Recover deleted data (recover purged or deleted forms or data)

If you accidentally purged data or deleted a form, don’t worry. In most cases, data is stored in different parts of the SurveyCTO system, so that data is usually recoverable. Take a deep breath and follow the steps in this guide. If you’re a trial or paid subscriber, and you get stuck or you're unsure about any part of these steps, you’re welcome to start a support ticket to get help.

Before going through the actual steps to recover data, try to confirm what’s missing, if possible. This will help you define the scope of your problem. Once you know which data is missing, to resend data to your server, the form for that data must be deployed on the server. If you do not have the form definition, and you need help recovering them, go through section 2. Recover deleted form definitions. Finally go to section 3. Data recovery to explore how to recover your data.

1. Confirm what’s missing

Reach out to your colleagues

Most SurveyCTO users are working with large teams, which may have different, simultaneous data collection and export processes. Others may have a better understanding of what's happening with your data, and they may already have the data you need.

See if any data has already been exported

Check CSV files on any computer or drive that may have the missing data. You can also use third-party data analysis software (e.g. Stata, SPSS, etc.) to combine the existing exported data with future exports.

Note: This data cannot be sent directly to the server, so if you need your data on the server, continue to the next sections below. However, depending on which SurveyCTO features you’re using, and the stage of your data collection, you might not need all of the data to be on your server.

If you have missing data, but no data was purged from your server, follow our finding missing data guide first. The root cause of your missing data might be something else!

Export and analyze your data

Export your data, or explore it using our built-in Data Explorer, to check what is missing, and find the extent of the problem. For example, this can be helpful if you choose to recover deleted submissions from fieldwork devices, so you can determine which fieldwork devices you will need; if a certain device ID is missing from the full data, then it is a good idea to check that device.

2. Recover deleted form definitions

If the form of your missing data is already deployed in the server, skip to section 3. Data Recovery.

Attempt to find form backups

Before deleting a form, the server console asks you to download the form definition. Check any device or drive where this form definition could be. This will either be in .xlsx, .xls, or .xml format (.xslx is by far the most common). If you find it, you can re-upload it to the server.

Recover from Android device

Even when a form is deleted from the server, it is often still kept on Android devices.

  1. On an Android device that had previously downloaded the form, change the storage location to public app storage.
    1. In SurveyCTO Collect, tap on the three-dot menu in the upper-right.
    2. Tap Admin Settings.
    3. At the bottom, if it already says Public app storage, you are all set. Otherwise, tap App storage location.
    4. Tap Public app storage.
    5. At the popup, tap YES.
    6. Wait until the transfer is complete.
  2. On the device, go to its file explorer app. This may be called “Files”, “My Files”, or something similar.
  3. Go to this folder path:
  4. There will be a list of folders and XML files. Find the XML file that contains the title of the deleted form. If there are multiple versions, select the one that was downloaded/modified the most recently.
  5. Send this form to your computer, either through file transfer, email, or other means.
  6. On the server console, go to the Design tab, click on a + on the left, click Upload form definition, and click Select file. In the window that appears, select the XML form definition, and deploy the form.
  7. If you changed to Public app storage in step 1, change it back to Private app storage.

If you are missing form data and submissions as well, continue to the next section.

3. Data recovery

Depending on which parts of the SurveyCTO software you have used, there are several ways to recover data. If a section does not apply to you, skip it (for example, if you are sure no one used SurveyCTO Desktop, then you can skip the section on how to Recover from SurveyCTO Desktop).

Keep in mind that to re-submit data to the server, the form definition for that form needs to be deployed. If you do not have the form definition, go to 2. Recover deleted form definitions.

Re-submitting data to the server will consume submission credits, whether they are submitted from SurveyCTO Desktop or from mobile devices. However, the server will reject submissions it already has, and rejected submissions will not use submission credits.

Recover from SurveyCTO Desktop

If you exported form data using SurveyCTO Desktop, then the deleted data may be locally cached. You can export data to a CSV file directly from SurveyCTO Desktop’s cache, or push locally cached data back to the server by following these steps:

  1. Make sure the form you are trying to recover data for is deployed on your server (see 2. Recover deleted form definitions above if needed).
  2. Open SurveyCTO Desktop.
  3. For data source, select LOCAL STORAGE, which will transfer data from local storage.
  4. For data destination, select SERVER, and select and log into your server
    1. If you don't need the data on your server, you can also export your data to a CSV file by selecting EXPORT.
  5. For Choose which items to sync, select the form you are recovering data for, then click CONTINUE.
  6. Click RUN NOW, and wait for the data sync to complete.
Pushing data from SurveyCTO Desktop to the server is part of SurveyCTO Desktop’s functionality to allow for 100% offline data collection.

Recover deleted submissions collected using web forms

If the data that was purged or deleted was collected using web forms, and if you had never exported data using SurveyCTO Desktop, there are no recovery methods you can attempt by yourself. Skip to 4. Data still missing below.

Recover deleted submissions from fieldwork devices

Mobile devices used to collect data using the SurveyCTO Collect application only deletes data automatically if you uninstall the application with Private app storage enabled (enabled by default in the Admin Settings). Otherwise, all data is kept on the device with no time limit.

Recover non-deleted form instances

If you have not deleted old data from the mobile devices used on your project, you can resend this data to the server (which will consume submission credits). To resubmit data from mobile devices to the server, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the form you are trying to recover data for is deployed on your server (see 2. Recover deleted form definitions above if needed).
  2. Go to the mobile device that was used to submit the form submission, and open SurveyCTO Collect.
  3. Tap Send Finalized Form.
  4. Tap the three-dot menu icon in the upper-right, and tap Change View from the drop down.
  5. In the pop up that appears, tap Show Sent and Unsent Forms. All finalized submissions will appear.
  6. On the bottom, tap Toggle All, and then Send Selected. Do not worry about duplicates - the server is smart and will only accept those submissions from the list that are not already on the server.

Recover deleted form instances

If the data you need has been manually deleted from the device, you may still be able to recover it. By default, SurveyCTO keeps a backup of your data for the last 30 days (the number of days is set in the General Settings > Days to auto-backup). Follow these steps to restore any backup data:

  1. On SurveyCTO Collect’s main menu, tap the three-dot menu icon in the upper-right.
  2. Tap Restore Data.
    1. If this is not an option, first select Admin settings, and under User can access Main Menu items, check the box for Restore Data. Then, tap the device’s back button to go back to the main menu, and go back to step 1. When you are done with these steps, you may want to uncheck that box.
  3. At the popup, tap OK.
  4. Return to the main menu, and tap Send Finalized Form.
  5. Submit the forms listed there.

4. Data still missing

If you have tried all of these methods, and still cannot recover the data, reach out to SurveyCTO support (be sure to explain you have already followed all of the steps in this article). We may be able to further assist you.

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