Time To Upgrade PHP Version
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Upgrade Your WordPress Site With PHP 8.3 Improvements

Everything on the web changes, and software updates, especially when it comes to WordPress, seem to happen weekly! As a WordPress developer, it’s crucial to stay ahead of the curve, but as a website owner or webmaster, staying up to date is the name of the game. To ensure your site runs smoothly and securely, it’s essential to upgrade PHP to the latest version.

Transitioning from PHP 7 to PHP 8.3 is one of the most significant upgrades you can make to enhance your website’s performance, security, and overall user experience. For the record, PHP 7.4, the latest branch of PHP7, was discontinued in November 2022, but it is still one of the more popular versions running with web hosting companies today.

If your server does not support PHP 8.2 or PHP 8.3, it may be time to consider switching to a new web host provider that does. After all, your website’s security and speed depend on it!

PHP 8.0 was discontinued in November 2023, PHP 8.1 is currently in security fix mode only, and even PHP 8.2 will lose active support in just five months (December 2024). If you haven’t already, it’s time to upgrade to PHP 8.2 or 8.3 and take advantage of the latest security offerings and the new speed of PHP.

PHP Version Usage

How to Find Your Current PHP Version in WordPress

Before upgrading to the latest PHP version, we need to find out which PHP version your WordPress site is currently running. This can be done on the web server level via shell using a simple command such as “php -v,” using a phpinfo.php file, or via your web hosting control panel. But since you’re likely logged into your WordPress site on a regular basis, you can also get that info from WordPress.

Here are the steps to find the current PHP version in a WordPress website:

  1. Access WordPress Dashboard: Log in to your WordPress admin dashboard. This is typically done by adding “/wp-admin” to the end of your site’s URL.
  2. Navigate to WordPress Site Health Tool: Go to “Tools” in the left-hand menu, then click “Site Health.”
  3. Check Server Information: Click on the “Info” tab at the top. Under the “Server” section, you will see the PHP version your site is running.

Having identified your current PHP version, you’re now in control! This allows you to confidently determine if and when to upgrade to your selected PHP version, ensuring a seamless transition while taking advantage of its performance and security enhancements.

Enhanced Performance and Speed

Faster page load times are crucial for retaining visitors and improving SEO rankings. When your site loads quickly, users are more likely to stay and engage with your content, reducing bounce rates and increasing conversion rates.

PHP 8.3 brings significant improvements in execution speed and efficiency compared to the 7.x branch, and this will directly impact your WordPress site’s user experience. The overall code execution is more efficient, reducing extra strain on your server, which means your server can handle more traffic and concurrent users without slowing down. For a WordPress site, this translates to smoother performance during peak traffic times, ensuring all users have a seamless experience.

PHP 8.3 is more efficient, so it uses fewer server resources to do the same things as PHP 7. This should mean you can get the most out of your current hosting plan without needing to upgrade your hardware right away.

Key Performance Benefits

  • Faster Page Load Times: PHP 8.3 processes code more efficiently, resulting in quicker page loads, which is essential for happy visitors, increased user retention and SEO beneifts.
  • Reduced Server Load: Improved code execution reduces strain on your server, allowing it to handle more traffic, which is beneficial during peak usage times. It simply works better.
  • Optimized Resource Usage: PHP 8.3 uses fewer resources and less overall power of the server, enhancing performance even on existing hardware, saving you money on web hosting upgrades.

Upgrade PHP For Improved Security

Security is a non-negotiable aspect of website management, especially for WordPress sites that hackers often target. PHP 8.3 introduces several security enhancements that make your WordPress server more robust and resilient against attacks. This version includes numerous fixes for vulnerabilities found in older versions, ensuring you’re protected against known threats.

The updated version supports modern cryptographic algorithms, providing stronger data encryption and better security for user interactions. This is particularly important for e-commerce online stores. PHP is the underlying programming language that WordPress runs on, and while the PHP upgrade has many security protections, you still need to update WordPress, plugins, and active theme on a regular basis.

Additionally, PHP 8.3 deprecates outdated and insecure functions, encouraging the use of more secure coding practices. This proactive approach to security means that your site is less likely to suffer from exploits targeting older, less secure functions.

Security Enhancements

  • Bug Fixes and Vulnerability Patches: PHP 8.3 addresses numerous vulnerabilities found in older versions, ensuring your site is protected against known threats.
  • Modern Cryptography: Enhanced support for modern cryptographic algorithms provides stronger encryption for data, essential for secure user interactions.
  • Deprecation of Insecure Functions: Encourages more secure coding practices by removing outdated functions, reducing the risk of exploits targeting these functions.

New Features and Syntax Improvements

PHP 8.3 introduces many new features and syntax improvements that enhance the developer experience and expand what you can do with your WordPress site. These new capabilities make it easier to write clean, efficient, and maintainable code, directly impacting your site’s performance and reliability. For instance, Just-In-Time (JIT) compilation can significantly speed up PHP code execution, making dynamic content generation faster and more responsive.

One of the things that we really like is the introduction of json_validate() which allows to check if a string is syntactically valid JSON, while being more efficient than json_decode(). Previously we had coded our own function to handle the query, but now that it’s built into the base of PHP, we get a much more streamlined execution. Yes it means rewriting some of our code on plugins and websites, but it’s just a few edits to gain speed improvements.

For typical web applications like WordPress, which are more I/O focused (database queries, file operations) than CPU intensive, the performance gains from JIT might not be as noticeable. However, JIT can still contribute to overall performance improvements, especially in specific scenarios where intensive processing is involved.

Long-Term PHP Version Support

Running outdated software is a ticking time bomb. PHP 7 has reached its end-of-life, meaning it no longer receives official support or security fixes. Without regular patches for security vulnerabilities, your site becomes increasingly available to new exploits. This poses a significant risk, especially for WordPress sites that rely on regular updates and maintenance to stay secure.

Whether you are a WordPress theme and plugin developer or a website manager, it’s imperative to check that the plugins used in your site are compatible before updating PHP. While most developers have embraced the PHP 8.0 branch, some older plugins still have not officially released compatibility for version 8.2 or 8.3. Be sure to test things on a staging site prior to updating your production server to verify you’re not encountering errors.

Staying current with PHP updates ensures that your site remains compatible with the latest WordPress features and plugins, providing a seamless user experience. Many hosting providers and third-party vendors are phasing out support for PHP 7, making it harder to get help when you need it. Upgrading to PHP 8.3 will future-proof your site, ensuring you continue receiving support and enjoying the latest advancements in the WordPress ecosystem.

PHP Support and End of Life Cycle

Risks of Using Outdated PHP Versions

  • No More Security Updates: Without patches, your site is vulnerable to new exploits, posing a significant security risk.
  • Compatibility Issues: New features in WordPress and plugins may not work on older PHP versions, affecting site functionality.
  • Reduced Vendor Support: Hosting providers and vendors are phasing out support for PHP 7, making it difficult to get the necessary support.

Better Error Handling

PHP 8.0 introduced improved error handling, which makes debugging and maintaining your WordPress site easier. In PHP 8.3, they added even more error handling for clearer and more informative error messages, which help developers diagnose issues faster. This can drastically reduce troubleshooting issues and downtime, ultimately improving your site’s overall stability. This is particularly important for WordPress sites with complex customizations or those that rely heavily on plugins and themes, where identifying and resolving errors quickly is crucial.

With better type handling, PHP 8.3 reduces the likelihood of runtime errors, leading to more stable and reliable code. This means fewer unexpected issues for your users and a smoother overall experience. Improved error handling also makes it easier to implement and test new features, ensuring that your site can evolve and adapt to new requirements without compromising stability. By upgrading PHP you benefit from these enhancements, making your WordPress site more robust and easier to manage.

WordPress and PHP are perfectly balanced and stable

WordPress Stability on PHP 8.x

WordPress has marked all versions of the PHP 8 branch as BETA since the release of PHP 8.0 in November 2020. They officially recommend using at least PHP 8.0 for speed, etc., but due to internal requirements, the “beta” flag is still on all 8.x branches.

In order for WordPress to remove the Beta indication, there must be no open bug tickets, and WordPress must be fully backward compatible with the versions it supports (currently, they’re at PHP 7.2 and higher). Since PHP 8.0 introduced a whole new set of programming functions and removed some older functions from the 6.x and 7.x versions, there’s no way to make it 100% backward compatible. As such, it’ll likely remain in beta until 2025 or 2026.

But here’s the deal, the latest WordPress version is stable and performs well on the PHP 8.x branch, as long as the plugins and themes you’re using are compatible with PHP 8.x. We’ve tested with many versions including the default WordPress theme (Twenty Twenty-Four).

Essentially, stop using old plugins that haven’t been updated in a long time!

The speed and efficiency improvements in PHP 8.x significantly enhance the performance of WordPress sites, resulting in faster page loads and better user experiences. Users will notice quicker response times and a smoother browsing experience, which can lead to increased engagement and higher conversion rates.

PHP 8.3 brings the latest security updates, helping to protect your site from vulnerabilities and exploits. This combination of performance and security enhancements makes PHP 8.3 the ideal choice for all WordPress websites.

Ensuring Compatibility

  1. Update Plugins and Themes: Ensure all plugins and themes are updated for PHP 8.x compatibility. This prevents conflicts and ensures smooth operation.
  2. Test in a Staging Environment: Before upgrading your live site, test it in a staging environment running PHP 8.x. This allows you to identify and resolve any issues without affecting your live site.
  3. Monitor Performance: After upgrading, monitor your site to ensure everything functions correctly. This ensures that any issues are promptly addressed, maintaining a seamless user experience.

Time for a New Hosting Provider?

If your current hosting provider doesn’t support PHP 8.x it’s a clear signal that it’s time to reconsider your hosting options. A hosting provider that doesn’t offer support for the latest PHP versions may not be prioritizing security and performance, putting your site at risk and hampering its growth.

The number of web hosting companies we’ve encountered that use older PHP versions with no timeline for upgrading is staggering. In such cases, we advise our clients to switch to a provider that supports the latest PHP version. Site security and performance should be at the top of any webmaster’s list.

Choosing a hosting provider that stays current with PHP updates ensures you won’t face the same issue with future PHP releases. This future-proofs your site and provides peace of mind, knowing that your hosting environment will always support the latest technologies.

Big Red SEO Has Your Interests At Heart

Omaha SEO Experts

Big Red SEO is a web design and Search Engine Optimization company, we are not a web hosting company. We have no horse in that race! As such, when we tell you that you need a new hosting company, you can rest assured that we’re looking out for you and your users and not just encouraging you to purchase something from us.

We understand the importance of staying current with technological advancements. We specialize in designing, updating, and modifying WordPress sites, ensuring they are optimized for the latest PHP versions. If your site is currently running on PHP 7.x, we can assist with the transition to PHP 8.x, addressing any compatibility issues that may arise with your plugins and themes.

DIY – Steps to Upgrade PHP to Version 8.x

There are a thousand videos online for how to perform an update to PHP 8.x, and don’t forget to check your hosting provider’s documentation or knowledge base articles on how to perform the task. If you’re comfortable getting your hands a little dirty and know how not to panic if your PHP update breaks the site, here’s the base set of tasks that you need to perform when upgrading to a new PHP version:

  1. Backup Your Site: Before making any changes, ensure you have a complete backup of your WordPress site, including the database and files. This ensures that you can restore your site if anything goes wrong during the upgrade process. We have videos here: https://www.makeabackup.com
  2. Check Compatibility: Review your plugins and themes for compatibility with PHP 8.x. This step helps identify any potential issues that could arise from the upgrade.
  3. Test Your Site: Use a staging environment to test your site on PHP 8.x and resolve any issues. This allows you to ensure that your live site remains unaffected during the transition.
  4. Upgrade Hosting Environment: Ensure your hosting provider supports PHP 8.x and use your control panel to upgrade. This step ensures that your site is running on the latest version of PHP.
  5. Monitor Site Performance: After upgrading, monitor your site for any issues and ensure everything functions correctly. This helps maintain a smooth user experience and quickly addresses any potential problems.

Let’s Wrap This Sucker Up and Take It Home

Upgrading from PHP 7 to PHP 8.3 is not just a technical necessity but a strategic move to enhance your WordPress site’s performance, security, and user experience. The new features, improved performance, and enhanced security make PHP 8.3 a must-have for any serious website owner.

If your current hosting provider doesn’t support this upgrade, it’s a clear sign that it’s time to switch to one that does. Investing in a provider that keeps pace with technological advancements ensures that your site remains secure, fast, and competitive online.

Don’t wait—upgrade PHP to 8.3 today and give your WordPress site the boost it deserves. For expert assistance with your upgrade and other WordPress needs, contact Big Red SEO. We’re here to help your website reach its full potential.

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