SurveyCTO Server Management

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In SurveyCTO, all questionnaires and data associated with a project is uploaded to a server. The word "server" sounds technical but from the perspective of the user experience, it is nothing more complicated than opening a internet browser and logging in to your project's account on SurveyCTO's website. We will keep using the term "server" but for most purposes it can just as well be thought of as an "account".

The server is the hub through which all the questionnaire and data related to SurveyCTO's is communicated. The server is used by the project team to upload questionnaires, by field teams to download those questionnaires, then upload data collected with those questionnaires, and then for the project team to download the data collected from the field. The servers have more features, but the main purpose is for the project team to communicate which data to collect (by uploading questionnaires) and for the field team to collect and upload that data.

If you are working on a DIME project and you are still just developing your questionnaire, please read about DIME's development server first.

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SurveyCTO offers multiple types of plans that suit the needs of different projects. This section describes what features have made different DIME project to use different plans. For full details on the plans, see

Free Plans

There is a free plan for new users who want to explore SurveyCTO. In return for using the free account, the user needs to be an active user in the forums on SurveyCTO's website. DIME projects can instead use DIME's development server that is free of charge to the project team. Few reasons for a DIME project to use the free plan despite having access to the development server is if the project wants to upload test data (which is not allowed on the development server) but cannot set up a paid server yet (project funding not dispersed yet), or does not want to set up a paid server yet (data collection is still several months away and these test submissions are very temporary).

In addition to cost, the two main differences between the free plan and the paid plan is that you are not required to participate in the forums when using a paid plan, and a paid plan gives you access to SurveyCTO's support center.

There are three paid plans which differ on the limits and features they provide. All servers have limits in terms of number of questionnaires on the server, amount of data submitted to the server, etc. The higher the plan cost, the more the number of features and the more generous the limits.

The World Bank has an internal SurveyCTO server, This is the default option for DIME projects collecting primary data.

How to organize users

The user account used to set up the server will automatically become an Administrator user. For the purpose of avoiding confusion on who makes updates etc, it is probably a wise idea to keep the numbers of Administrators to two or just a few. Try to avoid only having one Administrator in case an update has to be done urgently in the middle of data collection when the Administrator user is unavailable.

You don't need to set up one "Data Collector" account for each tablet. Create one account that you then use on all tablets to log in to the survey.

We do not have any strong opinions on how to assign all the roles between Administrator and Data Collector. Feel free to do this the way you think best serves the need of your project. Many projects end up only using one type of role in addition to Administrator and Data Collector.

Keeping your server up to date

SurveyCTO regularly releases updates for the servers. These updates are not automatically pushed to all servers as one should be careful of updating a server during an ongoing survey. Each version of the survey comes with a corresponding version of the Android app SurveyCTO Collect. There is a risk of errors in communication between the Collect app and the server if the version of the Android app does not correspond to the version of the server. Ultimately, this can lead to corrupted or lost data.

When you start a new server, you get the latest version by default. It is recommended that the server is updated between each survey round when no data collection is going on. After the server is updated, all tablets need to be updated as well. Never download or update SurveyCTO Collect app from Google Play. Always exclusively follow the instructions for how to install SurveyCTO Collect on your tablet.

It is important that data is collected in the same version as the questionnaire was developed and tested in. So do your server and SurveyCTO Collect updates before you start developing a new questionnaire or making updates to an old questionnaire.

In reality, the risk of corrupted or lost data due to using a server and a questionnaire developed on two different but consecutive versions of SurveyCTO is low, but unless there is a reason for it, it is not worth taking the risk. If there is a new feature released in a new version of SurveyCTO that would add a significant value, it could be justified to update the server in the middle of an ongoing data collection. However, be aware that you are taking a small risk, and try to do it on the day the field team are off so that you have time to do at least some testing before you collect data again.

To update the server you need to be logged in to your server as an "Administrator". Then click at the settings symbol at the top of the page, and go to the subscription management page.

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This article is a part of the topic Questionnaire Programming.

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