Why Update to the Latest PHP Version (+ How to Do it Right)

Why Update to the Latest PHP Version (+ How to Do it Right)

As of December 1, 2019, PHP 7.1 has reached its end of life. Websites running on this version will no longer receive security support.  

What’s alarming is that a whopping 64% of WordPress users are still using old PHP versions. And 53.3% of all PHP-powered sites are even still stuck with PHP 5.  

Running your websites on PHP 7.1 or lower will put them at risk for security issues. Not only that, you won’t be able to leverage the performance enhancements in newer PHP versions. 

PHP 7.4 is the latest version as of December 18, 2019 — and users are encouraged to upgrade to this version soon. 

You might have a lot of projects on your plate to be dealing with PHP upgrades. But your websites can face grave consequences if you don’t.  

4 Critical Reasons You Shouldn’t Skip PHP Updates 

  1. Receive security patches 

  2. Receive security patches

    In a world where cybercrime looms in the distance, using an unsupported PHP version puts your business at risk.  

    In fact, business owners faced one of the worst years in PHP security in 2016. Over 100 security issues were reported — including DDoS, memory corruption, and other gain-information-type crimes.  

    PHP is a large system that needs constant fixes and improvements. Every new version comes with security fixes oprevious versions.  

    Make sure to use the latest PHP versions to prevent cyberattacks and protect your assets. 

  3. Keep site performance at par  

  4. Keep site performance at par

    Websites running on PHP 5.6 are two times slower than those on PHP 7.0. If PHP is up to date, your system can execute twice as many requests per second 

    Check out these PHP benchmark slides by Rasmus Lerdorf during PHP Fluent Talk: 

    WP PHP benchmark
    Bottom line is — the more updated your PHP is, the more performance gains to expect. That’s more than enough reason to invest in PHP upgrades.  

  5. Get up-to-date support 

  6. Get up-to-date support

    Plugin and theme developers can only go so far in extending support for older PHP versions. So, by not upgrading, you expose your clients’ websites to deprecated plugins and broken functions.  

    Some of the common WordPress errors from unsupported PHP versions include:  

    The WordPress development community may still be adjusting to the latest PHP version, but it won’t be long until they get the hang of it soon.  

    READ14 Common WordPress Issues + Easy Fixes You Can Do 

  7. Enjoy new development features  

  8. Enjoy new development features

    Aside from bug fixes, new PHP versions come with new language features. These go a long way in improving your sites’ performance and reducing server and user-facing errors.   

    What’s new in PHP 7.4? Here are some nifty features your web development agency can use:  

    • Arrow functions for cleaner, more concise code  
    • Typed properties in classes  
    • Preloading for improved PHP performance  
    • Improved type variants  
    • Weak References to retain a reference to an object 
    • Spread operator in arrays  
    • Null coalescing assignment operator   

    Find a bunch of other helpful PHP 7.4 features here 

How to Update to the Latest PHP Version  

Other web hosts will delay upgrading PHP on their servers. So it pays to know how to do it yourself.  

For WordPress users 

 Before upgrading, make sure you know what version of PHP your site is on. If you’re unsure, here’s how to check:  

  1. Install the Display PHP Version plugin.  
  2. Activate the plugin.  
  3. Find your current PHP version in the At a Glance widget on your WP dashboard.  

Display PHP Version plugin

Upgrading to the latest PHP version puts your WordPress site at risk for incompatibility issues.  

Before you make the switch, you’ll need to take precautionary steps. Backup and update on a staging site. Check if your core, plugins, and themes are compatible with the newest PHP version.  

Overall, make sure you avoid running into errors — and inflict unnecessary downtime on your clients and their customers. 

READ: 7 Smart Tips to Protect Your Site Before a WordPress Update 

Upgrade from cPanel  

If your web host uses cPanel, you can directly change your PHP version on your admin dashboard.  

  1. Login to your cPanel account.  
  2. Head to the Software category and click on Select PHP Version 
  3. Select the latest version and Set as current 

Upgrade on your own server 

If you manage your own dedicated server, you may upgrade to PHP 7.4 yourself. Check out migration guides from php.net. Pay close attention to new features and functions and how they’ll impact your website. 

Make sure your web host supports PHP 7.4 

Your web host may be reluctant to push out to the latest PHP version for fear of support tickets piling up. But it’s really the other way around. Using an outdated PHP version makes you vulnerable to security issues and poor site performance.  

Make sure your web host runs on the latest PHP version. Vodien servers now support PHP 7.4 to keep websites secure and up to speedYou also get a professional web development team that’ll guide you through PHP upgrades.