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Why you need to update your PHP version now

A problem which could significantly impact any business or organisation with a website is lurking in the shadows and still isn’t common knowledge.

Updating your PHP version is vital for the security of your organisation as well as ensuring your website is running at its best performance and that it has maximum support. Not making the upgrade, for instance, could leave your website – and therefore business – far more vulnerable to a cyber attack.

But many organisations may not realise the scale and severity of this risk because updating PHP versions isn’t currently common knowledge. This piece will explore what PHP is, why it’s important you update it when you need to and how to check when you need to do this.

What is PHP?

PHP stands for ‘hypertext preprocessor’ and is a programming language which runs on a web server. It’s one of the most popular languages for web development, with widely used content management systems such as WordPress sites running on it.

A key difference between PhP and something like HTML is that the former is executed on the web server, while HTML is executed in the browser.

PHP versions tend to have a lifecycle of around three years before the version then needs to be updated as it will no longer be supported.

How to check your PHP version

Firstly and most simply, make sure you regularly check which PHP versions are currently being supported by visiting the PHP website.

How you check which PHP version your website is using will depend on the web host you use. If you have WordPress 5.0 or higher installed, for instance, you can find which PHP version you’re currently using by heading to the dashboard. Go to Tools > Site Health > Info > Server. Within the Server section you should see the current PHP version being used. This may differ if you’re using a different web host.

Benefits of upgrading your PHP version

Better security

Websites running old PHP versions can be far more vulnerable to cyber attacks if these versions are left to hit end of life. In 2021, CyberNews found that over 80,000 servers around the world are still running on outdated PHP versions. This makes them easy targets for threat actors.

Improved performance

If you’re running a customer-facing website then performance is absolutely vital, but even if your website is internal, upgrading your PHP is important for performance reasons too. It will improve the load times of your site by making some internal code improvements. Using the newest PHP version will also reduce memory usage.

PHP updates also tend to include extra benefits. New versions usually include new features, plus there will often be improvements to current functionalities.

Faster website

Without doubt, newer PHP versions are also faster. The newest version of PHP will have faster execution times with less memory usage. Even if you only listen to one reason for upgrading, it has to be this.

More support

Current versions of PHP will enjoy active support, including regular security patches and bug fixes. As explained, slightly older versions may continue to be supported for critical security issues for a year or two. After that, if your website’s PHP version has reached end of life, there will no longer be any support at all.

What happens if you don’t update your PHP version?

PHP versions are actually only actively supported for one to two years, but there is a grace period of usually another one to two years of security support for critical issues. At this time the newer PHP version will also be available.

If you don’t update your PHP version and you let it run beyond even the one to two years of just critical security support it will reach what is referred to as ‘end of life’. This means it will not get updated anymore and, therefore, it’s no longer secure to use.

How will your website be affected by the update?

The impact of a PHP update on your website depends on how it’s built. If it’s made with HTML then the update won’t have any impact at all.

If your website is made with PHP and the code is also compatible with the new PHP version then the update will mean your website will remain exactly the same or, hopefully, functionality will improve.

The only issue is if your website code isn’t supported in the new version of PHP as an update will cause errors. In this instance you need to make sure you have the latest version of your CMS and, if applicable, that you have updated the code so it’s compatible.


We offer our clients a maintenance package which carries out PHP updates to ensure websites are protected, working optimally and able to be hosted by servers.

Get in touch to find the perfect package for you