Keep Your Data Safe with rsync Backup for Android

Dmitri Popov

Productivity Sauce

Nov 11, 2011 GMT
Dmitri Popov

Android users who rely on the rsync utility to keep their data safe on Linux will most definitely appreciate the rsync Backup for Android app which endows an Android device with some serious backup powers. Of course, to make use of this nifty app, you need a Linux-based machine running the openSSH server. Also, if you plan to perform backups outside your local network, you need to make the machine accessible from the Internet. Moreover, the rsync Backup app doesn't include the rsync binaries, so during the first run it prompts you to download them to your Android device.

Unlike rsync on Linux, the rsync Backup app offers a simple graphical interface for configuring backup profiles. But before you set up a backup job on your Android device, you have to generate an encryption key pair, and the app comes with a built-in feature that allows you to do that with relative ease. Press the hardware Menu button and tap on Generate Keys. Once the keys have been generated, you need to add the public key to the backup machine. On your Android device, open the /sdcard/ file in a text editor and copy the contents of the file. Next, use the ConnectBot app to connect to the backup server, and use the nano ~/.ssh/authorized_keys command to open the authorized_keys file in the nano text editor. Paste then the public key at the end of the file, then save and close it.

Now you can set up a backup profile. Press the Menu hardware button and tap on Add Profile. Fill out the required fields, including the path to the directory on your Android device you want to back up, user name, server address or host name, the path to the encryption key (/sdcard/dss_key), and the destination directory. In the Additional rsync options field, you can specify other parameters. By default, rsync Backup backs up files from your Android device to the destination machine. But you can change the direction by ticking the rsync in reverse check box. Save the profile, and you are done. To run the configured backup job, tap on it and you can monitor the progress in the log window.


  • relies on hard IP address details

    When you create an rsync_for_Android "backup" profile, it asks for the IP address (and port) for
    the other end of the connection. In most home LAN environs, that number changes during DHCP
    negotiations when the other end joins the LAN.

    For those with exactly one save-everything profile, making one edit may not be too much trouble.
    However, if you have multiple profiles: save photos here, music there, documents elsewhere, etc.
    you then must edit all of them individually. It might be better to have dialog outside of the profiles
    where one configures "mother ship" connections and assigns a name. Then the move-files
    profiles could use that name each time and the edit happens in exactly one place.

    Eager for this to get better,
    ~~~ 8d;-/ Dan
  • blink ... blink ... nothing

    My real complaint lies in the behavior when I try to launch a profile.
    The screen blinks, there are colors and some white streaks that might
    be text or other badly broken dialog parts, then I'm back at the list of
    profiles screen. No log. No messages. No complaints. Just blink blink done.
    A serious flaw.

    I was thrilled to learn that this was available. I rushed to load the rsync_for_Android app.
    I was disappointed the learn that it needed a handful of other apps.
    I was upset that it required its own file manager app and would not use what I have already installed.
    (Now any time something wants a file manager I get a pick-one dialog. Making matters worse,
    I cannot set a default then the rsync app is not happy.) Serious flaw, too.

    Lastly, one can hardly call something "backup for android" when the app does not include
    a pre-configured "profile" or similar that will capture contacts and calendar and photos
    and downloads (music or otherwise). Any other files or folders is then lagnaippe but
    the core data is preserved out of the box.

    Eager to get this working someday,
    ~~~ 8d;-/ Dan

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