PHP, the Open Source scripting language, is used by nearly 80 percent of the world’s websites.
According to W3Techs, around 61 percent of all websites on the internet still use PHP 5, a version of PHP that was first released fourteen years ago.
Now is the time to give PHP 5 some attention. In less than two months, on December 31st, security support for PHP 5 will officially cease. (Note: Some Linux distributions, such as Debian Long Term Support distributions, will still try to backport security fixes.)
Beyond security considerations, sites that are running on older versions of PHP are missing out on the significant performance improvements that come with the newer versions.
Effects of moving to PHP 7 without checking compatibility
Currently, for O’Brien Media hosting customers, our hosting servers are running both PHP 7 and PHP 5.6, we will be ending support for PHP 5.6 on December 31st 2018 to ensure that our servers remain secure and stable. When support for PHP 5 is switched off, either on our hosting servers or on 3rd party hosting servers, any websites or web applications that haven’t been updated to support PHP 7 may display error messages, or fail to function correctly. PHP 7 is not fully backwards compatible with PHP 5 so it is essential that you take action now to prepare for the changeover.
Drupal and PHP 7
Drupal 7 will drop support for older versions of PHP 5 on December 31st, but will continue to support PHP 5.6 as long there are one or more third-party organizations providing reliable, extended security support for PHP 5.
On the 8th November 2018 the Drupal development team released Drupal 7.61 which now supports PHP 7.2. This should make upgrades from PHP 5 easier. Drupal 7’s support for PHP 7.3 is being worked on but we don’t know yet when it will be available.
Modules and custom code still needs to be checked for compatibility to ensure that websites continue to function correctly under PHP 7.
Drupal 8 will end support for PHP 5 on March 6, 2019. We recommend updating to at least PHP 7.1 if possible, and ideally PHP 7.2, which is supported as of Drupal 8.5 (which was released March, 2018). Drupal 8.7 (to be released in May, 2019) will support PHP 7.3.
WordPress and PHP 7
There are a number of tools and checklists out there to verify if your site is ready for PHP 7. One of those tools is the plugin provided by WP Engine. The plugin will check whether the code of all your active plugins and themes is compatible with PHP 7.
There are a few points you need to keep in mind:
- Even though the plugin is written to detect as many problems as accurately as possible, it’s not 100% reliable in detecting errors and warnings. Contact us if you’d like your site checked for PHP 7 compatibility.
- There may be false positives detected, the plugin doesn’t check whether the code is wrapped in a PHP version check.
- The plugin does not execute your theme or plugin code, so it cannot detect runtime compatibility issues.
Still, it’s a great and easy way to test your site’s compatibility with PHP 7. The plugin is called PHP compatibility check by WP Engine. We recommend you test PHP 7 extensively on a staging site before updating your live site to PHP 7.