At SBIM, security and performance are always at the front of mind. In addition to keeping your WordPress sites up to date, we also ensure our hosting servers are on the best technology available. When certain services reach end-of-life, like in the case of PHP 5.6, we proactively aim to move our customers to a supported version.

However, this isn’t always as simple as just copying your existing site from one server to another, especially in this case as there is a big leap in technology from PHP 5.6 to the latest PHP 7.3.

As WordPress users, we’re all familiar with WordPress core, theme and plugin updates. Some of these updates are security patches, and some add new functionality to our websites. As WordPress has evolved and the PHP 5.6 end-of-life has been getting closer, theme and plugin developers began ditching support for this older technology. For a plugin to work on both PHP 5.6 and PHP 7, for example, the developer would almost need to write the plugin twice! And some developers are more diligent than others at keeping their code up to date.

That means, if we just lifted your site “as is” and moved it to one of our PHP 7 servers, any number of issues could arise, from a simple error on the screen to a catastrophic website failure.

So what exactly is PHP?

PHP is the programming language on which WordPress is built. The language itself has been around for about twenty years ago. Of course, PHP has changed a lot in the last twenty years – new functionality has been added, old functionality removed, and some functionality has been updated to reflect the technology of the day. As with any software, there has also been a lot of bug fixes and dozens of security patches have been released. The PHP we have today is much more powerful, more secure and overall better than the PHP we had twenty years ago. Or ten years ago. Or three…

In fact, the difference between PHP 5.6 and PHP 7 is staggering – PHP 7 provides a roughly 1.8x increase in performance compared to PHP 5.6.

What happens at end of life?

PHP 5.6 hits end-of-life on December 31st, 2018. So what exactly happens in 2019? Well, to be honest, the software will continue to work as it did previously. The problem is that the organisations behind PHP will no longer provide support or security fixes. If a vulnerability is found – and they are found more often than you might think – it will not be fixed. Which means it is a gaping hole for hackers to exploit, and they will actively target websites running on older versions of PHP.

For this reason, leaving the old version of PHP running is not an option. In fact, in 2019, you will have a hard time finding any web hosting company that will host your PHP 5.6 website. By the end of December, SBIM are aiming to have decommissioned our PHP 5.6 servers and ensure all our servers are running the latest version of PHP 7.

What does this mean for you?

If you are already on one of our PHP 7 servers, this won’t affect you at all. If your website is on our old PHP 5.6 server, you will receive an email from us shortly. We will need to discuss a plan with you to either upgrade or rebuild your existing website.