PHP is used in some way by almost 80% of dynamic websites so there’s a pretty good chance your website uses PHP too.
Version 5.6 of the popular programming language is the most widely used version with 60% of the world’s websites using it. However, as of 31st December 2018, it is no longer being supported. As a result, your website could be vulnerable to malware, data breaches and other cyber threats.
Updating to PHP version 7.1 or later will keep your data safe and offer a number of other benefits including a 100% faster loading speed. We’ve got the rundown here.
What’s The Sitch?
For the uninitiated, PHP (which technically stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor), has been running since the late 90’s and has experienced a number of updates over the years. The earliest iterations of version 5 date back to 2004. This highly versatile server-side programming language can be used to build pretty much anything on the web.
On 31st December 2018 PHP 5.6 had its official end of life. The redaction of support was announced back in January 2017 when it entered security fix only mode and they have been rolling out subsequent versions since.
— php.net (@official_php) January 19, 2017
As a new year treat, presumably due to the large amounts of websites still using 5.6, PHP rolled out a final security release on 10th January 2019 which fixed a lot of lingering security bugs. All 5.6 users have been encouraged to upgrade to this immediately.
However, the overwhelming advice is to plan an update to the latest version at the earliest opportunity. The versions that are currently supported are 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3, which was released on 6th December 2018.
Websites At Risk
Your website will still run on 5.6 of course, in the same way that you could theoretically still use a Windows XP computer without too much grief. But this is far from ideal and the lack of support leaves you open to major vulnerabilities.
With an unsupported version there is a much greater risk of cyber-attacks. This could affect the owner of the website but if you have a lot of traffic, user data could also be at risk.
The reason why so many sites are still on 5.6 could be because people are unaware of the fact their version is outdated or it could be because they are hesitant to update to a newer version. The best way of finding out if you are on 5.6 is by checking your hosting provider’s control centre.
One reason why some might be hesitant about moving away from this version is that some functions of their website won’t work on the latest version. This is certainly a possibility so it is imperative that you test your website before going live and possibly get IT support to ensure everything’s ticking along nicely.
The Benefits of New PHP
Fully integrating the latest version of PHP may take some work but the update itself is only a couple of clicks away. Once you’ve smoothed out any teething problems it will be worth it. Not only will your data be more secure but importantly any user data and cookies will also be out of reach from hackers.
There are other benefits to having the latest programming. Compared to 5.6, dynamic websites load around 100% faster on 7.1 or above. This of course is a major pull for the end user so is worth noting for anyone wanting to improve the user experience of their website. The better the user experience, the more likely people are going to stick around on your site. If a page takes too long to load most visitors will click away within moments.
The average visitor stays on a web page for no longer than 15 seconds so you’ll want to give them enough reasons not to leave. This in turn is going to have a positive impact on SEO as Google takes the time spent on your pages into account when indexing your site for its search engine ranking.
The financial damage that can be caused by a major cyber-attack far outweighs the relatively small amount of time and money it may cost to get your PHP up to date. With that in mind don’t put it off any longer and ensure you’ve got the best.