If so, you are not alone. According to W3Techs, nearly half of all web sites still run on PHP 5.x. According to WordPress.org stats, currently 51.3% of all WordPress web sites are running a PHP version older than 7.2. 18.9% have web hosting PHP 5.6 active. As of December 31, 2018, security updates will no longer be provided for PHP 5.6. It’s important to know what version your web site is running on so that you can take the steps to update it.
In the best case scenario, your web hosting environment supports multiple versions of PHP and if your web site is on a platform like WordPress and everything is up to date, upgrading to PHP 7.x can sometimes be as easy as a click of a button. However, like many things in technology. It’s seldom that simple. Some web servers do not support multiple versions of PHP so in order to upgrade, you need to move to a newer server. Even if your server support PHP 7.x, your web site may not. Many times when you update PHP, the site will generate an error or not display correctly. This is often due to a plugin or some code in the site that needs to be fixed or updated in order to support PHP 7.x.
What is PHP 5.6 and why should I care?
PHP is a scripting language that runs on your web site server. It is required to power most modern web sites including those build with popular content management systems like WordPress and Joomla. When a web server is first setup, it will most likely be configured to run the latest version of all server software programs like PHP. This is very similar to when you purchase a new desktop computer with Windows. You’ll most likely purchase it with the latest version at that time. Fast forward three, four, five or more years and there is a good chance that version of Windows is not longer the most current. The same applies for web servers which are computers too. Most of us do not own or control the servers our web sites reside on but we’re all paying a web hosting company for web site hosting services and good hosts will keep their servers current. At Windhill, we have multiple web hosting servers with multiple versions of PHP available.
Why should I upgrade to PHP 7.x?
Just like your smart phone, tablet or computer, the operating system software on web hosting servers age over time as newer versions are developed and older versions are no longer supported. The term ‘End-Of-Life’ is used to refer to versions that are no longer supported. What does that mean? It means that the software developer is no longer going to issue security fixes or updates as future vulnerabilities are discovered. As of this writing, the chart below which can be seen live here shows that only PHP versions 7.3 and 7.4 have active support (green bars). PHP 7.2 (orange bar) has security fixes only through November 30, 2020. A lot of web sites running on WordPress are still running on PHP 5.6 which saw support end in 2018.