Showing posts from 2019

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.

Start Software - our Christmas 2019 message and opening hours

Thank you for your support and business throughout 2019.  

Our company continues to grow, supporting more and more businesses using our software around the world.  Our staff in the UK, Australia, Indonesia and the USA are here to help you and your businesses flourish in 2020.

As usual, we're not sending Christmas Cards but, instead, will be donating to our favourite charity, Mesothelioma UK.

So.. thanks again and Happy Christmas!
Robin, Elaine, Judy, Catherine, Dan, Kim, Will, Jess, Tom, Jack, Adam, Ferry, Josh, Rohan & more!

Our UK office opening times during the festive period are as follows:

Christmas Eve – 8.30am - 5pm
Christmas Day – Closed
Boxing Day – Closed
Friday 27th December - 8.30am - 5pm
Monday 30th December - 8.30am - 5pm
Tuesday 31st December - 8.30am - 5pm
New Year’s Day – Closed

For urgent issues please call our support helpline on 0333 301 1010 which will be open 24x7 as usual

Another Alpha Tracker milestone - software version 4000

Asbestos software Alpha Tracker has reached another major milestone - software version 4000!

Asbestos software Alpha Tracker
It's amazing to think that we are investing more into Alpha Tracker than we ever have - we are still determined to lead the field in asbestos software year-on-year and have a detailed development roadmap through 2020 and beyond.

If you are interested in switching to Alpha Tracker from a competing product - perhaps they have "gone quiet" on you - get in touch and ask about the special discounts available to users of other systems.

Podcast with Neil & Ian from Acorn - all about asbestos software

Have a listen to this podcast if you get chance... Acorn's Neil & Ian interviewing me about asbestos software.  A chance to chat about Alpha Tracker, Tracker and even SAM 100... chewing the cud and talking about my 20 years in the asbestos software industry.

Support desk performance in November 2019

Our new support team member, Will, made a big impact on performance last month ensuring that more than 93% of urgent system problems were resolved within 2 hours.

Call numbers were the lowest they have been for 5 months, which reflects the increased effort we have made with training and addressing the root causes of issues raised on the help desk.

If you need help with any aspect of our software, please do make use of our 24x7 personal support service.  Contact details are here.

Support desk performance in October 2019

Looks like our Start Software support desk had another busy month in October taking 728 calls in total.

92% of high priority calls were solved within our 2 hour target time.  

Nearly 85% of all calls were solved within the timeframe set by the caller.

If we can help you to solve a problem or answer a question about our asbestos software Alpha Tracker or any other system, get in touch and let us know!

Neil & Ian from Acorn visit to record their asbestos podcast

Great to see Acorn directors Neil Munro and Ian Stone this morning.  They visited our Telford office to record their latest "The Asbestos Knowledge Empire" asbestos podcast.

Robin, Neil and a fluffy microphone - not Ian!!!
We chewed the cud over a whole range of asbestos software topics - starting with a bit of history about Tracker and Alpha Tracker, then talking about new developments and ending up with thoughts at the end about why any of us are involved in the asbestos industry.  I'm not sure anyone expects to find a career in asbestos!!!

Ian & Neil are two asbestos industry figures really leading the way with new media and engaging directly with their clients.  Top blokes too - a really enjoyable way to spend the morning.

Another successful ISO9001 audit

We've passed our latest ISO9001 quality audit here at Start Software.  The assessor found only one minor non-conformance and made some suggestions for further improvement to our processes.

Well done Elaine and the team!

Start Software is proud to be a Living Wage Employer

We are delighted to announce that Start Software is now officially a Living Wage Employer.

The real Living Wage is based on the cost of living and is voluntarily paid by over 5,000 UK employers who believe a hard day's work deserves a fair day's pay.  We have been working towards achieving this certification over the last few months and received notification of a successful accreditation this week.

If you're interested in learning more, there is a great explanation of the difference between the Minimum Wage, the National Living Wage, and the real Living Wage here

Award-winning City Building Glasgow go live with asbestos software Alpha Tracker

Award-winning construction business City Building Glasgow (CBG) has just switched to asbestos software Alpha Tracker from Start Software.

The asbestos team at CBG received their training this week - here are some of the photos from the day:

An asbestos surveyor taking his first look at Tracker Mobile

Part of the CBG fleet of vehicles

City Buildings Glasgow - an award-winning construction and consultancy business

Alpha Tracker Release 31 - release notes are now up on the website

Interested in knowing what has changed in asbestos software Alpha Tracker Release 31?

Kim has now finished the release notes, and they are available here:

 Alpha Tracker Release 31 - Release Notes

Let us know what you want to see in Release 32!

50,000 support calls logged! 16 years of service to the asbestos industry

We started logging calls to our software helpdesk - from users of our asbestos systems Tracker and now Alpha Tracker - way back in October 2003.  That's an amazing 16 years of service to the asbestos industry in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and beyond.

Call number 50000 came in on Monday from our client REC. I feel like we should be marking the occasion with a bottle of bubbly or a pint in our favourite local - the George & Dragon in Much Wenlock.

Here's to the next 16 years!!!

Busiest month at Start Software?!

Our software support desk at Start Software took 741 calls in August - wow!

12 months of good performance at Start Software
We solved 93% of high priority calls in two hours (our target) and more than 86% of all calls were solved in the time set by our clients.

Well done support team!

New Alpha Tracker asbestos software installation in Perth, Australia

We've just received another Alpha Tracker asbestos software order from Western Australia.

Judy & Leanne from our Adelaide office are preparing the installation now so that the asbestos consultancy which has placed the order can be productive and be benefiting from day one.

We'll post more information as soon as we have completed the Tracker Mobile and Alpha Tracker training for the asbestos specialists at the consultancy. 

Alpha Tracker Release 31 - 200+ improvements for Summer 2019

Release 31 of our asbestos software Alpha Tracker has arrived and is ready for downloading.

It's the update to Release 30 and contains more than 200 improvements, including:

- improved security behind the scenes to protect you and your data

- better, quicker and more accurate mapping

- faster performance on key screens (project list, survey items etc)

- new and improved dashboards

- a new Query Writer tool to help you extract and analyse the data you need.

Here is a quick video to introduce Release 31 to you:

When Kim has finished the notes they will be available here ready for you to read, download, print and keep with your Quality Manual.

Don't forget to give us your ideas for Release 32 which will be coming up later this year - contact us via our website.

Lovely thank you to Judy as client contact moves on

One of our key client contacts at a large Australian asbestos consultancy is moving on and just sent this lovely email to our Australian Alpha Tracker director, Judy:

"Once again thank you for being so great to work with all these years. Taking Alpha Tracker from something we didn’t use at all to being such an integral and valuable part of how we do our work is honestly one of the achievements I’m most proud of from my time here, and it wouldn’t have been possible without you."

What a great comment to receive and a testament to the customer support that Judy and her team in Adelaide deliver to our clients in Australian and New Zealand.

Best support desk performance for 6 months!

Jess, Andrew, Jack & Elaine had a very good month in July, solving an incredible 94% of high priority problems within the 2 hour target time.  Well done the Start Software support team!

In time (%)
In time (H) (%)
In time (total)
In time (H) (total)
Total solved

Robin's 100 mile charity ride complete (just!)

At times it felt like a warzone!  Far too many accidents (because far too many riders? meant that we were standing still or walking for well over an hour of the ride.

But... at least all of our Countrywide Crusader team got around in one piece and with no punctures!

Ready to start at 08:16

48 miles in and the first major accident - we were standing still for 40 minutes

We're done! 100 miles riden

Fabulous team from our client, Countrywide

The finish line at Buckingham Palace
We've raised £7,700 so far for The Childrens Trust supporting kids with brain injuries.  Do please add your own contribution if you possibly can.  Thanks in advance.

Charity cycle ride on Sunday 4 August - please support Robin if you can!

On Sunday 4 August, Robin is riding the 100-mile RideLondon cycle event to raise funds for a charity which supports children with brain injuries. He's joining a team of cyclists from our client Countrywide.

Please do support him and the team if you can - here's the link and thanks in advance!

M3 Associates go live with asbestos software Alpha Tracker

Asbestos consultancy M3 Associates based in Luton, UK, has just gone live with asbestos software Alpha Tracker.

M3 Associates offers asbestos surveys and air testing nationwide and can also provide 4 stage clearances and bulk analysis of asbestos samples.

ISO 17020 & 17025 UKAS accredited, M3 has BOHS P401 qualified bulk analysts who can analyse samples taken by their surveyors. All of their asbestos surveyors have BOHS P402 or RSPH Level 3 in Asbestos Surveying and all their analysts have BOHS P403 and P404 or RSPH Level 3 in Air Testing.

M3 Associates welcomes enquiries from new clients.  Click here to contact them via their website.

Kim visited this week to deliver their initial Alpha Tracker training.  Here are some of the photos taken during the training session:

Britain’s death toll from asbestos at crisis level, figures reveal

Interesting and troubling article in The Guardian this morning, see

Click the image to read the article in The Guardian

Regular readers of the blog will know that I have been personally touched by the devastating effects of Mesothelioma, see

We've been producing software for the asbestos industry (asbestos consultancies, surveyors and building/estate managers) for 20 years now and each year the expectation has been that the "asbestos problem" will reduce in size.  Articles like this confirm that the problem is actually getting worse, in many respects, and the need to manage asbestos in situ is more important than ever.

If we can help your organisation to manage asbestos, do get in touch.  Our Tracker family of asbestos systems (including the web-based Alpha Tracker asbestos software) has helped hundreds of organisations with their asbestos problem and it contains the world's largest database of surveyed asbestos items.

93% of high priority calls resolved within 2 hours - good result for June 2019

Our support desk (supporting asbestos software Alpha Tracker as well as our other software systems) has had a good June.

They took a total of 616 calls from our clients, and nearly 93% of the urgent calls were resolved within 2 hours. That's a very impressive result.

The trend is pretty static as you can see:

The breakdown of call type might surprise you - most are questions relating to asbestos data collected by surveyors on site - we answer an awful lot of "how do a categorise what I'm seeing" questions...

The second biggest category is "Change request" where asbestos specialist users are asking for new features within Alpha Tracker itself.  If you want a new feature in our software, please do get in touch!

New energy client goes live with asbestos software Alpha Tracker

Kim has been on another trip to the north of Scotland to train our latest energy industry customer to use asbestos software Alpha Tracker.

With so many Alpha Tracker clients in Scotland, perhaps it's time to open an office?  Kim has been checking out John o'Groats for suitable office locations...

Kim at John o'Groats - photos of the Alpha Tracker training sessions below

Alpha Tracker Release 31 in beta test

We've almost finished asbestos software Alpha Tracker Release 31.

Our beta testing asbestos consultancy clients are giving us feedback now so that we know it is complete and ready when we make it publicly available.  It is a mainly a security and performance update though we are squeezing in as many new features as possible.

If you have an idea for a new feature that you'd like us to consider, please!

When did you last check your server backup?

There's an old saying in IT... a backup is worthless if you don't regularly check it and try to restore from it.

With so many companies now outsourcing their servers to the cloud - either Amazon, Google or Microsoft - it is easy to become complacent and assume that backups are automatically done and checked.  In most cases, though, this won't be the case and the cloud server provider will only offer a backup and restore service for an extra fee.  If you're not paying that fee, you probably don't have a backup!

For our asbestos software (Alpha Tracker) clients, if we have organised the hosting in Amazon or Fasthosts for you we will also be backing up your data and we will be testing those backups, typically monthly.  We are now writing to our clients every quarter to confirm the backup situation so that there is no doubt or potential for confusion.

However, if you have organised your own in-house server, or are paying Amazon or Fasthosts yourself for a cloud server, do not assume that "someone" will be backing up your server and regularly checking it can be restored.  Check your arrangements as a matter of urgency and make doubly sure that your backup is in place and secure.

If you need any help or advice, please do contact Elaine in the office and she will be able to assist.

New orders for asbestos systems for UK power stations

We're pleased to announce that we've received new orders for our Alpha Tracker asbestos system for use in several UK power stations.

Alpha Tracker is now used by a huge range of organisations, from the core market of asbestos consultancies and asbestos surveyors, right through to the energy industry and even one of the UK's largest corporations with a £2bn turnover.

Further information will be posted when we have clearance from our clients.

How is our support desk performing?

Each month we blog our Start Software Support Desk stats so you can see how we are performing.

The answer is... pretty well! 

Support Stats to May 2019

For high priority problems, we are consistently solving them within the timescales set by our clients 93% of the time.  That's pretty impressive given that we take 200+ calls of this nature a month.

For all other calls (on average, 300-400 a month), the figure is more like 87%, but that's still pretty good.

Remember... we're the only asbestos software provider to offer 24 hour, 7 day a week, personal support to our clients.  You can call or email us as often as you want.  That's how important it is to us that you are pleased to have chosen Alpha Tracker from Start Software for your asbestos system needs.

Thinking of moving from physical to virtual servers?

Physical servers were once the only option.  A big, expensive, complex computer would be purchased, configured and installed by technicians and would sit up the corner of an office, humming away merrily keeping a company's IT running.

The problem is that physical device can and do break.  Hard disks can fail. Servers can be damaged or even stolen.  And as time moves on, what was once a leading edge server can seem terrribly slow as the demands of the operating system, software and the business itself grow.

The solution can be virtualisation, where the physical element is eliminated.  Virtual servers use shared hardware to protect against failure, and can be upgraded or enhanced with only a click or two of a mouse.  In most other respects they operate just like a real server and they are normally the first choice for our Alpha Tracker asbestos software clients now.

But what happens if you want to switch from physical to virtual, is that possible?  It is, and we are doing an increasing number of these moves for our clients.  In fact, Jack completed one last week and we received this lovely comment from a client about the move:
"Thank you very much for all the work on this.  It went off seemlessly and professionally.  I very much appreciate it Kind regards Don"
So - do get in touch if you think that it is time you moved your system to a virtual server and we can explain the process and give you a quote.

Asbestos software client grateful for help after server crash

One of our Alpha Tracker asbestos software clients recently suffered a catastrophic server hardware failure and we have been supporting them to help get their system back online as quickly as possible. 

It has been a difficult time for all concerned, not least because the server company's level of customer service fell far short of what was expected.  However, after lots of hard work from our software installation and support staff we have recovered the situation and today we received this lovely comment from our client's Managing Director:
"Can I take this opportunity to thank you and the team for all the help and assistance you have provided over the last few weeks, yourself and all the team at Start provided great support and excellent customer service through what was a challenging period."

It's a reminder, of course, that servers do fail and that you need to be absolutely confident that backup and restore processes are in place and regularly tested.  If you have any doubts about your own system, now is a good time to check!

Adam's 40th at the "Start Software pub", the George & Dragon

Developer Adam has just turned 40!  He's been with the company for longer than any of us like to remember and we celebrated his birthday at our director Robin's pub, the George & Dragon in Much Wenlock.

Adam with 4 candles - 40 wouldn't fit!
If you're passing Much Wenlock (it's between Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury on the A458), do call in to the George & Dragon and you'll get a warm welcome.  You might even get a discount if you mention Robin to the bar staff!

The George & Dragon, Much Wenlock

More information about Alpha Draw - our site planning drawing tool for Alpha Tracker

The new Alpha Draw site plan module (that we have been blogging about all year!) was launched as part of Alpha Tracker Release 30 and is getting an increasing amount of use.

Alpha Draw is integrated with asbestos software Alpha Tracker to provide an easy way to produce simple plans or drawings and send them in to the appropriate project in Alpha Tracker.

Please get in contact if you would like to try Alpha Draw - you can download it from the Google Play Store as a free app and the SupportTeam then need to perform a quick setup step and provide you with your password so that you can begin using it.

We have created Alpha Draw to work best on tablet devices so that the asbestos surveyor has enough “work space” to draw plans of different sizes. 

You can quickly draw the shape of a room, add windows, doors and other features, even furniture too!

Finally, add your sample points before automatically uploading the drawing to the Alpha Tracker project.

Example of a site plan under construction

Once you have sent a drawing in, it is amendable from both the app and from the web version of Alpha Draw which you can access from Alpha Tracker. 

A new option, “Open Alpha Draw” on the Choose Task menu on Survey Details, opens the drawing in the web version of Alpha Draw.

The new Alpha Draw menu option within Alpha Tracker

There is a short, separate user guide available for Alpha Draw. Contact Support if you would like a copy or click here to download it yourself.

Are you having problems with Google Maps in Alpha Tracker?

Are you seeing problems with maps in Alpha Tracker?  Either the map is showing Boston, USA as the location or perhaps you're seeing an error message on the screen instead of the map itself?

Is Google showing the location of all your Alpha Tracker sites as Boston, USA?
If you are having problems, please accept our apologies.  We've been caught out by a change that Google has made to their mapping engine and we're having to patch Alpha Tracker to fix it.

We're on the case and should have a solution within the next week or so.

Contact our support desk for more information.

Alpha Tracker Release 30 - nearly 300 new features, bug fixes and performance updates

Release 30 of our asbestos software Alpha Tracker has finally arrived as a public release.  I was starting to wonder whether Brexit would happen before Release 30 did...

It's our biggest update yet with nearly 300 changes, including:

- complete integration with AlphaDraw, our site drawing tool

- improved CRM facilities

- new features in the diary and scheduler to make it quicker and easier to use

- improvements and new features in the Client Portal, and

- more opportunities for the system to send automatic emails to staff and clients.

Here is a quick video to introduce Release 30 to you:

The 21-page PDF of the release notes is available here ready for you to read, download, print and keep with your Quality Manual.

(you can read about the previous release of asbestos software Alpha Tracker, Release 29, here)

Don't forget to give us your ideas for Release 31 which will be coming up in early summer - contact us via our website.

New Alpha software development project under way - in New York

We're well known in the Alpha software development community for our ability to develop and deliver quality software on time and to budget.

We've started working with a new client with offices in the Empire State Building and the views are simply incredible.  What a place to work!

Meeting with the clients to review the software

What a view!

It's a long way down...

More organisations are switching to Alpha Tracker to manage their asbestos

We've had an incredible four (4) new orders for asbestos software Alpha Tracker in a week!

Alpha Tracker's 6 key benefits
Two of the orders have come in from asbestos consultancies wanting to switch from other systems.  They have heard about our 24x7 personal support and "partner" approach to working, and want to move away from their current platforms.

The other two Alpha Tracker orders are from large organisations with many sites who will be using Alpha Tracker to manage asbestos within their property portfolio.

Looks like we've got a busy spring ahead of us, but we're always pleased to talk to other potential new customers so do get in touch if you think we can help you with your asbestos problem.

Central Demolition develop their Alpha Tracker skills further

The asbestos specialists at Central Demolition in Bonnybridge enjoyed an Alpha Tracker workshop last week, helping them to develop their skills and to get the most from their asbestos management system.

Technical staff reviewing asbestos data on their tablets

Central Demolition's training suite is second-to-none
Central Demolition have been helping their clients with asbestos issues since 1993 and are members of the National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC) and the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA).  They hold a wide range of other memberships and accreditations, and are multiple award winners.  In addition, they are certified to the ISO 9001 (quality), ISO 14001 (environmental) and OHSAS 18001 (health & safety) standards.

The Central Demolition website

Asbestos specialists Robertson McGregor go live with Alpha Tracker

Specialist asbestos consultancy Robertson McGregor has gone live with their choice of asbestos software, Alpha Tracker.

Fife-based Robertson McGregor provide asbestos services across Scotland and have an incredibly experienced management team with 50 years of experience between them.  Not only do they hold ARCA management certificates, they also have a Gas Safe registration and their staff are P402 asbestos qualified.

The staff at Robertson McGregor are looking forward to using Alpha Tracker and Tracker Mobile... welcome to the Alpha Tracker family!

(photos from the training sessions follow)

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