PHP 7.4 End of Life and what it might mean for your WordPress website

by Jason 10 December, 2022

PHP update news

WordPress users are urgently required to upgrade to PHP 8.1 as the previous version of the scripting language is no longer supported. While maintenance of PHP 7.4 ended more than one year ago, the framework continued to provide maintenance support until 28 November 2022. However, this old version is now reached its’ “end of life” and WordPress users are being encouraged to contact a WordPress developer in order to transition safely to the latest version of PHP. At the time of writing 56.7% of all WordPress websites are still using 7.4.

Maybe you would like to know more about upgrading to PHP 8.1?

In this article, we outline what you should know about the latest version of PHP and exactly why you need to treat this upgrade as a matter of priority.

What is PHP 8.1 and Do You Need to Upgrade?

PHP is an open-source scripting language which enables developers to interact with databases and write scripts to create dynamic content. They write these scripts to improve the maintenance, readability and user experience on a website. For instance, a PHP script is written and used to retrieve blog posts from a database and display them on the front end of the website. Now, this is just one example as we want to stick to “What you need to know” and spare you as much technical jargon as possible in this article.

PHP is known to be especially fast, simple and flexible and WordPress is run on this particular scripting language. In fact, 77.6% of all websites use a PHP framework and studies show this includes Facebook, Pinterest and Wikipedia.

But do you need to upgrade to the latest PHP?

Since 2016, annual updates have been released to deliver new and better features to PHP. This makes the scripting language more clean, reliable and user-friendly and much more capable when it comes to functionality. PHP is the language that runs the theme, databases and back-end on all WordPress websites. PHP 8.1 is the latest version and we strongly recommend you prioritise the upgrade to ensure everything is running correctly and to keep your website properly secured.

WordPress websites in particular depend on a large number of third-party plug-ins etc which can make them especially vulnerable and no security updates will be released for the old version. It should also be noted that new practices or security plugins are ineffective at protecting these “vulnerabilities” and hackers are known to target WordPress websites in particular.

Moral of the story: If you have a WordPress website, it’s important you contact a senior WordPress developer to upgrade your website to PHP 8.1 compatability as soon as possible.

Let’s take a quick look at how to avoid PHP-related problems.

How to Avoid PHP-Problems with Your WordPress Website

WordPress developers evaluate the code for the theme, plugins, and core WordPress environment, and carry out test scenarios for the various features on the website. Following an audit and thorough testing and tweaks to your website on a staging environment with the new PHP version, they then implement the upgrade to PHP 8.1 on your live website, along with any coding updates and make sure everything runs smoothly both during and after the upgrade. It’s also important to back everything up to protect against data loss and PHP related problems and developers always know to take these precautions.

With this in mind, the best way to avoid problems with PHP 7.4 or below is to discuss with your developers what is required to make the jump to the latest stable PHP version available. This way you can ensure the upgrade goes through successfully and expect every aspect of the website to function as normal. It can also be beneficial to have in place with your developers monthly website maintenance support services, which means all future upgrades will be made ahead of time and the investment of these bigger upgrades are spread out in small chunks across the year.

The Benefits of Upgrading to PHP 8.1

PHP 8.1 offers a wide range of new features and improvements which enable the whole WordPress ecosystem to make big strides forward in technology and best practice. This new framework is also shown to increase speed which is often affected on WordPress websites due to the potential large extent of third-party plugins and code.

Although the November 2022 deadline has passed, many websites have yet to upgrade and it’s really important to treat this as a priority. It is also possible to implement this move yourself and this is usually available inside the cPanel hosting account of your website. However, the move from 7 to 8 is a big one, therefore, we strongly recommend testing this migration on a staging website before attempting on a live website, especially if it receives a lot of traffic. That said, this is just another reason to use the services of a WordPress developer and leave this job to the experts!

Ready to get started?

Call 01603 555590 or email today and we can handle your successful WordPress website upgrade to PHP 8.1.