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.