The Transition to PHP 7 in WordPress: Why and How to Upgrade

Subtitle 1: Understanding the Necessity of PHP Upgrade

Subtitle 2: Benefits of Upgrading to PHP 7

Subtitle 3: Checking Your Current PHP Version

Subtitle 4: Preparing for PHP Upgrade

Subtitle 5: Step-by-Step Guide to Upgrading PHP in WordPress

Subtitle 1: Understanding the Necessity of PHP Upgrade

WordPress Minimum PHP Increasing to 5.6

As WordPress continues to evolve, it faces the challenge of maintaining compatibility with older software versions. The recent release of WordPress 5.2 “Jaco” brought numerous exciting changes, including the introduction of the Site Health check tool, which plays a crucial role in educating users and developers about the necessary requirements for smooth website operation. An integral part of this transition is the increase in the minimum PHP version to 5.6.

Subtitle 2: Benefits of Upgrading to PHP 7

What is PHP?

PHP, an acronym with a recursive definition, stands for “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor.” It serves as a server-side templating engine, combining PHP code and HTML code to create dynamic websites. This dynamic capability distinguishes WordPress from static websites, allowing it to generate complex layouts and user-generated content on the fly.

Is PHP 5.6 Still Supported?

Unfortunately, PHP 5.6 reached its end of support on December 31st, 2018. This discontinuation of support prompted WordPress to raise its minimum PHP version requirements. Without ongoing feature and security updates, PHP 5.6 became a risk to website security and functionality. In fact, PHP 7.0 is also nearing its End of Life (EOL), making it essential for WordPress to transition to a minimum PHP version of 7.0 within the next year.

What Happens if I Don’t Upgrade My PHP 5?

When software reaches its End of Life (EOL), it ceases to receive support from developers, leaving any discovered security vulnerabilities unaddressed. With WordPress moving to PHP 5.6 and subsequently PHP 7.0, plugin and theme developers are adopting new coding standards. Failure to upgrade your PHP version while plugins and themes evolve may lead to website disruptions.

Given WordPress’s significant presence on the internet, maintaining a secure ecosystem is paramount. Moreover, aligning with Google’s performance standards necessitates a faster and more efficient WordPress platform.

Subtitle 3: Checking Your Current PHP Version

How Do I Check Which PHP Version My WordPress Website is Using?

It’s crucial to identify your WordPress website’s current PHP version. You can do this through the following methods:

Check Your Hosting Management Panel: Your hosting backend, such as cPanel or Plesk, typically provides information about your PHP version. In cPanel, navigate to the “SOFTWARE” section and select “Select PHP Version” to view the current PHP version. For Plesk users, access “PHP Settings” to find a dropdown menu with different PHP versions. While you may have the option to change the PHP version, exercise caution and consider auditing and backing up your site before making any changes. If your hosting provider can’t update your PHP, it might be time to consider migrating to a different hosting environment.

Use a WordPress Plugin: If your website allows plugin installation, you can install and activate the “Display PHP Version” plugin. This plugin conveniently displays the PHP version information on the main dashboard in the “At A Glance” widget.

Subtitle 4: Preparing for PHP Upgrade

What’s Next?

If your website is currently running PHP 7.0, you may not need an immediate upgrade; however, it’s worth noting that PHP 7.0 is also approaching its End of Life. PHP 7.3, already available, offers improved performance and features compared to PHP 7.0.

For websites running PHP versions lower than 7.0, upgrading requires careful planning. Many instances involve rewriting parts of plugins and themes to ensure proper functionality. Follow the next steps meticulously to ensure a smooth transition.

Subtitle 5: Step-by-Step Guide to Upgrading PHP in WordPress

How Do I Upgrade My PHP Version?
  1. Audit the Website: Before upgrading, assess your website’s compatibility with newer PHP versions. Install and activate the “PHP Compatibility Checker” plugin developed by WP Engine. This plugin conducts scans to identify any issues that may arise during the upgrade. If it detects numerous issues, consider consulting a developer to resolve them. Older themes and plugins may require code adjustments or replacements to work with newer PHP versions.
  2. Back Up: Create a comprehensive backup of your website before proceeding with the upgrade. Both Plesk and cPanel offer backup options, and various tools are available for this purpose.
  3. Update PHP or Switch PHP Versions: Upgrading PHP is relatively straightforward if you have a reliable hosting provider and your website is relatively new. Hosting providers often guide you through the process via menus and options. However, if you lack developer assistance and rely on platforms like cPanel or Plesk, the PHP update process may be more challenging. Especially without a backup solution or technical support, proceed with caution when changing PHP versions.

In conclusion, upgrading your WordPress website’s PHP version is a crucial step to ensure security, performance, and compatibility with evolving plugins and themes. By understanding the necessity of this upgrade, checking your current PHP version, and following a step-by-step guide, you can smoothly transition to a newer and more robust PHP environment for your WordPress site.

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