Updated by Riley J. Dennis on December 6th, 2016.
It’s not a matter of if you should back up your data, but how. This is pretty easy on desktops nowadays thanks to cloud storage providers offering apps that automatically sync your files in the background, but this functionality is noticeably absent when you install their official mobile apps
No matter. There are numerous ways to automatically back up your data from an Android device, and with the following apps, you should be able to do so in whichever one works best for you.
Let’s get the easiest solutions out of the way first. If you want something that can replicate Dropbox’s desktop client on your mobile phone, developer MetaCtrl has what you’re looking for. The app goes by the name of Dropsync, and it works in the background, quietly syncing local folders with their remote equivalents the same way we wish the official Dropbox app would.
Not only does Dropsync do it’s job well, it comes with a completely thorough set of options. You can make two folders mirror each other, upload files from your phone to Dropbox without downloading anything, or pull down files from a Dropbox folder while ignoring local changes. If there’s a certain time of day you want the files to sync, just let the app know, and you can also prevent it from using up cellular data while you’re at it.
The core functionality is available for free, but if you want to remove ads, sync multiple folders (or your entire Dropbox), or upload large files, you will need to buy the pro key for $5.99.
In case Dropbox isn’t your cloud storage provider of choice, the developer has also created alternative apps for Google Drive and Box that come with the same set of features. But if you are a Dropbox user, keep in mind that Dropsync is far from the only third-party way to move files to the service.
Download: Autosync Dropbox (Free)
Download: Autosync Google Drive (Free)
Download: Autosync Box Cloud Storage (Free)
Let’s say neither Dropbox, Google Drive, nor Box stores your files. In that case, you should check out FolderSync. This app includes those three options but also supports Microsoft OneDrive, SugarSync, Copy.net, and many others.
But what about privacy? I hear you. As convenient as cloud storage may be, it requires trusting another company to hold onto your data, and no matter what their terms of service are, your files rest on their servers. Having true control over your data at all times means keeping a local backup.
Fortunately FolderSync makes doing so just as easy as turning to cloud storage. The app lets you automatically sync using FTP or Windows Share (Samba/CIFS) on your local network. With the right router, creating your own mini-cloud is as easy as plugging in a hard drive.
FolderSync comes with the same extension options as MetaCtrl’s apps. This means you can determine which time of day to sync, choose whether to only do so over WiFi, pick how you want to save your files (mirror, download, upload, etc.), and more. The app also comes with a built-in file manager, so it can basically be your one-stop-shop for managing data on your phone or tablet.
The free app lets you test things out, but it only supports two accounts and lacks sync filters. To remove limits and add Taster support, you’re going to want the $2.87 pro version.
Download: FolderSync (Free)
BitTorrent Sync [No Longer Available]
One way to get around relying on the cloud (or creating your own) is to simply sync your files across each device that needs them. As long as your electronics don’t all die or go missing at once, your data is accounted for, and you still get the convenience of not having to manually move documents and media from one machine to another. BitTorrent Sync can help you make this happen.
BitTorrent Sync lets you share an unlimited number of folders across your devices, and there are no file size limits. It works with documents, photos, videos, and all the stuff you generally expect to be able to stick in a folder.
This app doesn’t come with the extensive options the other ones currently possess. You can tell it not to use mobile data, but there’s no option to tell it to sync only at a specific time. Your options are to keep it running in the background all the time or only when you tell it to manually sync. Regardless, you have manual control over which folders get synced, with your camera photos being the first recommendation.
The BitTorrent Sync app is still relatively young, and my experience with it has been mixed, but it’s still worth a shot if you’re more interested in syncing your data than backing it up. Just keep in mind that if you accidentally delete a file in one location, it will disappear from all of them, so you’re still kind of living on the wild side. On the other hand, it’s completely free.
What’s Your Favorite Approach?
These apps all allow you to backup or sync data automatically across multiple devices, providing a bit of comfort knowing that your files are safe in the event that one of your machines crap out. Each one utilizes a different approach, which can make them each appeal to people with different philosophies.
If you’d like to try a different app, see our complete guide to backing up your Android device properly.