What does this mean and how do I update my PHP?
PHP version 5.6 came to an end in December of 2018. Fixes and support are no longer provided as it reached what’s called EOL or End of Life. PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor, you’d think the abbreviation would be HP but I guess Hewlett Packard nabbed that first! PHP is a scripting language used predominantly in web development created back in 1994. There you go, you’ve learnt a geeky fact!
Anywho! Like most scripting languages, different versions are always in production and older versions phased out or deprecated. This improves the security of the script and patches over any loop holes and vulnerable code. Ultimately it’s to simply improve the performance of the script.
PHP 5.6 was a very popular version and is still used heavily by a lot of websites. There are still millions of websites utilising PHP 5.6 despite its End of Life date being last year. This is not a good thing. Now that PHP 5.6 End of Life has passed there is no more support. Any corruption to software or scripts will not be covered by security fixes or updates.
How do I know if my PHP is out of date?
Anyone that has a website should ensure they are running PHP 7.2 or 7.3. For most people using platforms like WIX or Squarespace this is all handled in the background by the team that look after the servers so no issue there. In fact most major hosting companies ensure that the system running the hosting account is updated to the latest, supported PHP version. However some may not and you might see an error notice when logging into your website. For example on the WordPress dashboard you may see a notice similar to this:
In this case, you should contact your website hosting provider immediately. They can get you upgraded to the latest PHP version available. As of the 1st of January 2019, is PHP version 7.3. One thing to note is that when upgrading to the latest PHP version some website plugins and scripts may cease to work. You’ll know once the upgrade has been completed if when testing your website, some parts are not fully working. Also you may see some shortcodes hanging around on your web pages.
Shortcodes are odd bits of text / script inside square brackets that look like this: [odd bits of text or script]. It will likely be the very old plugins and scripts that fail to work properly once you upgrade to the latest PHP. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re better off staying with your old outdated PHP 5.6 and having a fully working website! Please update your site PHP and just replace the scripts and plugins that are not functioning correctly. Worst case scenario – your website becomes a target and you lose everything!
How do I update my PHP version?
If you manage your own website hosting, for example a cPanel hosting platform, then you can upgrade this yourself. See below the following steps to upgrade your account from PHP 5.6 to PHP 7.3 using cPanel. It is very simple to do and you can always revert back temporarily if you need to for whatever reason.
Head into your cPanel account area and scroll down to the Software panel. You’ll see ‘Select PHP version’ as long as you have authority to access this from your host.
The next screen you see will show you which PHP version is currently running (native for that website). It also gives you the option to select a new PHP version from the dropdown. Furthermore, it shows you all the extensions available in that PHP version once you set it. You can toggle any of these to enable or disable the extensions. You should be okay to leave them as default. We wouldn’t recommend changing any of these unless you are familiar with what they do and how they work!
And that’s it! As we mentioned you can always revert back to a previous PHP version or reset to default if anything goes wrong. This will allow you time to sort out which plugins or scripts on your site are affected by the version change. You can then get new ones in place ready to make the PHP version update again.
Always stay up to date, with everything!
Whether it’s your PHP version, website plugins, your soaps or some interesting gossip… STAY UP TO DATE! Updates are there for a reason and that reason is security and improvements. Well, in the case of PHP and technology that is (don’t be a gossip). Technology is constantly evolving and improving features and so on meaning you have to keep up too. It’s a pain updating all the time but it’s more of a pain if your outdated scripts become a huge target for spam bots, worms, hackers or a virus.
If you want to see which PHP version is the most current at anytime and when that version’s EOL is due then this link will be really useful to you https://www.php.net/supported-versions.php
Thanks for reading and stay secure!