Showing posts from 2015

About Start Software

Start Software is an award-winning developer and leading publisher of asbestos software, systems for the legal services industry and more.

Want to know more about asbestos software Alpha Tracker? Alpha Tracker is the most used asbestos software in the UK, Australia & New Zealand with more than 60m items of asbestos data stored.

Our legal services software Alpha Legal helps will writers, accountants, solicitors, IFAs and estate agents to communicate securely with clients. Read about developments here on the blog.

Or need help with Alpha Anywhere or Alpha Transform projects or software development? You'll find useful info here.

Christmas Greetings from Start Software

Thanks so much for your support and business throughout 2015.

We're really excited about our plans for the New Year and we'll be sharing these with you in a newsletter in January.

Our Support Desk (0845 612 2402) is open every day through the holiday period (other than the Bank Holidays) to support you and your staff so do call as normal if you need help.

We hope you have a great break and a very healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.  Speak to you in 2016!

Start Software at the Birmingham Christmas Markets
PS as usual, instead of buying Christmas cards, we've donated to our local Community First Responder group (Robin is a CFR himself).  Hope you approve!

Surveyor dictation facility in Tracker Mobile gets a "wow"!

We've been training lots of new asbestos surveyors this week to use our Tracker Mobile and Alpha Tracker asbestos software systems.

One feature - the ability to dictate notes into Tracker Mobile - got a "wow" from the audience!

See what you think...

Alpha Tracker's automated survey data check tool - update available

Following on from the update to AlphaValidator we released at the start of December, we've just made v1.0.69 SVN24 available with a new data check.

We've had a busy week training new asbestos surveyors (see and and during the training we often get prompted to make improvements to our Alpha Tracker asbestos software or Tracker Mobile on-site handheld surveying module.

One of the suggestions this week was to add a data check in for areas of no access that had been recorded without associated reasons or notes - great idea!

AlphaValidator output showing the new "Q" data check
If you need help to install the update, please contact our Support Desk.

Alpha Tracker training underway at ACS Physical Risk Control

World-renowned asbestos specialists ACS Physical Risk Control have completed their initial Alpha Tracker training at their offices in Glasgow.

ACS offer the full complement of professional, technical and training support required to protect their clients against liability and to achieve best practice in risk control. This includes developing and implementing policies, procedures and management systems, as well as carrying out the many technical aspects of risk assessment and control, including monitoring for workplace and environmental hazards; specific risk assessments and surveys; laboratory analysis; and staff training.

ACS Physical Risk Control's informative website
For over 30 years, they have been providing high quality support throughout the UK, Canada, the USA, the Middle East, Japan, the Falklands and Africa to an enviable client list including local and national Government, the European Union, the World Bank and a host of blue chip companies and Small-Medium Enterprises alike.

We're delighted that ACS have chosen Alpha Tracker to be their software system of choice and we look forward to working with them over the next few months to get all of their staff and processes up and running.

Here are some of the photos we took on site today:

Surveyors working with handheld surveying software Tracker Mobile

More surveying!

Admin staff learning Alpha Tracker

Central Demolition go live with Alpha Tracker

Kim & I have really enjoyed today's training sessions at Central Demolition, the Bonnybridge-based asbestos specialists.

Central Demolition's comprehensive website
Central Demolition is a demolition, asbestos removal, asbestos surveying and recycling contractor serving clients throughout the UK.  The business was established back in 1993 and has been thriving for the past two decades.

They are members of the National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC) and the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA), hold a wide range of other memberships and accreditations and are multiple award winners.  A key factor in their success has been their continued investment in skilled personnel, training, facilities and equipment and Alpha Tracker is their latest investment to improve the service they provide to their clients.

We welcome the asbestos surveying professionals at Central Demolition to the Alpha Tracker family and look forward to a long relationship with them.

Here are some of the photos we took whilst we were on site today:

Central Demolition's impressive reception

Kim briefing the admin staff

The asbestos surveyors getting to grips with Tracker Mobile

The superb training facilities

One of the Central Demolition fleet

Am I on the latest Alpha Tracker release? Does it matter?

I've been calling customers this week to tell them about the amazing new features we've introduced into our asbestos software system Alpha Tracker over the last few months... and what is coming up in the November/December release.

The response is often "Aren't we on the latest release?  How can I tell?".  Fair question!

You can check your version number by looking at the bottom of the Alpha Tracker main screen:

This one shows SVN1748.  If you check your own version, are you some way behind?

We publish details of each monthly update on our blog and on YouTube.  Here are some of the latest update posts:

So does it matter if you are not on the latest one?  You'll be missing out on new features and performance updates but you are perfectly entitled to stay on any release you want.  The updates are free, of course, and they do help us to help you (as we fix bugs along the way, too), so we'd generally prefer you stay up with the latest versions if you can.

Hope this info helps and makes sense.  Do contact us on the Support Desk on 0845 612 2402 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) for more info.

Ness Asbestos go live with Alpha Tracker

Asbestos consultancy Ness Asbestos has gone live with the Alpha Tracker asbestos software system from Start Software.

Ness Asbestos are a UKAS ISO17020:2012 accredited asbestos surveying company based in Inverness and can satisfy the complete range of asbestos requirements from management surveys, refurbishment/demolition surveys, management plans to re-surveys. They are accredited as a Type C inspection body and their asbestos surveyors are trained to BOHS P402 and S301 standards and have extensive experience in surveying various building types.

Ness surveyors testing their Tracker Mobile skills
Our trainer Kim has been in Inverness to train the Ness surveyors in the use of the back-office software as well as the handheld surveying application, Tracker Mobile.

Using Alpha Tracker should massively reduce the admin time necessary to produce asbestos reports whilst increasing consistency of data collection and reporting.  Use of the handheld data capture app Tracker Mobile (on Android or iOS smartphones or tablets) will enable sample data, photos and plans to be sent back to the Alpha Tracker cloud direct from site.

We wish Ness well and if they can help you with your asbestos surveying needs in Inverness or the surrounding area then please to get in touch with them via their website at

the Ness Asbestos website

Support Stats for November 2015

Our Support Desk has published its call stats for November.

During the month they answered 399 calls for help and 89% were resolved in the mutually agreed time-scales.  That's within a whisker of our 90% target.

If we just look at high priority problems, then the figures are even better with 95% being resolved in time,

Congratulations to Jack and the team for another good month following on from the excellent October results.

Robson Environmental go live with Alpha Tracker

Robson Environmental Pty Ltd have gone live with asbestos and hazardous material software management system Alpha Tracker after receiving training from Alpha Tracker consultant Judy Key.

Established in 1990, Robson Environmental Pty Ltd services clients throughout Australia and overseas from their office in Canberra. Robson Environmental's customer service and quality focused multi-disciplinary environmental consultants provide Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) training, job safety analysis services, asbestos testing, environmental risk assessment and management expertise and services to residential, government, commercial and industry clients.

Robson's expertise has enabled Start Software to expand the range of data collected and processed by Alpha Tracker to include a wide range of hazardous materials.  

Can we help your asbestos, environmental or hazardous materials consultancy to streamline and automate your business?  Get in touch if we can.

Euro Environmental's switch to Alpha Tracker complete

Kim was back on site at asbestos consultancy Euro Environmental on Friday to help with their weekend switch-over to asbestos management system Alpha Tracker (see

Euro Environmental's Doncaster HQ
It's great to see new asbestos survey projects flying in and out of the system - welcome on board Euro!

AlphaValidator update released (v1.0.67 SVN23)

It has been a while since our asbestos data checker for Alpha Tracker has been updated (see but thanks to a nudge from a client (CJ... you know who you are!!) we've improved some of the data checks and released v1.0.67 SVN23.

This is available for immediate download from - give us a ring if you're not sure how to update your system.

Alpha Tracker featured at International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management

Judy and Leanne have just returned from the International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management where they were presenting our asbestos software Alpha Tracker to an audience of asbestos, building and health professionals.

Start Software/Alpha Tracker attended the conference and set up an information booth to provide asbestos auditors and surveyors the chance to see first-hand how our software can help their business. We provided on the spot demonstrations of the handset Tracker Mobile auditing software, as well as Alpha Tracker’s data management and report production functions.

If you would like more information about Alpha Tracker and how it could help your asbestos consultancy, please do get in touch.

Tracker Dashboard update available

We've updated Tracker Dashboard, the software module within our asbestos system Tracker and Alpha Tracker that produces daily/weekly/monthly dashboard emails.

The latest release, v1.0.254 SVN53, is a bug-fix release and is available for immediate download from

If you need help updating the system, please do get in touch.

Alpha Tracker Document Maker improved again

We've just released v1.4.703 SVN136 of our rereport-producing module, Alpha Tracker Document Maker.  This module produces asbestos reports and other project documents for our asbestos software system, Alpha Tracker.

This latest version has improved facilities for producing Excel asbestos registers including conditional cell background colours and tables split by building or priority, for example.

Some of the new Excel register facilities

The latest release is available for download from our website (see or contact our Support Desk if you would like us to update your system for you.

SAS Asbestos go live with Alpha Tracker

Specialist asbestos consultancy SAS Asbestos went live this week with asbestos software system Alpha Tracker from Start Software.

SAS Asbestos website
Stephenson's Analytical Services (SAS) are a UKAS accredited laboratory for asbestos building services and asbestos bulk sample analysis.  They offer the full range of site asbestos services and it has been our pleasure to get to know the professional asbestos staff who work there.

Kim was on site to train the admin, lab and asbestos survey staff this in the use of Alpha Tracker and Tracker Mobile, our handheld field data capture app.

PS we've got nine (9!) Alpha Tracker installations to deliver before the end of the year... one down, eight to go!

Another Microsoft Access -> Alpha Anywhere & SQL Server conversion complete

We've been maintaining and developing a Microsoft Access-based ERP system for window and door manufacturer HTL for a few years now.  HTL are a specialist aluminium window and door manufacturer and have been operating for over 20 years.

HTL's manufacturing HQ
HTL's system works end-to-end in their successful business, from quotation right through to invoicing.  Microsoft Access has had sufficient capacity to support their growing business until now but collectively we felt it was time to develop a more robust, expandable and better performing system using Alpha Anywhere from Alpha SoftwareSQL Server from Microsoft.

We took the approach of developing the replacement system alongside their Access system, with the same Access back-end database being accessible from both.  This meant that staff could use the web-enabled Alpha Anywhere version for increasingly more operations whilst still having the old Access-based system to fall back on if necessary.

Once all the development was complete, we were given the OK to switch off the old Access front-end to confirm that all necessary functionality existed in the new Alpha web-enabled front-end and - after two weeks of successful running - we migrated the data from Access MDBs to SQL Server to complete the system development.

It was a good development for new developer Tom to get his teeth into and HTL are very pleased with the result - a new, web-enabled software system with increased speed and reliability.  And HTL clients may now access to data via the web and via Android, iOS or Windows apps.

Good result all round - thanks to Tom's professionalism and the flexibility and power of Alpha Anywhere.

If we can help you to move a system from Access to Alpha, get in touch.

November's Alpha Tracker update - anything you want to see?

We've started this month's update to our asbestos software system, Alpha Tracker.

One of the updated Alpha Tracker screens from the October update
We update monthly in order to deliver as many changes requested by our customers as possible (see and for the last two updates).

Is there something you'd like to see in the software?  Please get in touch and let us know!

November 2015's Tracker Newsletter

We've just published our regular newsletter for our asbestos software systems, Tracker and Alpha Tracker.

Do you subscribe?  Would you like a copy?  Get in touch!

Tracker News - November 2015

New Asbestos Register layouts in Alpha Tracker

We've updated our Alpha Tracker Document Maker module to version 1.4.684 (SVN127) with new options for multi-row asbestos registers in asbestos reports.

What do we mean by "multi-row"?  Take a look at this asbestos register:

You can see that the Recommended Action appears underneath the first line of data and then on row 4, 6, 8 etc.  Our software now supports 2-row layouts, 3-row layouts and even 4-row layouts!

If you would like to change your own asbestos report format to take advantage of this improvement, get in touch with the Support Desk.

Alpha Tracker Google Calendar Sync - update November 2015

We've just improved Alpha Tracker and the Google Calendar Sync feature.

Google Calendar Sync enables you to have appointments created in Alpha Tracker automatically sync with individual diaries on smartphones, tablets and PCs.  Our latest feature is that the location of the appointment will also sync across meaning that staff can use Google Maps to find the best route to their appointment with just one tap of their screen.

Here's a quick video to show the feature in action:

If you would like this feature, you need to update to the October release of Alpha Tracker and then call the office to have the Calendar Sync module update applied.

Start Software Support Stats - October 2015

It's been another really good month for the Start Software Support Desk following on from September's improved performance.

We answered 444 queries from customers in October and more than 95% of the high priority ones were resolved in the time-scales agreed with the customer:

Support stats for October 2015
We had a particularly busy week at the end of the month with lots of calls from asbestos consultancies and asbestos surveyors asking about the latest update to our asbestos software, Alpha Tracker - you can read all about the update here.

Another new Alpha Tracker feature for October 2015!

Early today I blogged about the October 2015 release of our asbestos software Alpha Tracker (see and I mentioned that we might be able to squeeze in another feature or two before the month-end.

We've managed to fit one more in and it is quite an interesting one.  We had a request from a favourite customer a fortnight ago along these lines: "Might it be possible to flag a project to appear on more than one client's portal?".

So in SVN1712 we have a new setting which enables this feature and allows individual projects to be tagged for display on the client portal to any number of client IDs in addition to the "owning" client's ID:

a project can now be shown on any number of client portals
These "linked projects" appear on the client portal in their own section - to make it clear that they are special projects made available to the client logging in:

these extra projects appear in their own section on the portal

October 2015 update to Alpha Tracker is now live

Our asbestos software system Alpha Tracker has been updated again with the October 2015 release (pre-announced here

This version (known as SVN1707) has 100+ or so new features, performance improvements and bug fixes since the September update.

Lab managers will especially pleased with this update as we've introduced fully-blind re-checks and a new Lab Check Dashboard:

Alpha Tracker's new Lab Check Dashboard
Kim has updated the release notes (you can view them here - scroll down to the bottom of the page) and I've recorded a short video to run through the highlights for you (click to play):

We've started planning the November update for Alpha Tracker - keep in touch with ideas!

October 2015's Alpha Tracker update is just days away

We've incorporated another 100 new features and performance improvements into October's update to our asbestos software and surveying system, Alpha Tracker.

The update will be available next week (queue the Countdown music!!).

Kim is busy updating the user guide and release notes and I'll be blogging the key features next week in the usual way (by YouTube video).  See for last month's update.

Mobile Data Studio 8.0

A major update to Mobile Data Studio has been released.  The new version is v8.0 and full details are available here.

details of the Mobile Data v8.0 upgrade

Mobile Data Studio is a key component of our Tracker & Alpha Tracker asbestos software systems for asbestos consultancies and it powers our handheld surveying solution, Tracker Mobile.

asbestos surveyor using Tracker Mobile from Start Software
The latest version has some great new features for system administrators, including:

  • better search and sort options in the Data Window
  • automatic deployment of Tracker Mobile to new handsets
  • mapping options direct from MDS.
You are welcome to upgrade your own system and handsets or contact our Support Desk if you would like us to do it for you.  Before upgrading please make sure you have a backup of all Tracker Mobile files - just in case!  There is no charge for this update.

How do we deliver 24x7 support?

It was a proud day when we started to offer 24x7 personal support to our customers.  A question we're often asked is How do we do it?

The answer is simple - we have staff working around the world together with a call handling service we've used since we started in business more than 15 years ago - and one which has grown with us over the years and which is now a huge and thriving business serving customers globally.

When you phone our UK number during office hours, UK-based staff will take your call.  Phone us out-of-hours, and the call will be silently (and at no charge to you!) transferred to our call handlers in Australia or New Zealand.

Our Quality Manager Kim is currently enjoying the benefits of our Australian connections.  She is working out of our Adelaide office for a few weeks to support some new asbestos consultancy customers working with our Alpha Tracker system.  She Skyped these photos over showing the office and the view she's enjoying out to the ocean:

Start Software's Adelaide base

Not a bad view!
The Adelaide weather is perfect at this time of year - lucky Kim!

ISO9001:2008 inspection visit at Start Software - perfect result

We've had a tough, intensive day here in Bridgnorth with our Lloyds' ISO9001 inspector and without our Quality Manager Kim who is working (hard) in our Australian office.

After reviewing our processes, "paperwork" and systems the assessor has signed us off with no non-conformances at all.  This is a fantastic result and a real credit to Kim, Elaine and the team.

extracted from today's ISO9001 report


(see for details of our other certifications)

Alpha Tracker - more asbestos consultancies are switching to our "cloud" solution

We've had a bumper week for orders for our asbestos software system Alpha Tracker.

Asbestos consultancies are switching to Alpha Tracker for lots of reasons - but one of the key factors is that Alpha Tracker runs "in the cloud".  This means that customers don't need a server in-house but instead can rent servers from specialist providers (such as FastHosts, Amazon or Google) and deploy Alpha Tracker remotely instead.

Google's cloud infrastructure

Will the "cloud" be a fad or is it here to last?  Nobody has a crystal ball but my bet is that it is here to stay.  Two of the world's biggest companies (Amazon and Google) have made it their core business and so that's a pretty sizeable endorsement.

If you're interested in switching your asbestos consultancy from a traditional desktop software environment to the speed and flexibility of the cloud, get in touch.

Euro Environmental switch to Alpha Tracker

Kim & I really enjoyed today's training sessions with our old friends at Euro Environmental helping their staff to switch from asbestos software Tracker to our latest cloud system Alpha Tracker.

The Euro directors are particularly looking forward to the easy "web based" access to the system and the new compliance management features in Alpha Tracker's client portal which are sure to be popular with Euro Environmental's clients.

Latest Alpha Tracker Document Maker available (v1.4.610 SVN114)

The latest version of asbestos software system Alpha Tracker's document production module is now available for download from

This release - v1.4.610 SVN114 - has improved signature and PDF processing.

If you need help to install the update, please do contact our support desk.

Best support performance in months (September 2015)

We've just analysed our most recent support desk results and they are the best we've had for months.

Start Software Support Desk - September 2015
You can see that in almost 500 calls taken this month, we resolved the customer's query within the time-scales they requested in more than 9 calls out of 10.  Of the high priority issues, 93% were resolved in time.  This is a 15% improvement since last month.

The month-by-month chart shows how we're now back to the top of our game:

Excellent news - congratulations to Elaine and the Support Desk staff.

Alpha App Server news

We use the Alpha "App Server" software to power our asbestos software system Alpha Tracker and a number of other software products.

The current release of the Alpha App Server is reliable and fast but when our largest software installations require the highest throughput or resilience in the event of a system failure we have to install multiple copies of the App Server which makes maintenance a bit of a pain.

We learnt at the Alpha "DevCon" in Boston last week (see this blog post) that the integration of the App Server into Microsoft's IIS product is nearly complete (see this earlier post) and that there is also a 64-bit version of the App Server in development.  Both of these will increase the robustness and the scalability of the systems we provide.

If you would like any more information on these developments or our technology road-map, do get in touch.

September 2015 update for Alpha Tracker is now live

Our asbestos software system Alpha Tracker has been updated again with the September 2015 release.

This version (known as SVN1600) has 50 or so new features, performance improvements and bug fixes since the August update.

Two of the most significant improvements are the new "Quick Edit Survey Data" screen focused on making it faster and easier for asbestos survey admin staff to check & fix data and produce the asbestos report:

Alpha Tracker's new "Quick Edit" screen
and new features in the Client Portal including a "site compliance summary":

The Alpha Tracker Client Portal "site compliance summary"
Kim has updated the release notes (you can view them here - scroll down to the bottom of the page) and I've recorded a short video to run through the highlights for you:

We're working hard on the October update for Alpha Tracker and we're at "beta 12" already - keep an eye on the blog to see the new features next month.

Bostin' Boston DevCon

I'm writing at the airport on the way back from the annual Alpha Developer Conference ("DevCon") where I get chance to catch up in person with the Alpha Software development team and fellow Alpha professionals from around the World.

As usual, I've come back full of ideas and inspiration after seeing some truly cutting-edge new software development technology which we'll be able to make use of over the next 12 months.  I was also very impressed with Michael Facemire's presentation where he discussed how app development lifecycles have to be completely different to traditional software builds - and I think we've really missed a trick here at Start Software and it is something I'm going to put right.

If you want to know more about the latest Alpha technology which we'll be using in our range of software products including our asbestos software system Alpha Tracker, do get in touch.

Busy week! New software updates, new clients, new staff

We've had a busy week with more software updates released for our asbestos software system Alpha Tracker, new clients coming on board and new staff learning the ropes too.

Some of the software updates released this week include:

  • Tracker Upload Manager v1.0.220 SVN45 with improved handling of un-processed data
  • Alpha Tracker Document Maker v1.4.560 SVN111 with new facilities to colour-code table rows and cells in asbestos reports using specific colours as specified by the client
  • Alpha Tracker October 2015 beta 5 with the first new features for the October release ready for our asbestos consultancy beta testers to look at.

Specialist asbestos and environmental consultancy Worcestershire Scientific Services are ready for their admin training now that their asbestos surveyors are trained up to use Tracker Mobile.

Keep an eye on the beta releases this month for a major lab update and more performance improvements especially for staff needing to check and correct data before asbestos reports are produced.

Worcestershire Scientific go live with Alpha Tracker

It was great to see Julie and her asbestos surveyor colleagues this morning and get them trained up to use our Tracker Mobile electronic surveying system.

Julie and team and lots of biscuits!

First hands-on experience with Tracker Mobile

Tracker Mobile is part of the Alpha Tracker and Tracker asbestos software systems designed to improve the efficiency and profitability of asbestos consultancies.  Do get in touch if we might be able to help your business.

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