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Typically, one uses SurveyCTO Desktop to sync from Server to Export, in order to download and export the latest data from the server. However, there are other possible uses.

When dealing with highly sensitive encrypted data, for example, you may want to decrypt and export data only on a non-Internet-connected "cold-room" computer. In this scenario, you would sync from Server to External drive on an Internet-connected computer, switch the external drive to your cold-room computer, then sync from External drive to Export on the cold-room computer. That way, you maintain your private key and decrypted data only on the cold-room computer, where they are safe. (Desktop even offers the option to generate a new encryption key pair as one of its Offline form tools, so that you can generate your encryption keys on cold-room computers if necessary.)

Note that whenever you sync from Server or from External drive, all new data is always stored in Desktop's local storage directory. This is true even when you select a destination other than Local storage. For example, a sync from Server to Export actually goes Server -> Local storage -> Export. At any time, then, you can choose to sync from Local storage to some destination, or sync from somewhere to Local storage. You might do this, for example, if you wanted to re-export your data with new settings, without downloading any new data from the server (or even connecting to the Internet).

And don't worry: your encrypted data is stored safely (as still encrypted) in Desktop's local storage. It is only decrypted when you choose to export it using the private encryption key that you specify.

See Keeping your data secure for a broader discussion of SurveyCTO data security, including a list of best practices.

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