This won't be a post advocating backup strategies. Backups are good, and you should have at least one backup system keeping track of your most important files. But this is not about that. This is a reminder that data loss occurs.
I was looking at a collection of some MIDI files I wrote when I was around half the age I am now, with the intent of organizing them to be posted here. There were fewer than I remembered. I can't remember the specifics, but I lost many of them between several system upgrades and hardware failures, and probably some intentional culling that I now regret. On archive.org I found a list containing more files from an old website model of mine. Regretfully, they did not archive any of the MIDI files themselves (except for two of them, both of which I still possess). Not on that page were a few handfuls of work-in-progress pieces, and some others that I didn't at the time deem worthy of being published. Searching through the family server I found a directory containing MIDI files I guess I scraped from all over the filesystem several years ago, in an effort to salvage any old projects of mine. Looking in that directory today, I found no files that were not in the folder I had today. That was probably where I got this folder.
Incidentally, that wasn't the only time I've lost MIDI files. Just last year I lost a couple works in progress because I forgot to copy them into a Dropbox folder or something before overwriting the partition they were on with a new OS installation. That was just dumb. Fortunately those were recent enough that I can probably recreate them if I get around to it.
But back to the past. Way in the past, before I started composing music, my siblings and I were frequent users of a powerful (back then) drawing program called DeluxePaint on the Amiga. I tend to forget about this period of my life until I surprise myself by not completely sucking at pixel art. Not only would we draw images, we would create virtual worlds and play games in them. I would really love to get back the files we saved from that time period, but they are all sitting on floppy disks that by now have probably decayed too far to be read even if we had the hardware to do so.
I'm sure I am not the only person with these kinds of stories. Back in the nineties, storage space was expensive, and the practice of backups was not as widely spread. Things are somewhat different now; backups are easy with programs like Dropbox and BitTorrent Sync or even rsync, not to mention format-specific websites like Github, SoundCloud, and a hundred image storage services. Space is cheap enough now that people can buy an entire new hard drive that backs up their entire filesystem daily. Data is much less susceptible to lossage than it used to be.
I wonder if this reflects in our attitudes as well. Perhaps we were more willing to accept the possibility of data loss back in the floppy disk days. Perhaps in these days of long data life we have become averse to thinking about data loss, in the same way that we are unable to acknowledge the nature of death. The fact is that data loss is still a reality, and will always be a reality. Given enough serious web surfing, you will run across plenty of old websites; you can tell them by the fact that many of their links lead to 404 pages and domain squatters. Each of those used to be an old page that is now gone. Despite the ideal that URLs should be immutable, they come and go over the years. Archive.org helps out a lot in preserving old webpages with their Wayback Machine, and they do very well for their funding, but they have limits to what and how frequently they can capture.
And of course, no backup solution can prevent the great data loss that happens when each of our lives comes to its end. The problem of loss and the problem of death are fundamentally similar, if not the same. If your outlook on life cannot deal with one, it cannot deal with the other. As for us Christians, we think there's the possibility of eternal life of some sort. If so, there'd probably be eternal data too.