Showing posts from 2017

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.

Gloucester Asbestos are the latest asbestos consultancy to switch to Alpha Tracker

It's great to have another asbestos consultancy switching to asbestos software Alpha Tracker.

Gloucester Asbestos have placed their order and will be switching over to Alpha Tracker in the New Year.

With over 40 years of experience, Gloucester Asbestos are well placed to help with any asbestos related property issue.  Contact them via their website or by telephone on 01452 813883.

"Tracker Air" training for REC specialist asbestos team

Our trainer Kim enjoyed meeting the asbestos specialists at REC this week to deliver their Alpha Tracker air monitoring training ("Tracker Air").

Some of REC's asbestos specialists
Through their network of UKAS-accredited offices and laboratories, REC can help with all asbestos control and management needs.

REC have experienced surveyor and analyst teams based around the UK – backed by in-house accredited laboratories – meaning they can respond quickly, turn work around efficiently, and deliver locally.

REC can provide a full range of asbestos services and asbestos software Alpha Tracker helps consultancies like REC to deliver them all:

  • Surveys & re-inspections
  • Air monitoring/clearance inspections
  • Asbestos sample analysis
  • Asbestos in soils
  • Project management of asbestos removal works
  • Asbestos awareness training

ISO9001 re-certification visit successful at Start Software

Lloyds (LRQA) visited us yesterday at our Telford office for an intensive ISO9001 re-certification visit.

We first decided to apply for ISO9001 certification many years ago to demonstrate our commitment to Quality, in particular in our Support team.  Since then, we have extended the scope of our certification to include our software development process and data conversion projects (where we convert data for clients from one system to another).

We're delighted to announce that the visit went well and we passed with no non-conformances.  This is a real pat-on-the-back for our Quality Manager Kim.  The two assessors did suggest some improvements to our processes and we'll be taking them on board.

Christmas & New Year at Start Software

Happy Christmas from all of us at Start Software!

We're working every day (other than the Bank Holidays - Christmas Day, Boxing Day & New Year's Day) to support you and your businesses throughout the holiday period.  Use our normal 24x7 support line 0333 301 1010 if you need help.

Readers of a nervous disposition may want to look away now... this is Oliver, Dan & Jack showing off their Christmas jumpers.  Horrific!

Finally, we're not sending Christmas cards or gifts this year, instead we'll be making a donation to our favourite asbestos charity, Mesothelioma UK.  I do hope you understand and value our decision.

Meet Clyde Environmental, our latest Scottish asbestos consultancy switching to Alpha Tracker

Clyde Environmental Consultants are the latest professional asbestos consultancy to switch to asbestos software Alpha Tracker.

Clyde's excellent website

Clyde Environmental carry out asbestos surveys to HSG264 standards, they provide asbestos fibre identification services and asbestos project management - the full suite of professional asbestos services!

Our trainer Kim was delighted to meet the Clyde team and deliver their first set of Alpha Tracker training.  Welcome on board, Clyde Environmental!

Vine Consultant Services goes live with Alpha Tracker

Asbestos specialist consultancy Vine Consultant Services has switched to asbestos software Alpha Tracker.

Vine Consultant Services' website
Vine is a professional asbestos consultancy who pride themselves on a personal approach to helping their clients with all things relating to asbestos. Vine offers a full range of asbestos consultancy services including all types of asbestos surveying.

Vine offers management, refurbishment or demolition surveys as well as targeted refurbishment or demolition surveys to specific areas within a management survey as well as asbestos testing. Vine also offers re-inspection services using clients original data.

Using the Alpha Tracker asbestos system to capture on-site survey data, Vine is able to offer the results to its clients in various formats as well as online via their client portal.

If we can help you to improve the productivity of your asbestos consultancy, do get in touch.

Snow disruption at Telford office

The area around our Telford office has suffered a snowfall of 30cm+ over the last two days.  This is my normal route to work earlier today:

Trees are down throughout Shropshire
We'll be doing our best to operate a normal service on Monday but please bear with us if our response is slower than normal.

Our Telford office on Friday

Alpha Tracker Australasia operation doubles in size

I've had a great week with Judy & Leanne in our Adelaide office where we sell and support asbestos software Alpha Tracker throughout Australia & New Zealand). I've also been meeting clients, new and old, listening to ideas to improve our software specifically in the Australasian market.  If only the cricket could have been so successful!

The Alpha Tracker Adelaide office
Judy & Leanne have doubled the size of our operation in the last 18 months with several asbestos consultancies switching to Alpha Tracker each month, purely on the back of personal recommendations.  That's great news as the increased business means we can invest in more staff and an even bigger support operation.

Alpha Tracker development meetings held with New Zealand asbestos consultancies

I'm over in our Adelaide Alpha Tracker office at the moment working with Judy & Leanne.

Alpha Tracker sales & support office (Adelaide, SA)
Yesterday, we had a video conference with a potential partner based in New Zealand.  Their asbestos lab services many of our asbestos consultancies in North & South Island and they had ideas to help Alpha Tracker work more closely with their bespoke lab systems.

Today, we've spent the day with Christchurch-based asbestos expert John Makuru from asbestos specialists AANZ.

John has been working with Alpha Tracker for many years now and has been training other asbestos consultancies to use the asbestos software as well as recommending it to other asbestos labs and consultancies.  Like many Alpha Tracker users, John has some great ideas to improve the system and take it in new directions - watch this space!

Another New Zealand asbestos consultancy switches to Alpha Tracker

We've had confirmation this morning that another New Zealand asbestos consultancy is switching their system to Alpha Tracker

The New Zealand Government's asbestos site

What's especially pleasing is that the order has come because of a recommendation from existing clients - the new customer emailed us to say "Others I know say it is an excellent system."  Nice to hear!

The latest Alpha Tracker beta is available

Our latest beta release of asbestos software Alpha Tracker is ready.  We make beta releases so that we can trial new features ahead of the publicly available Alpha Tracker versions.

This latest release is known as Release 27 Beta 4 and contains a number of new features and performance updates.

Our beta-test asbestos consultancy customers can contact our support desk to discuss the update.

Alpha Tracker is fully compatible with Google's new Calendar tool

Google has updated their popular Calendar tool with a smart new look and loads of new features. 

Google have updated their popular Calendar tool
Click here to read what's new - there is plenty!

We've been working hard over the last few weeks to ensure that Alpha Tracker's built-in calendar and scheduling tool (used by asbestos consultancies to manage their on-site asbestos surveying, air monitoring and re-inspection work) remains fully compatible via our sync tool.

This means that asbestos surveyors can continue to view their work diaries on their smartphones, tablets or PCs directly in Google Calendar which is super-easy for them and means you don't have to email diaries around or use a scheduling whiteboard in the office.

Heart of Wales Property Services switch to Alpha Tracker

The new Joint Venture between Powys County Council and Kier - Heart of Wales Property Services - has just started the process of switching their asbestos software systems to Alpha Tracker.

The Powys asbestos data is being moved from a legacy MySQL database to a new SQL Server platform being managed by Alpha Tracker.

With the first Alpha Tracker training sessions now complete, we will be working with the asbestos team at HOWPS over the next few weeks to finalise the installation.

Another security breach: Huddle's 'highly secure' work tool exposed KPMG and BBC files

I happened across this story this week and had to really scratch my head and think - how did this design for the security within the system get past their internal quality controls?

We take security very seriously in our applications.  We regularly review security methods and look for flaws both internally and via external "penetration test" services.

No system is 100% secure but it is our job to make our software as close to 100% as possible.  Our two web servers of choice (Alpha App Server and Microsoft IIS) are regularly patched and updated as security vulnerabilities are discovered.  We do all we can to protect the data belonging to our clients and we put secure off-site backups in place on the servers we manage.

Keeping systems secure is not easy and is a constant battle against hackers and other threats.  We'll keep at it!

Airsafe asbestos consultants go live with Alpha Tracker

New South Wales based asbestos consultancy Airsafe has just switched to asbestos software Alpha Tracker.

Airsafe's website
Airsafe are NATA accredited and pride themselves on their quick turnaround of asbestos reports for their clients.  Airsafe offer the full range of asbestos testing services (including sample analysis, air monitoring, asbestos surveys and registers) and they will be using Alpha Tracker to improve their efficiency and client service even further.

Judy trained the Airsafe staff via Skype from our Adelaide office - welcome on board!

Skype screenshot of Airsafe training session

Apple update to iOS 11.1 causing some issues with Tracker Mobile

We've had calls on our support desk about some users experiencing camera problems in Tracker Mobile after their iPhones and iPads have updated to iOS 11.1

Please do call us if you are having problems and our advice, for time being, is to stay on iOS 10 if you can until all iOS 11 issues have been fixed.

Asbestos software Alpha Tracker featured as software case study

We use the Alpha Anywhere software development platform to create our asbestos software system, Alpha Tracker.

Alpha Tracker case study (link image to read)
Our partners at Alpha Software have recently posted a detailed case study about Alpha Tracker and how their platform has enabled us to build the market-leading asbestos software system for asbestos professionals in New Zealand, Australia & the UK. 

Click this link to read the case study on their website.

Alpha Tracker documentation refresh

Our technical author Kim has been working hard to refresh our Alpha Tracker asbestos software manuals.

You can find updated manuals for Alpha Tracker here and do let us know if you want more documentation on any aspect of the system.

Feedback from Alpha Tracker Release 26

Most of our asbestos consultancy clients using Alpha Tracker have now updated to Release 26 (see and  The feedback we've had is really good with lots of the new features being well received.

If you need help to update your asbestos software system to the latest Alpha Tracker, do call or email the support desk - we're here to help.

"You can't take it with you"... 25 years of creating software for writing Wills

25 years ago, I had a call from a friend of my Mum's, David Holloway.  David explained that he was leaving teaching to start a business selling "Will writing software" and could I help him to create an easy-to-use system for solicitors and professional Will writers.  I thought he was mad - who would want to buy that? - but 25 years later I'm still involved in the fascinating world of the Will-writer.

Matthew Mitchell's excellent new book - buy it from Amazon

I worked with David to create Will Writer for Windows, the first ever Will-writing product for the Windows operating system.  Not all of our potential customers thought that Windows would "catch on" by the way... 25 years is a long time ago!!  We used to sell it via classified ads in the back of computer magazines - "The only software to pay for itself time and again!".

Will Writer for Windows sold well and so we started a business called Legacy Partners with one of our first software users, Arthur Galloway, selling Will-writer training and franchises across the country.  The franchisees received a laptop with Will Writer for Windows and software to manage their leads and clients, all with an automated back-end system to process orders and commission.  The printing and binding of Wills was done from my new office in Bridgnorth with our baby son Connor in a carrycot under the desk. You could almost guarantee that he would cry when the phone rang from a Will-writer with a query!

One of our first Legacy Partner trainees was an ex-mining engineer called Clive Ponder.  Clive instantly stood out as being incredibly capable and determined to build a successful business.  17 or so years later and Clive's Countrywide Will and Trust businesses are the biggest in the UK and we are proud to be writing Will and office administration software for him still.

The final chapter (for now!) of this story is the book in the photo.  Clive introduced me to Matthew Mitchell, a dynamic and talented financial-advisor-turned-estate-planner who is also building significant businesses in Will writing and estate planning under the Legacy Legal brand.  We're now working with Matthew and his colleagues to create systems and software to help him to work alongside Countrywide and attract consultants to join him.

It's a been a truly enthralling story, enabling me to meet some fascinating people along the way.  From the earliest Windows development tools (Borland Objectvision and Microsoft Visual Basic) through to 2017's most sophisticated web & mobile software builder - Alpha Anywhere - the journey has kept me interested for 25 years.  Do buy Matthew's book by the way (it has a forward from Clive) - it's one of the best introductions to estate planning you can read.

Reminder - our asbestos site data capture app runs on Android, Apple AND Windows!

Just a reminder... our asbestos data capture app, Tracker Mobile, runs on anything!! 

You choose your data collection device - Tracker Mobile will run on it!
We fully support

  • Android smartphones & tablets
  • Apple (iOS) iPhones and iPads, and now...
  • ... Windows 7, 8 & 10 tablets too (Intel).
Tracker Mobile is part of the Tracker & Alpha Tracker family of asbestos software systems which support professional asbestos consultancies in the UK, New Zealand & Australia to improve and automate their businesses.

Tracker Mobile does not need an Internet connection of any type while you are surveying.  It only needs a connection at the end of the day when you press one button to upload all data, photos and plans from site.

Do get in touch to find out more, we'd love to hear from you.

Tracker Dashboard update available

Our latest update to Tracker Dashboard is available to download and install.  Tracker Dashboard is part of the Tracker & Alpha Tracker family of asbestos software systems and is used to send automated reports, charts and alerts to system users.

This version, known as v1.0.287 SVN66, has improved dashboard queueing and - in particular - copes better with long-running dashboards.

Please contact support if you would like more information or help to install the update.

Another asbestos consultancy is switching to Alpha Tracker

It's great to welcome on board another Scottish asbestos consultancy to the Alpha Tracker family.

We're really looking forward to working with the asbestos team at Clyde Environmental Consultants over the next month or two to get them up and running.

Another good support month at Start Software

We've reviewed the support stats for October and we've had another good month with 9 out of every 10 queries resolved within 4 hours.

Here are the key figures for October:

  • 543 calls taken
  • 89% of problems solved within 4 hours
  • 93% of urgent problems solved within 2 hours.

If you need us, we're here, 24x7 in person.  Find our contact details here:

Alpha Tracker Release 27 under way

The next release of asbestos software Alpha Tracker has started to take shape. 

Release 27 will be our winter 2017 build and will focus on improvements to asbestos re-inspections and well as incorporating a number of new environmental services into the system.

The Alpha Tracker system home page
If there is anything you would like to see in Alpha Tracker, do get in touchOur job is to build software that helps you to do your job, so all of your ideas are most welcome.

New Alpha Tracker training feedback questionnaire

Have you recently received training to use Alpha Tracker either as a system administrator as an asbestos surveyor?

Asbestos admin and surveying staff learning to use Alpha Tracker

We have a new feedback questionnaire you can use to let us know how the training went and how we can improve. 

Here is the link - please do let us know!

RB Asbestos go live with their Alpha Tracker asbestos reporting system

The latest asbestos consultancy to switch to asbestos software Alpha Tracker has gone live.

The RB Asbestos excellent website
The professional asbestos and admin staff at RB Asbestos, based in Burnley, have received their training from Kim and are now looking forward to becoming proficient in asbestos site data capture using Tracker Mobile, automated report production and sharing access to reports via the client portal.

We're so pleased that RB Asbestos have joined the Alpha Tracker family.  They have an excellent and growing reputation for providing high-quality asbestos services including surveys, management, analysis & IATP Asbestos Awareness Training.

Here are some of Kim's photos from the training.  Welcome on board!

The RB Asbestos team hard at work

We provide plenty of training material

Admin & surveying staff learning how Alpha Tracker works

Use Tracker Mobile on tablets and smartphones - your choice

Capture asbestos sample data and sample photos at the same time

Sync your data back to the server with one click

YouTube videos are there to help if surveyors get stuck!

If we can help your asbestos business to become more efficient, do get in touch.

Alpha DevCon 2017 under way

It's great to be catching up with the Alpha Software development team at DevCon 2017 in Newport, Rhode Island.  We use Alpha Software's software development technologies to build our asbestos software, Alpha Tracker, so it is vital that we have a strong relationship with the Alpha team and know their product inside-out.

Alpha Tracker at the Alpha DevCon

Alpha Anywhere's architect Selwyn Rabins walking us through the road map
We're attending to share ideas, pick up new techniques and to give feedback to the Alpha team to help them to improve their product (and hence our product) even further.

Recent Windows & Office updates are causing issues for some Alpha Tracker users

If you're noticing unexpected behaviour in our asbestos software, Alpha Tracker, do get in touch with our support team.

Recent Windows and Office updates from Microsoft have caused our users to notice:

- Excel upload and downloads not working
- asbestos reports not automatically converting to PDF (or not producing at all).

Microsoft has acknowledged that their recent updates applied to servers have caused the problems and are working on fixes.  In the meantime, we have workarounds to help you continue to work normally and our support desk can talk you through them.

Is being first to market always a good thing?

We've been building an innovate iPad app for a client over the last couple of months (using the Alpha Anywhere development platform, naturally).

The client approached us with an idea, which we helped them to refine, and then we started the build.  Key to their plans was the belief that they were going to be first to market and they were keen that their app should be unique.

All was going fine until a chance conversation revealed that there is already a product on the market which is very similar to their idea - and this caused the client to wobble and question their project completely.  My response was that being second to market is often the best position to be - but why?

Just before we took off from Belfast to Providence yesterday
I'm writing this blog from the Alpha DevCon in Newport, Rhode Island.  I flew out yesterday on a new low-cost service from Belfast to Providence (near Boston) which Norwegian has started to run.  This is a completely new service on a new route, with a new type of plane and an innovative in-flight service to give crazy low prices.  But you'll see from the photo, above, that they are seriously struggling to fill seats.  This is because they are having to create a market - it simply doesn't exist currently.

So this is the problem with being first to market. It often isn't the best place to be. The client is reassured and the app build continues - and hopefully we'll be piggybacking on the back of the marketing work that the competitor has already done.

Alpha Tracker Release 26 "Performance Patch" is available

Further to the major Release 26 Alpha Tracker update we published last month, we have just made available a "performance patch" to resolve a couple of bugs reported by users and to improve the loading speed of several screens.

The Alpha Tracker Release 26 blog
This patch is officially known as "SVN2703" and is available through the normal Setup|System|Software Updates menu for all users with an active support subscription.

Do get in touch if you need help to apply the update.

New website for Alpha Tracker user Asbestos Consultants NZ

It's great to see that new Alpha Tracker user Asbestos Consultants NZ have just launched their new website:

The Asbestos Consultants NZ home page
Asbestos Consultants NZ specialise in all types of asbestos survey work, clearance (type A and type B) and can also sort any air monitoring requirements you may have.

Congratulations to Terry and all at Asbestos Consultants NZ - it looks great!  And hope your new Alpha Tracker asbestos software system is helping you to get the asbestos reports out of the door and to your new clients...

Packing my bag for the Alpha DevCon 2017

Next week I'm heading across to Rhode Island for the Alpha Developer Conference - DevCon 2017.

Alpha DevCon 2017 website

Alpha Anywhere
is our preferred software development environment, helping us to create web and mobile applications for our clients.  We go to DevCon each year to meet the Alpha development team, talk about their plans and our ideas for the product, and to learn new techniques and skills.  If we can use the trip to help us build better software, more quickly and more cost-effectively for our customer base it is time and money well-spent.

This year I'm part of a panel discussing how to turn software development skills into a business.

New staff training matrix is proving popular

We've been blogging about the new staff training matrix ( and it is proving to be a really popular add-in to asbestos software Alpha Tracker.

One of the many reports available in the staff training matrix
Early adopters are appreciating the colour-coded training matrix display and the training calendar integration with the normal asbestos surveyor work diary.

If you would like to know more, or would like us to enable it as a trial on your own Alpha Tracker asbestos software system, do get in touch.

London Labs receive their Alpha Tracker training

Leading independent consultancy London Labs received their asbestos software Alpha Tracker training course over the weekend.

London Labs on the web

London Labs specialise in asbestos, health & safety and the environment. Their impartial advice gives every organisation the assurance that they are fully meeting health & safety regulations without unnecessary costs.

Their professional, qualified staff includes qualified asbestos, legionella, lead, noise, water, ecology, environment and Hazmat specialists.

Kim took a few photos on the training day and here are some of them:

Tracker Mobile runs on tablets and smartphones

You can even use Microsoft Surface (Windows) tablets if you wish

London Labs HQ

Take photos from within the Tracker Mobile app

You can survey and audit from the same device
If we can help your asbestos consultancy to improve productivity and service delivery, do get in touch.

Meet the team - Leanne Helle-Broe

Leanne works from our Adelaide office and enjoys contacting and supporting new Alpha Tracker asbestos consultancies across Australia & New Zealand.

Leanne Helle-Broe
When not at work, Leanne enjoys spending time with her children and friends, being outdoors, camping, makeup and horror movies!

Asbestos consultants Accurate Consulting go live with Alpha Tracker

Mount Wellington-based asbestos consultancy Accurate Consulting has just gone live with our asbestos software Alpha Tracker.

Click to see Accurate's excellent asbestos website

Accurate specialise in all aspects of asbestos consultancy and their asbestos professionals strive to deliver quality independent asbestos advice and to offer the best solution to any challenges that may be encountered.

Judy (in our Adelaide office) delivered the software training by Skype. Here is a screenshot showing the training session!

Skype-based Alpha Tracker training session in progress
If we can help you to improve the productivity and professionalism of your asbestos business, please do get in touch (New Zealand/Australia or UK).

More interest in Asbestoprobe - the handheld asbestos detection device

Subscribers to the blog will remember mention of the "Asbestoprobe" device - a handheld instant asbestos detection device currently in development.  We are Asbestoprobe's exclusive software partners and asbestos software Alpha Tracker will link directly to the device.

Since chatting to attendees at the Contamination Expo, we've had a flurry of interest in Asbestoprobe and how our Alpha Tracker asbestos consultancy clients will be able to make the most of it.

If you're interested in finding out more about our plans, do get in touch.

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