Why Should I upgrade to PHP 7?

By now, it is very likely that someone has suggested that you upgrade you website’s PHP version from version 5 to version 7. In addition, that suggestion has been accompanied by hints that non-compliance could have significant ramifications in the future. If you are unsure what to do, or even what PHP is, this blog post will hopefully help to explain.

What is PHP, and how does it affect my site?

PHP (technically PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is the fundamental language behind 79% of all websites (as of December 2018). If you think of a website as a piece of furniture, then the programming language would be analogous to the material from which the furniture was made. PHP is a popular programming language for websites as it was made with websites in mind. Chances are your personal website is using PHP, especially if it is built on an open-source framework like WordPress or Magento. It is a good language for making quick changes and updates.

What is the difference between PHP 5 and PHP 7?

PHP version 5 was released in 2004 when web technology was still relatively new. The most common CMS (content management system) frameworks of today such as WordPress did not exist back then. Improvements in both security and performance have been made in the ensuing years. However, with version 5.6 released it was was decided that PHP needed significant changes to perform in today’s web-centric world.

First introduced in 2015, PHP 7 is a significant leap forward from PHP 5. As such, it significantly changes how websites are processed. Old features have been removed, while new features and techniques have been added. The result is that sites running on PHP 7 are significantly faster and more efficient than those running on PHP 5. In addition, PHP 7 it inherently more secure.

How do I upgrade my site to PHP 7?

In a word, carefully! As a general rule of thumb, the more up to date your site is, the easier the transition will be. For example, if you have a WordPress site and follow best practices of keeping everything up to date and using quality supported plugins, then more than likely you are already ready for an upgrade. However, if you have a site built on antiquated technology like OSCommerce that you haven’t touched since 2006, upgrading to version 7 may be a very tall order, if not impossible. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you fall, it is in your best interest to have your site thoroughly vetted for compliance prior to making the switch. Since PHP is server-based, your entire site will be affected, so test thoroughly prior to deployment.

What happens if I don’t upgrade?

Today only 24% of PHP sites are running on PHP 7. If you are one of the 76%, take very little comfort in numbers. PHP 5 will no longer be supported as of December 31, 2018. The upshot is that if a significant security hole were to be discovered for PHP 5, your website is completely at risk without any possibility of patches being released to fix it. On a less severe note, as more sites migrate to PHP 7, the rising tide will lift all websites in terms of performance, leaving your site falling further behind. In addition, fewer hosting platforms will want to deal with an outdated language, making it hard to even find a host that would agree to host your outdated and potentially hazardous site.

It is without question in your best interest as a PHP site owner to seriously consider upgrading to PHP 7 as soon as possible. It may require some short-term inconveniences, but in the long run it will definitely be worth it.

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