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What is PHP 7 and Why You Should Update Your Website Immediately

Nick Fischer

By Nick Fischer | July 2018

If you have a website, odds are it is built using the PHP programming language. After all, over 83% of all websites use PHP. It is even used to power WordPress, the most popular CMS (content management system) with almost 60% market share.

 

There are many different versions of PHP and if you aren’t running on the latest one, then your website could be exposed to security threats. WordPress actually recommends hosting your site on PHP 7.2 or greater. Here are some reasons why you should upgrade your website to PHP 7 or greater.

 

Why Should I Upgrade to PHP 7?

The initial release of PHP 7 was in December 2015 and with every new PHP release comes a life cycle with active support and security fixes. Active support for the most recent previous PHP version, PHP 5.6, ended on January 19, 2017. This means that if your website is currently running PHP 5.6, then you will need to update by the end of December 2018 before the security updates end.

 

There are many benefits to upgrading. Several outdated functions have now been dropped and instead, more current features have been added to keep your site running smoothly. One of the biggest benefits of PHP 7 is its speed. PHP 7 is much faster than PHP 5 and in most cases, sites load twice as fast. This is due to how much more resource efficient PHP 7 is than PHP 5. Couple the speed benefits with the added security and upgrading to PHP 7 becomes a no brainer if you want to keep your site and your users safe.

 

How to Test if My Website is Compatible with PHP 7

Before upgrading to PHP 7, you will want to make sure your website is compatible with it to avoid any functionality issues. If you have a WordPress site, then you’re in luck! WP Engine has created a PHP Compatibility Checker plugin to do most of the heavy lifting for you. This plugin scans your website for any compatibility issues and gives you a report of potential areas that need to be fixed. We recommend installing and running this plugin to see how many errors are found.

 

After running the plugin, we also recommend creating a copy of your site and moving the copied version over to a PHP 7 server to test how the site performs on the actual server. This can be a tedious process, but in the end, it is necessary to avoid any issues occurring on the live site. Depending on your web host, you may have the option to copy and move your site right within your host’s dashboard. Our host, WP Engine, makes this process simple with a copy install feature.

 

Once you have the copied version of your site on a PHP 7 server, you then need to test, test, test. View every page on your site and test the functionality of all forms or any other special areas of the site. If you find any compatibility issues you will need to fix them before upgrading your live site to PHP 7. These may mean a small change to one page or entirely recreating sections of the site depending on the age of your site and the number of third-party plugins being used.

After the entire site has been tested and all issues have been fixed, you’re now ready to upgrade your site to PHP 7.

 

How to Upgrade to PHP 7

You have some options when it comes to upgrading your server to PHP 7. If you host your site with a marketing agency, they should be able to help you with the upgrade process. If you host your own site, then you should contact your hosting company and confirm that they offer PHP 7 servers. Some hosting providers offer the option to upgrade right from within the dashboard and others require you to reach out to them. Hosting companies that do not offer PHP 7 support should not be trusted and you should find a new host immediately. This is a huge security concern!

 

Time to Take Action

It’s time to take advantage of all the benefits of PHP 7. Upgrading will improve your site speed significantly, it will keep your site’s security up to date, it will lower memory usage, and much more!

 

Need help upgrading to PHP 7? Our team is ready to help! Contact us today to upgrate your website to PHP 7. 

Nick Fischer

Written by

Nick Fischer

Nick is a front-end developer at Element5. Day to day he helps support Element5’s clients' needs and assists with any web projects that come our way.

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