435 – Getting Your PHP Version Current
Is there a plugin for that?
With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin from the repository.
For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.
Getting Your PHP Version Current
Why are so many sites using old PHP versions?
- Website owners don’t know or care
- It’s time consuming to test for developers
- Web hosts don’t want to break sites, so they don’t automatically update all WordPress sites.
Why should we update to PHP 7.2?
- It’s faster than all previous versions
- Support, updates and patches
- It’s more secure
Check for compatibility
You can use the plugin Display PHP Version and it will display your PHP version on your WordPress Dashboard.
Also checkout PHP Compatibility Checker to run a test to make sure your plugins are compatible with PHP 7.2.
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Full TranscriptBusiness Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.
On today’s episode, we are going to talk about how to get our PHP software running on our web server. How do we get that updated to the latest version? Right here on Your Website Engineer Podcast, episode No. 435. Hello and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer Podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler, and I’m excited to be here with you this week because, of course, we are talking about WordPress, and this is near and dear to my heart because I’ve been getting notifications all over the place that I need to update my PHP version on my hosting packages to version 7.2. We’ll talk about that in just a minute.
I do have a couple announcements and a plugin to share with you this week. The first piece of news that I wanna share with you is all about WordPress 5.2 Beta 1. Yes, we just got 5.1, and, now, we’re looking at 5.2. So, they’re continuing to make improvements and, obviously, keep moving forward the technology when it comes to WordPress.
And the things that are slated in this release are, basically, things for the block editor. It’s receiving significant performance improvements, and it’s shaving about 35 percent off the load time for posts and cutting down keyboard price time – so, that’s like how fast when you touch the keyboard – how fast you see those things appear on your screen. That’s getting knocked down by 35 percent as well.
Also in the works is accessibility, and that continues to improve. The block editor supports your browser’s reduced motion settings. There’s all kinds of things in there, plus some new blocks. There’s, now, blocks for RSS, Amazon Kindle, embed block, a search block, a calendar block, and a tag cloud block. And so, lots of things happening in the WordPress 5.2 space.
If you’re interested in checking it out, I do recommend installing this beta software on a test site, and you can get more information by just going to and searching for WordPress, a beta tester plugin in the WordPress repository, and then you can select bleeding edge nightlies, and that will give you the latest and greatest version of WordPress. So, that’s WordPress 5.2 Beta 1.
And there are a few minimum requirements for this to work. You have to have WordPress 5.0 or greater, WooCommerce 3.5 or greater. PHP 7.2 or greater is recommended – and we’ll talk about that in just a few minutes – and then MySQL of version 5.0 or greater. And so, you can find a link in the show notes for this. It’s all open source. You can contribute on GitHub if you’d like, and you can follow along with more information about what’s going on on the WooCommerce developer’s blog, and all of that will be linked in the show notes for episode No. 435.
Okay, today, the plugin of the week that I wanna share with you is an interesting one, and I love finding plugins like this that, obviously, is fitting somebody’s need. Somebody created this, and it has some active installs, and so people are using this for their purpose. But this is a plugin by Web Scripts, and it is called WP Download Theme. And this basically allows you to download the theme as zip files directly from your admin dashboard without having to use FTP with just one single click.
Where this might be helpful is if you have a theme from the WordPress repository, or maybe you have a premium theme that you haven’t actually – it’s a premium theme, and you don’t have access to download it. Maybe you’re picking up this site from somewhere else, and you need a copy of those files. Without having to log into FTP and grab the files down from the server, this gives you a button, and you can click on it. It will compress the files and download it directly to your hard drive, and so I think it’s kinda cool.
They also have one called Download Plugin. And so, if you’re interested in getting a plugin from a site that you have seen before or, maybe, you’re working on for the first time and you don’t have those core files, I’d recommend checking out that as well. So, WP Download Theme or Download Plugin, those are the two that I wanna highlight today, made by the same developer, and you can find the link for the WP Download Theme in the show notes for episode No. 435.
All right, let’s talk about PHP, and I know that it’s not quite to WordPress, but it is a very important technology that runs behind our WordPress websites and makes our websites load faster. It’s like that whole engine that makes your entire website work. And what I mean by this is, as we make changes in WordPress, it will automatically reflect on the frontend of our website. So, if we add a new menu time, all of a sudden, all of the menus on all of the pages are now updated. If we add a new blog post, it’s going to update some pages, and it automatically works.
It’s a dynamically driven website. It’s not a static website where you put it up, and then you have to somehow get into your website without an admin dashboard. It’s a dynamic website, and PHP makes it happen. What happens is PHP is the driver. That’s the feature that allows your website to go in and look in the database, and the database is where all of our data is stored. So, whether that be the settings or all your posts and your podcasts and all the stuff that you have stored on your website, all the data, and that’s all stored in your databased. And PHP is the thing that goes in and grabs the information from the databased, pulls it out, and displays it on your website.
And what if I could say that, if we have this one task at hand and one thing that we could do – if we wanted to instantly make our WordPress site better, we could do this in less than 10 minutes, would you do it if it would speed up your site, to make your site load twice as fast? Most definitely. That is going to be a task that you should do every single time that opportunity comes up.
And what you have to do is update it to the latest version of PHP. We won’t have any choice because PHP 5.6 is now the minimum requirement in April. Next month, that’s gonna be the minimum requirements for WordPress. So, anything less than PHP 5.6 is no longer gonna work, and that requirement is going to be replaced by 7.0 as early as 2019. That’s December of 2019.
Let’s talk about WordPress and it’s PHP problem. Eight out of every ten WordPress sites will soon be running a version of PHP that’s no longer supported if we, as website owners, don’t act fast. According to wordpress.org statistics, about 35 percent of WordPress sites on PHP 5.6. The problem with this: Active support for PHP 5.6 ended on January 19, 2017 and will officially reach the end of life on December 31st, and this was December 31, 2018. This means that they will no longer have any security support, and websites that continue to use will be exposed to unpatched vulnerabilities. Then there’s PHP 7.0, which reached its end of life on December 3, 2018, and it is no longer a currently supported version of PHP, even though 20 percent of WordPress sites are currently running PHP 7.0. And you may be thinking, “Wasn’t PHP 7.0 just released?” Well, it was 2 years and 11 months ago, almost 3 years ago.
And the funny thing with PHP is the numbering scheme. It went from 5.6 to 7.0. It completed skipped 6.0 in their series. But anyways, that’s a different story for a different day. But 7.1 and 7.2 are the currently supported active versions of PHP. So, that’s a little bit of the backstory on PHP and why we’re seeing so many sites that are running outdated versions of PHP.
And why is this happening? Why is this happening on so many WordPress websites? And there’s three reasons why this is really a factor, and the first reason is website owners don’t know or don’t care. Many site owners, particularly the ones who are not technically inclined – all they care about is their site is up and running, that it’s functioning well and it looks good. They don’t have to upgrade their version of PHP. Why would they want to do it? Also, there’s no easy way to update to PHP 7.2 inside the WordPress dashboard. That’s something that you have to go to your host and update there, and so that makes it a little bit harder for a website owner to update to this latest version.
Another reason why this isn’t happening is it’s time consuming for plugin and theme developers. To update to the latest version of PHP involves updating their code and with more testing to ensure compatibility, and they don’t wanna break their user’s site, so it is an intensive process to make sure that plugins and themes are compatible with the latest version. And why doesn’t the web host just automatically update? Well, the web host doesn’t wanna break sites. That’s what it comes down to. They don’t wanna break their customer’s website.
Even though PHP’s 5.6 was released in 2014 and PHP’s 7.0 is about to reach the end of life, web host have put off updating their servers to the latest version, either 7.1 or 7.2, due to the potential break of plugins and themes. And so, with a lot of web hosting companies hosting WordPress websites, if they would automatically update to the latest version, that’s going to be a lot of support tickets if a web host pushed update things and things go wrong and tons of websites are broken. So, that means that we want to be on the forefront, and we wanna be proactive, and we want to go and update to the latest version of PHP so we can handle all that ourselves.
Now, I have been getting pings from Pressable, which is a hosting company that I use for a lot of my websites, including yourwebsiteengineer.com, and it’s been saying that, in April – I forget the date – April 11th or 4th or something. It keeps pinging me and saying, “This is the date that we are going to update all of our servers to 7.2. You can update on your own if you want to beforehand, but this is the date and time that we’re gonna manually update.” And they do the same thing when a new version of WordPress comes out and whatnot. And so, it’s got me thinking, “Okay, I need to go through and run some tests of getting things ready and getting things updated on those sites.”
Okay, moving on in to the section of WordPress and requiring new version of PHP, the WordPress project hasn’t forced users to the latest version of PHP because it’s complicated. It’s a mix of everything that we already talked about. You could break sites. There’s extensive testing that needs to happen – all of these things. But this year, in 2019, things are gonna change. At word cape U.S., last year, December 2018, it was announced that PHP will become the minimum supported version for the first half of 2019, and then the minimum version will be bumped, again, to PHP 7.0 in the second half of 2019 if all goes according to plan.
And so, this could be – mainly, what we’re gonna see is we’re gonna start to see little nags in our WordPress dashboards letting us know that, hey, we have an outdated version of PHP. I would say, within WooCommerce support, on a day to day basis, I’m seeing outdated versions of PHP, maybe – one, two, three – I don’t know, maybe 3 out of every 10 people that I come in contact with, and so it’s happening quite regularly that I’m seeing something that’s below version 5.6.
Now, let’s talk a couple reasons of why we should upgrade to PHP 7.0. And I didn’t do any benchmarking tests. My friend Adam did over at kitchensinkwp.com in an episode a few weeks ago, and he talked about he instantly improved his speed on his website just by switching from 5.6 to 7.2, and then he switched back to make sure that that was still happening and, indeed, was the case. So, speed and performance is the first reason we should update to 7.1 or 7.2. It basically cut your speed in half or make your website load twice as fast as it normally is. And so, that’s a no-brainer reason why to upgrade to PHP 7.2.
The other reason is for support and compatibility. Compatibility’s that huge reason why you wanna be on the latest version. It makes sure that folks are still developing and working on the software, ensuring they’re actively supporting it. They’re making sure that security vulnerabilities are patched. They are making sure that the technology and the software can run better.
There are new features in PHP that weren’t there in 5.6, and so plugin developers are trying to maintain compatibility for tons of different versions of PHP, have to write extra code, and they can’t add new functionality until they can be assured that everybody’s running the latest version of the software. So, support and compatibility is another reason – and security. We talked about that. Those two versions, 5.6 and 7.0, are no longer being maintained. If somebody sees a vulnerability in the software, they’re not gonna patch it. It’s gonna be open forever. So, we wanna update to 7.2.
Now, the cool part is there’s a couple plugins that we can install. You can do one that’s a free plugin called display PHP version you can download from the WordPress repository, and it will give you – in the at a glance section at the top of your WordPress dashboard, it’ll tell you what version of PHP is running. So, that’s pretty nice. And then, if you want to, if you see that you’re running a lower version, then you can go ahead and install a plugin by WP Engine called PHP compatibility checker, and it is a perfect tool for this job. You can go in, and you can select which version that you want.
I recommend PHP 7.2, and then you can scan any active plugins or themes or all plugins and themes, and then it’ll go through, and it’ll display a list of your plugins and highlight any that include code from older versions of PHP that is now incompatible with the version that you just tested. So, this will go through and let you know that, oh, this one has a warning. This one, maybe, Gravity Forms or WP Rocket or maybe one of those plugins – I’m just making these up off the top of my head. Maybe those aren’t fully compatible with 7.2, but they’re all compatible with 7.1. If those are mission critical plugins that you need on your website, maybe you upgrade to 7.1 and then wait for the developer to catch up, get the compatibility for 7.2, and then you can update to 7.2.
If your hosting plan has a C panel, it’s upper easy. You just go and you look for the one that’s called select PHP version, and then you can go, and you can set – it’s a drop-down menu, and then you can set it as current. You can update from a very, very old version all the way up to 7.2.
Or, if you are on a hosting plan and you don’t wanna do it, you can reach out to your hosting provider, and you can write a little message to them. You say, basically, “I’m running a WordPress site on one of your servers. Wordpress.org recommends 7.2 for PHP. Can you let me know if you support 7.2 and how I can upgrade?” You can go ahead and just send that off to your host, and they can help you figure out how to make the switch and get up to date on PHP 7.0.
I’m gonna go ahead, in the coming weeks, and get updated all of my sites to 7.2 after I run compatibility checks and make sure that there’s no mission critical plugins that still have some warnings or some errors on 7.0 or 7.1, and then I’ll get everything up and running and just feel better, feel more calm, and make sure that my websites are loading most quickly and ready to be ready for 5.2 and 5.3 when WordPress continues to push out those releases.
So, that’s what I wanted to share with you this week. Take some time and go through your hosting plans and see what kind version of PHP they’re running. And, if it’s anything that’s less than 7.0, I do recommend updating to 7.1 or 7.2. That’s all I’ve got, for you, to share this week. Take care, and we’ll talk again soon. Bye-bye.