There is a lot involved in maintaining a website even beyond what can be seen on the surface. Supporting software for the website can be something that is forgotten at times. One such software important to sites that use WordPress, Drupal, and other big frameworks is coming to a point where an upgrade is required soon. PHP is a programming language that powers a large chunk of the internet and has a couple of big versions reaching the end of their security support later this year. This means that server managers and development teams need to be ready for this upgrade, so the security of these websites are not compromised.
This year, 2018 for those reading this blog from the future, has a rare occurrence for software support timing. PHP has two current versions reaching the end of their planned security patch support, 7.0 and 5.6. According to php.net, version 5.6 will reach End of LIfe, EOL, on the 31st of December, 2018 and 7.0 will reach EOL on the 3rd of December, 2018. In the recent past, there hasn’t been as much of a need for a jump like this, but due to there being no version 6.0, (Don’t ask.) 5.6 was positioned as a long-term support release.
For those that have already made the jump to 7.0, the move to 7.1 or 7.2 isn’t going to be too much of a problem. If you are still using 5.6, however, you will have to plan this out a bit more as this is a major version change. The backwards breaking changes are not too bad between these versions, but the leap from PHP 5.6 to 7.1 could have a pretty pronounced effect on a website. You will want to make sure that you explore the changes and find a way to test this upgrade on a local environment, (You have one right?), or a staging server.
There is a nice benefit for making the jump, though. PHP 7 as a whole is a much more performant series for the language with the new just-in-time processing and a few other improvements it is possible your sites will see some gains right away. Drupal 7 and WordPress sites, in particular, have seen some pretty impressive performance improvements in the requests per minute category according to zend. Speed improvements are a great way to make the push to get others in your company on board with this update, though the security factor should be a big incentive as well.
Make sure to look to php.net for guides on migrating code from 5.6 or 7.0 to the latest versions of PHP so that your site doesn’t go down as soon as you make the switch. Most of the changes are minor, but it would be a good idea to be prepared. I’ll provide some useful links to this below.
Thoughts from a Drupal hosting company moving to PHP 7.1 or 7.2