If you’re reading this then let me be the first to congratulate you – you made it through the technobabble barrier. ‘PHP’, ‘Upgrade’, ‘V / version’ are admittedly not the most user friendly or enticing words to bring you in to view this blog post. In hindsight a better blog title (for my click rate) may be ‘If you don’t read this your website will eventually die’.
That’s a little drastic of course. However the fundamental point I am making in this blog post is that if the server that your (WordPress) website is running on is using an earlier version of PHP than version 7.1 then it will start to become unsupported next month (December 2018). We all know (don’t we!) that unsupported software = no security updates; and no security updates = significantly increased chance of your website being hacked. And a hacked website = big problems, assuming you want your website visible to your website visitors.
Before we launch ourselves into the list below, let’s check that you know what I mean when I am talking about PHP. Here’s a glossary post (it is literally just a couple of lines) that introduces ‘What PHP is (in relation to WordPress)‘ [very basically – it is the programming language used that makes your WordPress website work].
With that out the way, here are 5 reasons why you *need* to upgrade to PHP 7+ (at the time of writing the latest release is v7.2): –
1. Support of previous PHP versions expire in December
As alluded to above, when earlier versions of software no longer become supported from a basic security perspective – which for PHP includes versions 7.0 and less is at the start of December 2018 – there is a significant risk that websites running on these older versions will become susceptible to hacking attempts, which *may* compromise or entirely break your website. That’s why this is the number one critical reason why WordPress installations should now be on PHP7+.
2. Upgrading to PHP v7+ will increase the speed of your website
This is a really significant point too, and to some this may be just as important as, if not more important than, #1 above. Many WordPress websites are running on the previous most stable release of PHP – v5.6.
When the version of PHP was updated to 7.0 (they skipped v6 but I’m not going to get into that here) benchmark tests showed that the latest releases of PHP can process two to three times the number of requests per second than the last version. In reality this actually effects more speed when running tasks in Admin (so the front end of the website will be a bit faster but not by the same degree as these benchmark tests) – which is great as it makes the job of managing and updating yopur website significantly quicker. In addition to this, the latest versions of WordPress are optimised to work with PHP 7+ – so the combination of both makes a marked difference.
3. PHP 7+ has cleaner / stricter coding standards
The latest versions of PHP have required that contributing developers write the code to a strict set of rules, which means that a a lot of programming practices that were considered ‘poor’ have been eliminated.
4. PHP 7+ gives access to new – modernised – features
PHP 7+ has dropped many functions that were ‘depreciated’ (still active but no longer required) and instead have included newer sets of features. These are inherently techie so I’m not going to list them, however the important point here is that this modernisation ensures PHP is kept competitive in terms of its standing as a programming language.
5. PHP 7+ means better security for your website
In addition to the points made in #1 above, PHP 7+ has removed hundreds of security issues that had to be patched up. While patches are generally good enough to keep any applications running secure, not having the security issues in the first place is a far better alternative, and that’s what we get with PHP v7+.
What to do from here?
You may now be wondering how you can check to see what version of PHP your website is running on, and how to upgrade it to the latest stable release. The most effective way to do this is to contact your hosting provider directly and they will point you in the right direction. They may have some information on their website (read this as they *should* have this information) or you may need to call them or open up a support ticket to find out.
The next step – assuming you are running on an older version of PHP (which about 90% of all WordPress websites are) – is to check that all of the software your website uses is compatible with PHP version 7+. This can be a time consuming and technical process, so be prepared to put the kettle on, and it may be that some software your website uses will need to be replaced by other software that is compatible.
Finally, once you have confirmed that your website is ready for the upgrade you will need to follow your website hosting provider’s process for the upgrade – once that is done you can put your feet up and rest, assured that your website is stable, faster and more secure!
Interested in getting some help with this? I am on hand to assist with this for you – simply contact me here and we can strike up a conversation to get you supported in ensuring your WordPress website is running smoothly, efficiently and securely.