Start Software:
Coding that can save lives

Fasthosts has helped a small team of crack developers ensure its software can be used without hitch by consultancies and businesses dealing with one of the world's most dangerous substances

Asbestos kills around 5,000 workers each year, according to the Health and Safety Executive. This is more than the number of people killed on the road. Its management and removal is vital in keeping people safe in their homes and workplaces.

That process is often painstaking. It requires experienced, specialist teams to survey, monitor, test and remove the killer substance. In doing so, nothing can be left to chance. Surveyors need to capture and manage data about its presence on-site and instantly upload it to systems. They need to act on this data and samples in their labs. They also need to produce survey reports quickly and efficiently while maintaining asbestos registers.

This is a complex task and Start Software has developed everything businesses need to do it. The firm's Alpha Tracker is a web browser-based system for asbestos surveyors, asbestos consultants and asbestos consultancy businesses of any size. In creating it, Start Software has developed a powerful tool to help protect people from the diseases associated with a substance that is often hidden in our communities.

We need to be assured the applications will work without a hitch and the data stored securely. Fasthosts provide that peace of mind.
- Jack Byrne, Software Developer, Start Software

Alpha Tracker is one of the key products we create, says software developer, Jack Byrne. He's one of a team of 12 creating and maintaining this vital application, which now manages over 30 million asbestos records and reports – all on Fasthosts servers. We also have similar software for other environmental businesses, allowing them to undertake legionella surveys and more.

Based in Telford, Start Software has been dedicated to causes like this since it was founded in 2006 by Oxford graduate, Robin Bennett. He's the driving force behind the business with a focus on solving real-life problems and turning ideas into technology to help organisations become more efficient, organised and profitable.

In doing so, the firm has ventured into other sectors, such as healthcare, developing software that uses Bluetooth beacons to connect patients and doctors in medical practices. It also works in the legal sector, offering firms the ability to collate sensitive data from clients in a safe and secure way.

However, the team doesn't limit itself to these markets. We create software for a wide range of clients, adds Jack. This includes everything from agriculture to accountancy. Jack also points out that he and his colleagues work on bespoke development too. Customers often come to us with new requirements and needs. Sometimes we can solve these by adding new elements to existing software, other times we start from scratch and create one-off solutions.

Underpinning all of this is Fasthosts. They provide the majority of the dedicated servers we use for Alpha Tracker, notes Jack. When it comes to such crucial information, we need to be assured the applications will work without a hitch and the data stored securely. Fasthosts provide that peace of mind. We have about 50 servers with them. For a business of our size, that's a lot. But our clients hold incredibly sensitive and important records, so we need the capacity.

It's not just reliability that Jack cites as a key reason for using Fasthosts. We need our software to be delivered quickly. We also need to know that if any issues arise, they will be dealt with fast. Having dealt with some of the big cloud computing firms, we know from experience that requests can take time to be resolved. With Fasthosts, we just pick up the phone and it's addressed.

They give us a personal service so we can do the same for our customers.
- Jack Byrne, Software Developer, Start Software

Jack recalls a case recently where he needed two servers to be connected to each other. They were in the data centre and doing the work straight away, he says. They also remove all the worry of physical infrastructure. We're software specialists and can't spend our time dealing with hard drives and discs. Fasthosts does it for us so we can focus on our clients. They give us a personal service so we can do the same for our customers.

Start Software recently became an official Fasthosts partner. This ensures the team has greater access to servers associated with its clients and also affords certain preferential treatment. This adds to the value for money Fasthosts offers, adds Jack.

It's clear the firm feels well looked after, which is important given the type of work it does. Without the support, security and service offered by Fasthosts, the ability to effectively manage asbestos across the UK could be compromised. After all, its coding could save lives.

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