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PHP: Why you should always use the latest version

Web Hosting Blog

PHP is the most widely used scripting languages around, powering all WordPress sites and countless others. In fact, PHP is used by 79.0% of all websites using a server side programming language. But worryingly, of those 79.0%, only 35.3% are using PHP version 7 or higher. A massive 64.2% are still using PHP version 5, a release which is no longer supported. (Official security support for PHP 5.6 ended on 31st December 2018). As of 3rd December 2018, PHP 7.0 has also reached it’s end of life. The only supported versions now are 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3.

You can view the timeline for supported versions of PHP here if you wish to check how long support is available for your own currently installed version.

A lot of site owners may be unaware that their PHP version is out of date, because their site is working fine. Others may be worried about performing an upgrade for fear of breaking their sites.

But these upgrades will soon become not optional. WordPress now requires PHP 5.6 as a minimum, with PHP 7.0 becoming the minimum requirement very shortly in the future.

We cannot stress enough how important we feel it is to always be running the latest software versions on your server. The main reason for this is to help to protect your server against any security incidents. As software versions approach their end of life and beyond, the security support will reduce or become non existent altogether. Running out of date software therefore often leaves your server vulnerable to compromise and attack from those who will seek to exploit the very fact you are running out of date software.

Updates are also necessary to fix bugs and to add new features too. PHP 7 came with an array of new features not found in PHP 5, allowing users to achieve a higher standard of coding where data remains consistent throughout. PHP 7 is also a lot more secure than it’s predecessors in general because it makes it a lot harder to write poor code, and a lot less known ways are out there to exploit it.

When PHP 7 was released a lot of older, now defunct functions were removed. This means PHP is now a much more efficient and speedy language. This will improve the speed of your site, in turn improving your user experience and your search engine ranking.

If you manage your own server you can upgrade your PHP to the latest version yourself. Or, if you have a management package with your host, you can ask them to do it for you. If you are doing it yourself, you need to check what the version of PHP you are running currently is, and check that any plugins you have installed are compatible with the latest version. Always run a backup before you perform an upgrade of this nature too. If you have server management with your hosting provider you can contact them to perform the upgrade for you. If you’re a CWCS customer, raise a support ticket from your customer portal and our technical support team will be more than happy to assist you with the upgrade and answer any questions you may have.

It makes sense to upgrade as soon as you can, given the increased performance, security improvements and the benefits of a more varied functionality. Make sure you are well prepared for the upgrade by taking a full backup beforehand, checking compatibility and testing the upgraded site.

Please get in touch with us today if you have any questions about performing PHP upgrades, or would like to arrange this with us.