Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zipckr/4311841068 used with CC-BY permission.
Just as physical artifacts deteriorate without proper care and preservation, digital artifacts can and do become inaccessible due to lack of maintenance.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zipdisk.jpg used with CC-BY-SA permission.
Not many of us still have floppy disk drives and zip drives in our PC's any longer. It is conceivable that we will no longer have CD/DVD drives automatically installed in our personal computers in the near future with the rise of cloud-based storage. Currently, it is very difficult to remove files from these types of storage modes and will only grow more difficult in the future. This does not even take into account that if you were to save the file to a current hard drive the difficulties you may encounter when try to render those files into current software.
This is an example of a WordPerfect for Windows 5.2 file opened in Microsoft Word 2007. WordPerfect was a popular word processing software program and in the 1980's and through the 1990's. Though WordPerfect is still in existence, one would be hard-pressed to find it installed on most computers and if you can, it may not be a version that can render the file accurately.
Preserving digital files can be as simple as saving a Microsoft Word document as an Adobe Acrobat file (PDF) or saving a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet as a comma separated file (CSV) and uploading it into a repository. It can also be considerably more complex. Preserving digital files (including data) depends on the current file type and the structure of your data. The Library of Congress has prepared guidelines for preservation:
A data repository, by definition, is a secure site to host and share your data. Depositing your data into a repository is a popular and secure way to preserve your data. Once your data has been accepted into the repository, the repository itself takes responsibility to make sure that it is preserved. There are many different subject-specific repositories that accept data submissions, as well as DePaul's own repository, Via Sapientiae. Contact the Data Services Librarian if you would like to get started preserving your data.