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How to backup your Android phone to the cloud
Phones are great, but it’s what they hold that makes them so important for our work, hobbies, and personal matters. All that precious data is worth much more than any hardware, which is why creating a backup can protect your data from lost smartphones, damaged devices, pick-pockets, or even accidental deletions. One of the best ways to keep your files safe is to backup your Android phone to the cloud.
Why should you backup your Android phone to the cloud?
A cloud backup is a copy of your files that’s stored online. Your files will live in servers and become accessible from any device, as long as you have an internet connection. Why backup your Android phone to the cloud? While local backups are great, it’s also a good idea to maintain a cloud backup. It makes it infinitely easier to switch over to a new device, for starters. All your data is right where you left it. Lost a phone? Sign in with your credentials and continue using your new device as usual.
Additionally, hard drives are prone to failure. It isn’t a matter of if, but when your hard drive will die. A good backup strategy always includes an off-site copy; for most consumers, a cloud backup is an excellent alternative to rolling your own data center.
The simplest way to backup your Android phone to the cloud is using Google's Android One backup services. Go to Settings > Passwords & accounts, tap on your Google account, select Account sync, and toggle on all the services you want to sync.
JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS
Editor’s note: Some of the steps in this article were put together using a Google Pixel 4a with 5G running Android 12. Steps might be different depending on your hardware and software.
Backing up to your Google Account
One of the first things you do while setting up your Android phone is sign into your Google account. If you’ve got your account signed in, the OS will back up your Android phone settings and enable synchronization for contacts, bookmarks, passwords, and more by default. If you use Chrome as the main browser on your computer, you will also find all your bookmarks and passwords up to date on your phone — nothing else to do here.
Check if your Google account is syncing:
- Open the Settings app.
- Go into Passwords & accounts.
- Tap on your Google account.
- Select Account sync.
- Check that all important sections are toggled on.
Next up is photos. Cameras have become the most significant differentiating factor while buying a new phone, and keeping pictures safely backed up is just as important. As it turns out, Google Photos is perhaps the best photo backup service. There are two options available here. You can either back up all your high-quality images with just a bit of compression applied or upload all photos at full size.
Google’s compression quality is excellent, and most users will rarely notice a difference between the compressed and uncompressed versions. In fact, if you rarely blow up your images on a big screen, high-quality uploads should suffice. There’s one thing to keep in mind: Google Photos ended its free unlimited high-quality upload offer starting June 1st, 2021. From then on, all new content counts towards your Google Drive storage limit. Google Photos backups are no longer free unless you can live with the base storage you get from Google.
How to turn on Google Photos sync:
- Launch the Google Photos app.
- Tap on your Profile icon in the top-right corner.
- Select Photos settings.
- Hit Back up & sync.
- Toggle on Back up & sync.
- From here, you can also select the Upload size, Mobile data usage, and Back up device folders settings.
Do I have other options to back up photos to the cloud?
If you don’t want to backup your Android phone to Google’s servers, more than a few options are available. Google Photos might be one of the most straightforward photo backup services around, but it doesn’t necessarily offer granular control over how you organize your images.
If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you can access unlimited photo backups in original quality using the Amazon Photos app. This is a fantastic deal if you are already subscribed to the service. Otherwise, 100GB of storage on Amazon Drive costs $19.99 per year or $1.99 per month, which isn’t too bad for the peace of mind that comes with securing all your images.
Elsewhere, OneDrive is an excellent option to backup your Android phone photos as well. If you subscribe to Microsoft 365, Microsoft bundles in 1TB of cloud storage. That’s a lot of space for images. The OneDrive app can automatically back up all your pictures and videos to the cloud. You can then sign in to the website or download the OneDrive app for your computer to view or download those images. If you don’t subscribe to Office 365, OneDrive offers up to 5GB of storage for free, with 100GB of storage costing $1.99 a month. Not bad.
You can also look at more conventional photo storage solutions like Smugmug and Flickr. Both services are geared towards photographers. As such, these offer advanced features like a dedicated website to showcase your images, statistics for views, and even options to print out your pictures. Apps for both services allow you to automatically back up images to a pre-selected album, making it easy enough to find a cloud-based home for all your photographs. Smugmug prices start at $9 for a month of unlimited storage, while Flickr Pro starts at $8.25 a month. Since both services offer free trials, you can give them both a shot to see which one works out better for you and if you sign up for a longer duration, there are better deals to be had.
Also read: The best free cloud storage services
Backing up messages to the cloud
While your device will automatically backup your Android phone SMS messages, several apps claim to do it better.
SMS Organizer can sort out your messages and ensure that spam and promotional messages stay tucked away in a corner. It is clever enough to sort out bank receipts and credit card statements in separate tabs so that you can quickly look those up when needed. Finally, yes, it backs up all your messages to Google Drive and lets you easily sync those messages back whenever you want. I’ve been using the app for years and can vouch for it. It just works.
Another option is SMS Backup+. This free app automatically sends your SMS threads to Gmail and stores them under the label “SMS.” Not only that, SMS Backup + also backs up MMS and call log entries. The setup process is a bit cumbersome, but it’s convenient. I like that you can glance at archived messages right in your email inbox. You can download SMS Backup + from the Google Play Store.
With the sheer number of options available, there’s really no reason not to backup your phone to the cloud. Even if you prefer local backups, there’s no harm in maintaining a secondary backup. It takes a few minutes to set up and ensures your data is secure if you lose your phone.
How to back up music to the cloud
Google also has great ways to back up your music to the cloud. Of course, you can use Google Drive to store your music files. You can also upload to your YouTube Music account and use the official app to store up to 100,000 songs.
How to upload songs to YouTube Music:
- Using any browser, go to music.youtube.com.
- Click on your Profile icon.
- Select Upload music.
- Highlight your files and hit Open.
You can now play your music by going to Library > Songs > Uploads.
Internet-connected hard drives
We’ve been showing you how to backup your Android phone to the cloud, but the truth is there are also benefits to owning your data and storing it in your very own hardware. NAS (Network Attached Storage) hard drives offer the best of both worlds. You can use them to store and backup your Android phone (or any other device) locally, but they’re also connected to the internet. This means you can access those locally stored files from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection.
There are multiple options, but we think the most consumer-friendly ones are Western Digital’s My Cloud Home drives. These have very reasonable prices, look very nice, and are super easy to use, thanks to a friendly app. Of course, there are other options out there too. This includes internal ones, just in case you don’t like external drives.
High-quality photo uploads used to be free, but all uploaded photos now count towards your Google One storage allowance. In summary, it’s free if you don’t exceed your cloud storage limit.
YouTube Music allows you to upload up to 100,000 songs, whether you’re a paid subscriber or not.
Each cloud storage service has its own inactivity rules. In the case of Google’s services, the company may delete your files if you don’t use the service for over two years.