How to set up an easy local backup for Android device folders

Looking for a creative solution for a local cloud storage for Android? Jack Wallen shows you how with the help of an FTP server and FolderSync.

Image: Jack Wallen

Your Android device is automatically backed up to the cloud—at least much of it is. However, there could be local folders that are not backed up. If you want them to sync with a particular cloud service, that is always possible; but what if you want to back them up to a local machine? You might have particular set of files and folders that are proprietary and should only be backed up within your local network. To that end, what do you do?

There's actually a really simple solution out there that can be cobbled together, which involves an FTP server and the FolderSync app. I'm going to walk you through the process of setting this up with that particular app and connecting the app to vsftp, running on Ubuntu Server 16.10. You can alter this setup to fit any need you have (say, for instance, your platform of choice is macOS or Windows).

With that said, let's get to work.

Installing the FTP server

As I mentioned, we're going to be installing vsftp on Ubuntu. To accomplish this, here are the steps:

sudo apt-get updatesudo apt-get install vsftpd

The above commands will install our server. Before we connect our client, there are a few steps that must be undertaken. First we have to configure the FTP server. Issue the command sudo cp /etc/vsftpd.conf /etc/vsftpd.conf.orig to make a backup of the original configuration file.

Before we actually configure the FTP server, we need to create a directory that can be accessed from our client. Let's say our user is Olivia (you'll modify this to fit your needs). Issue the following commands:

sudo mkdir /home/olivia/ftp
​sudo chown nobody:nogroup /home/olivia/ftp
​sudo chmod a-w /home/olivia/ftp

Create a directory that our user (in this case, Olivia) will have upload access to with the commands:

sudo mkdir /home/olivia/ftp/files
​sudo chown olivia:olivia /home/olivia/ftp/files

Configuring the FTP server

Now we open the configuration file for editing with the command sudo nano /etc/vsftpd.conf. Within this file, look for the line:


Remove the leading # character.

Next, look for the line:


Uncomment the line by removing the leading #.

We next must protect the server in such a way that will prevent FTP users from accessing anything outside the directory tree. Locate the line:


Uncomment the line by removing the leading #.

Scroll to the bottom of the file and add the following lines:


Save and close the /etc/vsftpd.conf file.

Add the user olivia to the vsftp.userlist file with the command:

echo "olivia" | sudo tee -a /etc/vsftpd.userlist

Finally, restart the vsftpd daemon with the command:

sudo systemctl restart vsftpd

Install the Android app

Next we have to install the FolderSync Android app. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store on your Android device
  2. Search for FolderSync
  3. Locate and tap the entry by Tacit Dynamics
  4. Tap Install
  5. Allow the installation to complete

When the installation completes, you'll find the launcher for FolderSync in either your App Drawer or on your home screen (or both). Tap the launcher to open the app.

Connecting to your server

From the main window (Figure A), tap the CREATE NEW SYNC button.

Figure A

Figure A

The FolderSync main window.

The Create sync wizard is very simple. The first thing you must do is give the folder sync pair a name. Once you've done that, tap the ADD ACCOUNT button. From the list of account types, locate and tap FTP. In the next window (Figure B), fill out the necessary information for your newly-created FTP server.

Figure B

Figure B

Configuring the details for your FTP server.

Once you've configured the account, click SAVE and then (in the resulting window) tap NEXT. The next step is to select the Sync type. Tap the Sync type drop-down and select the type you want to use (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

Select the type of sync you want to use.

If you'll be adding files to your FTP server, and you want them to auto-sync to your Android device, you'll want to select Two-way. Otherwise you're best bet is to select To remote folder and then tap NEXT.

Now you have to select the remote and local folders. Tap the Remote folder section (Figure D) and then select the files directory (we created this above). Once you've tapped to select files, tap the green circle at the bottom of the screen to add the remote folder.

Figure D

Figure D

Adding our remote and local foldersync pair.

Do the same thing with your local folder (selecting a folder on your Android device to be synced). Once you're folder pair is set, tap NEXT. You can then either set up a schedule for the syncing or tap NEXT and handle the syncing manually. In the final screen, tap SAVE and you're done.

If you opted to go the manual sync route, in order to sync your folder pairs, you tap the 'hamburger' menu in the top left of the main window and tap Folderpairs. In the resulting window (Figure E), you can tap the SYNC button for any of the folder pairs you have set up to sync them.

Figure E

Figure E

An OK status means everything synced without error.

And that's all there is to it. With just a few quick steps, you can set up a local cloud sync for specific Android folders.

Also see

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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