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PHP : Hypertext Preprocessor

What is PHP and how it affects your website.

I keep hearing about PHP in regards to my website. What is PHP and how does it affect me?

PHP is a scripting language that is used by most websites on the web to add advanced features to website, such as contact forms, image sliders and animations. Most estimates state that 80% of all websites use some PHP.

Here is a brief guide on what PHP is and how it will affect your website.

What is PHP?

PHP (recursive acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is a widely-used open source general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development and can be embedded into HTML.

PHP originally stood for Personal Home Page. Today, it is referred to PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. If you would like to know more about PHP, you can find a link to their site here.

What PHP does for you is a little easier to explain. Essentially, PHP is a scripting language that allows for advanced features for your website. This includes interactive menus and animations, as well as database connectivity. It is almost certain that your favorite websites are using some PHP scripting (including this one).

Most popular website Content Management Services (CMS) are built on PHP, including WordPress and Joomla. It is estimated that 4 out of 5 websites contain some PHP scripting.

PHP is under constant development as the public need for website features and security evolve. For this reason, PHP follows a two year lifespan model, with a new minor version released every year (typically in November). Each version is fully supported for two years, with an additional year of security updates only.

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What PHP version should I be using?

While older PHP versions will still work with most browsers, these are no longer supported or updated and will not receive any security updates. This may leave your website and hosting account vulnerable to attack from scammers and hackers.

So, what version of PHP should you be using? For security reasons, it is best to be running the newest PHP version available that your website is compatible with. If you are using a CMS such as WordPress, keeping it updated (which you should be doing anyway) should allow you to keep your PHP version at the most recent version.

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Why should I update my PHP version?

As explained earlier, older versions of PHP have less features, but more security vulnerabilities. For this reason alone, it is beneficial for your to keep your website running as current software as possible. You can see what versions are currently supported here.

New PHP minor versions are supported for two years and will receive security updates for one year after, for a total of three years. While older deprecated versions will still work as long as your web server supports them, they will no longer receive security updates and can leave you vulnerable to attacks.

But aside from the feature and security benefits, there will come a time when we will need to disable these older versions of PHP on the servers. These older versions can become a security hole that may leave the server vulnerable to attack. Older versions of PHP are eventually phased out and removed from our servers.

While our intention is to never remove PHP versions without notifying our customers first, it is possible that a security issue may be so severe that we would need to take immediate action. If your site will only work with that version, your site will be down until you update you site.

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How do I update my PHP version?

Updating what version your cPanel is using is easy. You can follow this guide for more information on managing your PHP version in cPanel.

Updating what version your site requires may be more difficult.

If your website is a basic HTML website, then you do not need to worry about your PHP version.

If you are using a CMS such as WordPress or Joomla, updating those should correct the issue. If you had someone build the site for you, you may need to contact your web site developer if you are having further issues.

While PHP versions are typically safe to update within a major release version (for example, updating from PHP 7.1 to PHP 7.4), updating from one major release to another can cause compatibility issues.

If you are updating from PHP5 to PHP7 or PHP8 (there is no PHP6), you should be fine if your site does not use a database. There were huge coding changes for database handling between PHP5 and PHP7 that can break your site.

It is recommended to update your PHP versions in steps. If you are currently using PHP5.6, try updating to PHP7.0 first. If that is successful, then try PHP7.4 (skipping PHP7.1 to PHP7.3 should be fine). If every thing is still working fine, you can then update to PHP8.0. Keep doing this till you are at the current version.

If you run into a version that your site is no longer compatible with, you should revert it to the newest version that your site works with. You will now want to contact your web developer or update your CMS to ensure that your site will work with newer versions of PHP.

What can happen to my site if I use older PHP versions?

If your site does not use PHP functions or only uses basic functions, it is possible that you will not notice any issues. However, if you use a database or more advanced PHP functions, you may see errors on your site, or it may not load at all.

If the version of PHP that you are using is removed from the server, your site will be forced to use the default PHP version on the server. Your website may not be compatible with the newer version. This is another reason why it is better to keep your site updated and running on newer versions of PHP.

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If you have any further questions, please be sure to reach out to our support staff by using our chat service in your client area or by submitting a ticket.

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