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PHP – What it is (and why you care!)

PHP – What it is (and why you care!)

PHP is a bit like the petrol in a car engine. Without petrol, it stops. Dirty petrol, it stutters and stops. Stale old petrol, it stutters.

For another way to look at it, PHP is like the interpreter between your website’s coding and your webserver. The webserver actually carries out the gruntwork for your website, receiving requests from your visitors (“send me the Home page again”) and doing what’s necessary to retrieve everything that your website says makes up the ‘Home page’, then sending it all back to the visitor’s device. Your website is highly likely to be a software package that assembles pages and carries out functions as and when requested. It will be passing instructions to the webserver computer (“get me that logo image”). However, the webserver needs something in between that understands website-speak on the one hand, and webserver-speak on the other. Enter PHP.

Your website has a webhosting account, like its own apartment in the overall skyscraper that is the webserver. It shares many resources with all the other occupants – PHP is one of those resources. So your PHP translator is also being used by other websites simultaneously. PHP is a busy bee.

Now as is always the case with any software, new versions keep coming out. PHP Version 5 has been around for a long time, gradually moving from 5.1 to 5.2 to 5.4 to 5.6… Well, there’s a big jump happening at the moment, up to PHP Version 7. Does this matter to you? Absolutely!!

PHP 7 is twice as fast as PHP 5. That by itself is plenty good enough reason to make the move. However, just as importantly, at the end of 2017, PHP 5 is no longer supported (in other words, won’t be fixed if the bad guys find a hole or if it stops working in certain situations). Odds are, PHP 5 will keep going for a bit longer, BUT it is definitely a good idea to move to PHP 7 as soon as opportunity permits.

How easy is changing to PHP 7? Sorry, but it’s that old chestnut, “it depends”. It can be very easy if you have up-to-date webhosting, and your website is up-to-date. Simply change a setting in your webhosting, and you’re done!

  • If your webhosting is a bit behind or restrictive, you will probably need to change webhosting service (it’s worth asking them if you can be upgraded, you never know).
  • If your site is a bit behind, there’s a good chance it will stop working when you move to PHP 7. A test is definitely on the cards. At least it is usually easy to immediately change back to PHP 5 and carry on as normal.

So to summarise, your website is highly likely to be using PHP, and you will need to change to PHP 7 in 2018 or risk a broken website and a panicked reaction to fix it. The good news is changing to PHP 7 gives you a more secure and noticeably faster website. Look into it sooner rather than later. If you need any help, Winch Websites is here.

Interested in working with us?

Just quickly send us your contact info and what you’re looking for – eg. why you want a website (starting from scratch, remaking an existing one, etc) and any particular features or questions you have in mind.

















Website maintenance – Why & What

Website maintenance – Why & What

Keeping Your Website Going

Websites need care & attention if they are to continue providing value to you (the website owner). Just like owning a car, a house, a computer – if you don’t maintain it, gradually things degrade. Small problems become big problems. And sooner or later there will be a failure, which of course is bound to happen at the worst possible time…

So the question is, what needs doing and why? (NB. the “how” very much depends on what you’re website has been built with, and can vary hugely).

1. The ‘Content Management System’

It is a rare website these days that is not powered by a content management system (CMS) of some sort. WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Shopify and on and on. They are all basically a software package that assists you in creating and managing a website without having to do coding or computer programming. Some of them allow you to run your own independent system (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal), some of them are large umbrella systems managed on your behalf (Wix, Weebly, Shopify, Squarespace).

So you need to know if you are responsible for keeping this underlying software package up-to-date, or if someone else is. If it’s someone else, all good – just make sure they’re are doing what they said they would. If it’s your job – make sure you are checking for updates on at least a weekly basis. The content management system is like the engine for your website, it powers it and drives it and makes it work. A stuttery engine will give you stuttery website performance.

Why update the core CMS? Because there are frequent fixes and updates that address security issues (people breaking into or abusing your site), bugs (things that don’t work properly) and improvements (making things work better and more smoothly).

Website maintenance

2. The Add-Ons & Extensions

You are quite unlikely to be using the base-level CMS. For a website to be useful to you and what you want to do with it, you are going to add extra functions to the site – called ‘add-ons’ or ‘extensions’, or maybe ‘options’ in the big shared systems. For an independent website, these add-ons also need the same upkeep as the underlying website system. Again, is that your job or is someone else doing it? You need to know or you could wake up one morning to a day that is going to be wasted on fixing a broken website (not to mention the potential loss of business while it’s down, and the cost of repair).

Why update the add-ons? Because there are fixes and updates that address security issues (people breaking into or abusing your site), bugs (things that don’t work properly) and improvements (making things work better and more smoothly).

3. The Webhosting Account

Often overlooked, the webhosting is where the website ‘lives’. Think of it as renting office space in an office block – there are multiple businesses not connected to you all sharing the same office block, and you have rented one corner of one floor. Your rented space is your own webhosting account, and the other businesses are other independent websites.

What if the owner of the office block never did any maintenance? And worse, you can’t do it yourself even if you wanted to because your contract forbids it? Now you’ve got a beautiful office in a shabby building with poor security. Not good.

So it’s important to know if the webserver that manages your webhosting is being maintained and managed for you. Once more, there are always ongoing changes, fixes, updates to the webserver software – and you are nearly always not allowed to do anything to the webserver (because you would affect all the other inhabitants too). Ask the question of your webhosting provider – “do you managed and maintain the webserver, and keep it up-to-date?”

Why update the webserver? Because there are frequent fixes and updates that address security issues (people breaking into or abusing the entire system), bugs (things that don’t work properly) and improvements (making things work better and more smoothly).

Effective and ongoing website maintenance is as optional as business insurance. You might not want it or have it, but you are exposed to serious business and financial risks without it. Prevention is definitely better than cure in this situation.

Winch Websites manages its own webservers and definitely keeps them up-to-date with the latest recommended systems and software, and follows industry best-practice to provide high-functioning, roomy webhosting with lots of bells & whistles.

We also offer a ‘Website Care’ service – you have a website, we’ll look after it. Updates, backups, monitoring, security and more – and we’ll even make changes to the pages for you. Saving you time, hassle and mental energy so you can get on with your business and leave the web stuff to someone else.

Interested in working with us?

Just quickly send us your contact info and what you’re looking for – eg. why you want a website (starting from scratch, remaking an existing one, etc) and any particular features or questions you have in mind.