Joshua Ng

Joshua Ng

Last updated on 30 November 2017

Joshua Ng is the Information Technology (IT) & Technical executive at the Asian Film Archive (AFA) based in Singapore.

Hi Joshua,

I made some short films a couple of years back. Some of them were submitted to competitions and won some awards. I have been keeping them in an external hard disk, thinking that since the files are backed up, it should be safe. But I had quite a scare the other day when my computer couldn't detect the hard disk. Fortunately when I tried it with another USB cable it worked. Is there something I can do to ensure my short films are safe?

Warm regards,

Paul Soon


Hi Paul,

I am glad that you were able to retrieve the short film files from the external hard drive. Many filmmakers we have met are not as lucky. They lost big chunks of their work to hard disk drive (HDD) failures. Based on our experience, HDDs lifespans may last an average of 2 years but to be safe, we recommend migrating all files to a new hard drive every 1.5 years. As prices of HDDs drop in relation to technological improvements, you should be able to get more storage space at the same price.

While you still have access to the short films in your HDD, I suggest you consider submitting your films to the Asian Film Archive for archival consideration via Our collection guidelines and FAQs will help you understand what we are looking for. The form is quite detailed but all the information you provide will help us make a more informed assessment of your film.

You can look into increasing the survival rate of your films by using the 3-2-1 strategy. This ensures that you have at least three copies of each film — two of them in different storage media, and one copy off-site. For example, you could have one copy in your current computer, one in an external HDD, and another on OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, or any other trusted cloud storage solution. Once you have created multiple copies in multiple locations, you can use tools like Fixity to automatically monitor the integrity of the digital files.

To be safe, I would encourage you to sign up for automatic unlimited cloud backup solutions (e.g. Backblaze or Carbonite) to backup your whole computer, including the external HDDs. However, the backup files will be a mirror of the original files. This means that when you delete a file on your local computer, the backup copy will be purged after some time.

Of course, there is much more to digital preservation than these strategies. However, these actions are minimum steps that you can take in keeping digital files safe. While it is tedious to continually ensure the integrity of the files by migrating your files every 1.5 years and employing the 3-2-1 strategy, even with the help of an automatic cloud backup solution, these steps could enable your films to at least stand a chance against the volatility of digital storage technology in the short term.

We have a robust preservation system at the Asian Film Archive to help filmmakers preserve their films. If yours are accepted into the archive, you would have a lot less to worry about. However, the first step towards ensuring the longevity of your films in this digital age rests with you. 

I hope this helps. Do share this info with fellow filmmakers and please feel free to continue writing to me if you have further questions.


Joshua Ng

Digital Preservation Guy

Asian Film Archive

What is Save Our Film?

Save Our Film is a film preservation advocacy campaign created by the Asian Film Archive (AFA) in 2010 and relaunched in 2016. The initiative addresses the challenges of preserving digital and analogue formats. Saving our films allow future generations to continue enjoying Asia’s cinematic gems and heritage.  

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