cases, medium screen activity in low color mode when connected to a remote computer with screen resolution of 1280x1024 or lower will consume between 30kbps and 40kbps.

Comfortable and reliable cloud license

After a successful test phase, Singtel Satellite decided to choose the cloud-based ISL Online service, which doesn't require any extra staff to manage the service and boasts 99.98% uptime over the past 8 years due to clever load balancing and high data security.

To ensure the best user experience, Singtel Satellite installed ISL Online's remote access agents on computers running on-board ships. This way, Singtel's technical support team can easily access remote computers at sea and troubleshoot devices on the vessels.

No compromises when it comes to security

Besides working on a lower bandwidth, the next essential requirement was maximum security of a remote desktop service. "We were not willing to make compromises on security. Only a highly secure solution with the highest level of encryption and other security mechanisms in place was an option," says Janardhanan.

ISL Online sessions are encrypted using symmetrical AES 256 Bit keys. A secure SSL end-to-end tunnel is established between the operator (help desk technician) and the client (end-user). This means that even the ISL Online servers cannot decrypt the content of the sessions but only transfer encrypted data from one side to another. In case of Singtel Satellite this means back and forth from the operational centre in Singapore to offshore cruising vessels.