FAQ for IT personnel

February 8, 2019

The recommended minimal hardware specifications required for Survey Solutions to function properly for a questionnaire of about 500 questions and for the survey of about 10,000 respondents. The minimal requirements represent the specifications for the oldest tablets that can run Survey Solutions. We advise to procure newest devices with the latest version of Android for the projects that expect to run for two or three years. Please refer to google.com for the information on the latest version of Android OS and for the list of devices supporting this latest version.

Contact support for a consultation prior to setup if your survey is 100,000 interviews or more, or if you are collecting any multimedia data.
1. What are the requirements for the server?

Server requirements are periodically revised as the Survey Solutions program evolves hence we've created the following pages on:

2. Is it possible to use our existing server for Survey Solutions?
  • It depends: If the hardware requirements are met, and the software prerequisites are available, there might be a possibility to reuse the existing server.
  • Note that in that case existing services will compete with Survey Solutions for resources. So this solution is possible only with a very powerful server, or non-demanding other services.
  • The maintenance of the other software should not affect availability, integrity and security of Survey Solutions service.
3. How do we configure our security software to collaborate with Survey Solutions?
4. We have necessary server equipment, but no specialists to install the Survey Solutions software. Is it possible to get help?
5. We don’t have a proper server. Is a server necessary for Survey Solutions, or can we use the software with the tablets only?
  • A server provides essential functionality and is absolutely required for data collection with Survey Solutions.
6. We don’t have a proper server. Are there any alternatives?
  • You can install Survey Solutions using major cloud server providers: Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others. The software and functionality is the same regardless whether it is installed in the cloud or on a local machine.
7. How many servers will we need?
  • One server can handle hundreds of interviewers and supervisors, and is sufficient for a typical household survey with tens of thousands households.
  • In some situations multiple servers may present additional convenience, or even be required.
8. Does the World Bank Group provide connectivity devices and cover connection charges for Survey Solutions?
  • No. It is up to the client to arrange proper network infrastructure, purchase any necessary devices, obtain SIM-cards (if necessary), and cover the traffic usage fees.
9. Is it possible to ”synchronize” the server periodically or do I need a constant connection?
  • The interviewers and supervisors will attempt to connect to the server at their convenience, so the server must be reachable at all times when the interviewers may decide to synchronize.
  • The server connection to Internet must hence be fast and reliable.
10. Should my server be connected to Internet?
  • The tablets will need to send data to the server, so it must be visible and reachable.
  • In most cases this means the tablets and the server are communicating over the Internet.
  • For physical installations it is possible to send the data through a LAN without sending the data over the Internet, but the tablets must also be connected to the same LAN. Usually this means the tablets must be within the WiFi range from the server (up to about 20-30 meters away). Since the tablets are expected to synchronize frequently, this is an inconvenient and rare scenario.
11. Do the tablets need a network connection during an interview?
  • No. The interviews are conducted while the tablets are not connected.
  • Internet connection is not required and 3G/4G or WiFi traffic is not consumed during interviews.
  • Survey Solutions accumulates collected data on the tablet and sends it to the server during synchronization.
12. 3G/4G coverage is rather spotty in our country. Is it still possible to use Survey Solutions?
  • Connection can be utilized when available, but spotty coverage would imply more travelling to the areas where signal is available for synchronizations.
13. How often should the tablets synchronize?
  • This depends on the protocol of a particular survey.
  • For example: every day; or twice a day.
  • More frequent synchronizations allow faster turnaround.
14. We don’t want to send our data over the air. Is it possible to avoid using WiFi?
  • Modern Android-based tablets usually do not have an Ethernet socket for wired connection and provide exclusively WiFi, and (for some models) 3G/4G connectivity.
  • This is the limitation of the devices, not the Survey Solutions software.
15. Is the communication over the Internet secure?
  • Survey Solutions uses password protection and authorization procedures to authenticate all users and communications.
  • Installing an SSL certificate for the server allows additional encryption of all data.
  • Our experts are available to discuss particular risks and other specific security concerns.
16. Which brand and model of tablets should I buy?
  • The World Bank is not in the position to point to a particular brand and model as ”the tablet” for Survey Solutions.
  • The choice depends on multiple different characteristics and the decision on the model depends on the client, subject to the technical requirements and market availability.
  • The characteristics to evaluate are usually: performance, memory, storage, connectivity, screen, battery, price, convenience and ergonomics. Other characteristics may affect the decision if used in the data collection: GPS sensor, optical camera, etc.
17. What requirements does Survey Solutions have for the tablets?
18. What screen size is best for Survey Solutions?
  • 7-8-inch screens are often picked as suitable in typical operations. Bigger screens consume more power and reduce autonomous work.
  • The choice of the screen should depend on the convenience of use with the software and is usually determined experimentally.
19. Will we need additional batteries?
  • Modern tablets have battery life typically ranging from 6 to 12 hours, which is usually sufficient for a day of work of an interviewer.
  • If the interviewers remain in a remote area without access to power grid for a prolonged period, they may need additional sources of power.
  • External batteries of various capacities can provide a quick solution. Other things being equal it is useful to have a charge indicator on a battery.
  • Charging from car batteries or portable generators may also bepossible depending on the survey situation.
20. Can autonomous life of a tablet be extended without any additional equipment?
  • It is possible to use the device settings to minimize power consumption:
  • adjust screen brightness;
  • switch off bluetooth;
  • switch off GPS if not used;
  • switch off WiFi when not in use, etc;
21. Should we buy new tablets specifically for Survey Solutions or is it possible to use our existing stock of tablets?
  • If the tablets you have satisfy the hardware and software requirements, they usually can be used with the Survey Solutions.
  • Note that the capacity of the batteries found in most tablets reduces sharply after about 1.5-2 years. Older tablets might thus still be used but may require more maintenance and power backup options.
  • If the tablets are still in use for other purposes, other software installed on them will be competing for the resources (memory and CPU). Make sure there is sufficient storage space available to install and operate Survey Solutions.
22. Should all the tablets used in the survey be identical brand and model?
  • No. Different tablet models may be used as long as they satisfy the minimal requirements. Typical situations are:
    • Note that 3G/4G connectivity adds to the cost of the device. If the interviewers in a particular region are expected to be always covered by WiFi connectivity, for example if they are coming to the office daily, they might use a tablet without 3G/4G connectivity.
    • Another situation is when the operations are scaled up from a smaller survey or pilot to a full size survey, or a larger survey, and the original model is no longer available on the market. In that case a new model can be used alongside the older ones, as long as they are still functioning.
  • Using the same model usually simplifies the support. If there is a problem or an advisory, the survey administrator knows that it affects all the eqipment in a similar fashion.
23. How many tablets will we need to purchase?
  • One per interviewer. Have some spares in case a tablet gets lost, stolen, or damaged.
  • Number of spares depends on the particular situation. Reserving 1 spare tablet for every 20 active interviewers is indicative.
24. We plan to start fieldwork on May 1 and the supplier promised to deliver the tablets by April 30. That’s ok, right?
  • Entirely up to you, but someone will need to check and register all the devices, charge them, install the software, create user accounts, verify everything is in order and fix what’s not.
  • The training for use of the tablets as instruments of data collection is essential, and it is only successful if it includes practice with the actual devices. Thus the devices should arrive before the interviewers’ training.
25. How many tablets will we need to purchase for the supervisors?
  • None. Supervisors work with computers, not tablets.
  • If the supervisors travel with the interviewers, they should be equipped with a laptop to work in the field.
  • If the supervisors stay in the office, they may use a laptop or a desktop computer.
26. What are the requirements for a supervisor’s computer?
  • Windows-based computer, OS Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10;
  • 4GB RAM, 120GB hard drive space (SSD drive is preferable);
  • If the supervisor is working in the field, then connectivity from the field via 3G or 4G, (built-in, USB, or external wireless modem, or a similar device).
27. What database does Survey Solutions use to store data? How can we access it from our system?
  • Survey Solutions uses a PostgreSQL system to store and retrieve the data. If in the future, the DB engine is changed in favor of a different database management system, the installation instruction and requirements will be updated.
  • The exact database structure is changing frequently between the versions and it should be assumed that there will be more changes in the future. For that reason, the data in the Survey Solutions database should not be accessed directly by any other software the client might use for other operations.
  • The data is exported by the Survey Solutions server on demand in the form of a downloadable file.
28. What is the format of the exported file? Is it suitable for our software X?
  • The software exports the data as an archive containing multiple files in tab-delimited unicode text format. Binary files (images) are downloaded separately. Survey Solutions documentation explains the particulars on how questions of different types (numeric, text, choice, etc) are saved in the data file.
  • Tab-delimited text format is a popular data interchange format suitable for import for many modern databases, spreadsheets, and statistical packages.
  • Consult your software operating manual on the support of tab-delimited (also known as tab-separated) data.
  • Additionally, the survey data may be exported in the binary formats of Stata or SPSS statistical packages.
29. Our system is set up and running. Should we change anything?
  • Installing updates is one of the most common tasks to be performed.
  • Install the updates and especially security updates for the server as recommended by the OS provider.
  • For tablets there is usually no additional benefit to install further OS updates if the Survey Solutions is already working smoothly.
  • There is a need to periodically update Survey Solutions as well. The most convenient time for this is in between the surveys.
30. If we host Survey Solutions on our own server, how do we make sure that we get the updates?
  • Notifications about new version releases are routinely posted as: Release notes
  • The update of the server component of Survey Solutions is not automatic and should be undertaken by the server administrator after careful consideration of the new features and current data collection situation.
  • The updates procedure depends both on the most recent and the installed version of Survey Solutions.
  • Lagging behind for several versions is not recommended as this means you are not getting the bugfixes and access to the new features.
  • If you are reporting a bug, our first recommendation is usually to catch up with the currently released version.
31. Can we restrict the tablets so that no other software can be used on the tablets?
  • Survey Solutions generally doesn’t mind presence of other software as long as it is not demanding too much of the tablet’s resources. But in some cases the survey administrators restrict the use of other software, for example, to reduce wireless bills due to unwanted communications.
  • Depending on your choice of the tablet and desired functionality, this possibility may be provided by the operating system (restricted account), third party software, or a combination of both.
32. If a tablet is lost or damaged before synchronizing, is there any way to retrieve the data that has not yet been synchronized?
  • If a tablet is lost, the unsynchronized data is lost with it.
  • If a tablet is damaged, sometimes data can be recovered from it (depends on the damage). For example, if only the tablet’s battery fails, the data could be recovered by connecting the tablet to an external power source, replacing the battery, or using other similar techniques. The World Bank does not provide technicians for this kind of recovery operations.
  • In some cases, if a tablet is damaged, the data cannot be recovered (memory damage, etc).
  • Data recovery from a damaged device is usually a costly operation. In practice it may be more cost-efficient to collect a number of replacement observations instead of trying to recover a handful of observations from a damaged device.
  • To minimize the risks of data loss, synchronize tablets often and protect the tablet (cover case, rugged jacket, carrying bag, etc).
33. If an interviewer is assigned a new tablet during the field work can she use the same log in information on the new tablet to retrieve the surveys she needs to complete?
  • Starting from version 4.1 of Survey Solutions each interviewer can work only on one device tracked by the system.
  • In case of tablet’s loss or damage the interviewer can switch to using a replacement tablet.
  • Depending on the circumstances of loss or damage the change of credentials may be recommended as well.
  • After logging in from the new device the interviewer has to confirm the switch of the device.
  • Old device is automatically excluded and no data from it will ever be accepted.
  • The interviewer can continue her work on the new replacement device from the point consistent with the last synchronization.
34. We want to host Survey Solutions on our own server. Can we back up it’s database?
  • Yes. When Survey Solutions stores data on your server you have a possibility to do data backups, including automatic/scheduled backups with your desired frequency.
35. If I have to make changes to the questionnaire during the field work, for example I want to add response options to a question, how do I get these changes to the interviewers?
  • Any changes to questionnaires are not automatically delivered to interviewers.
  • Each Survey Solutions server contains a copy of the questionnaire used for data collection, which is imported by the headquarter user.
  • Importing a new version of the questionnaire to the Survey Solutions server does not affect existing assignments for that survey, but defines the questionnaire that will be used for future assignments.
  • To update the questionnaire for existing assignments, they must be deleted (technically archived) and recreated using the newly imported version of the questionnaire. Survey Solutions provides an "assignments upgrade" feature to do this automatically when a questionnaire is imported. This is only possible for new assignments and not for started / completed / rejected / approved interviews.
  • Updating questionnaire after the fieldwork has started is not recommended.
36. Is the data on the Designer site shared between the users?
  • The Designer site http://designer.mysurvey.solutions/ is intended for designing the survey questionnaires. It does not store or share the data collected during surveys using those questionnaires, but stores blank forms only.
  • Multiple users can collaborate and work on developing questionnaire forms together.
37. Can we use tablets or Apple computers to design a survey using the online designer tool?
  • The implementation of browser functionality differs between different browsers and different platforms.
  • Survey Solutions Designer does not explicitly rule out the use of any particular browser or platform. However, the use of anything else beyond the current Windows versions of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge is not tested, not supported, and not guaranteed.
  • The use of Microsoft Internet Explorer has been deprecated.
  • To download a compatible browser visit links below:
  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Microsoft Edge
38. What is a Survey Solutions Demo server?
  • Demo Headquarter server is set up for demonstration purposes so that anyone can try how the Survey Solutions program works and evaluate its functionality and suitability for their survey.

  • For that reason, the access to the headquarter server is not restricted and anyone can login there.

  • The Demo server is not intended for any real data collection.

  • Read more about the use of the demo server (including login and password to access it) in this article.

39. We like your system and we want to change it (improve it, modify it, customize it). How should we start?
  • We listen to the suggestions of our users. If there is a useful feature that is missing from our functionality, please let us know in the forum.
  • We do not distribute the source code of Survey Solutions.
  • Survey Solutions' code is published in GitHub in the following public repository: Survey Solutions.