PHP is the foundation upon which your WordPress website is built, it is used in everything from Facebook to The BBC, so keeping it up to date and secure is a constant process. If your foundation is cracked and decaying you will start to see the signs on your website. Everything from failing plugins to far more substantial issues. Failing to keep your WordPress PHP version is a dire mistake. Not only will your site performance suffer, but you are also setting yourself up for a serious security breach. So, you should always take a look at your PHP version, compare your plugins, and make sure that your website is up to par with the latest versions and keep it secure. It may be something you only have to do once every few years, but updating your WordPress PHP version is an essential skill for anyone that owns or manages a WordPress Website.
Why Update Your Website’s PHP Version
WordPress is notorious for PHP data breaches, though the fault doesn’t actually stand with WordPress or with PHP itself. Many individuals fail to properly authenticate and update their PHP version as time goes on and many people are still on version 5.6.2 of PHP despite the most recent version being 7.1. Running on an older version such as that can present a severe risk to your website. Aside from the obvious and glaring concerns with older versions of PHP, there are the more peripheral issues that can arise with your website’s speed, functionality, and ability to work with certain plugins. WordPress itself still supports fairly old versions of the software, which means you may be falling behind without even knowing.
PHP is the in-between for the static version of your website and the backend it is built on. Drawing from and receiving request from your database which is normally built in platform like MySQL. So aside from the surface level problems we’ve already described you could see deep rooted issues with corrupted information on both the front end and the back end.
Check Your Current PHP Version
PHP is the programming language that your whole WordPress website is based on, and lucky for us PHP is an open source programming language, so checking and updating won’t cost you a single dollar. Checking your current version is always the first step when updating your website. No reason going through the rest of the steps if you don’t actually need to.
This can normally be done by heading over to your hosting management dashboard. They will often have a version number on there easily available to be seen, our experience is mostly with cPanel, and for the most part it is right there clearly displayed.
If you’re having trouble finding the PHP version in your hosting dashboard there are plenty of plugins which let you check your PHP version. Our recommendation is this Plugin.
If you check and your version is already the latest, you are in luck. Put your feet up and enjoy the satisfaction of not needing to do anything past this stage. However, if your PHP version is lower than PHP 7, now you get to start on the fun part; let’s get into exactly how to go about updating your PHP version.
Confirm With a Compatibility Checker
Your plugins and additions on your site each act as a separate entity and updating the PHP version of your site has a chance to harm their ability to function. You can use a plugin to check your plugin compatibility which also doubles as a second opinion on your PHP version. This will tell you if there are any conflicts among your plugins that might harm your website when you update.
The plugin is not infallible and can only provide false positives, luckily they have very conveniently provided a list of plugins known to throw up a false-positive flag. You should be able to find the new plugin in the WordPress dashboard, just follow the directions of the plugin and start a scan to see if your plugins are compatible.
Update WordPress to the Latest Version
There are quite a few different ways to actually update your site to the correct version of PHP. By far the easiest way of updating your Website’s PHP version is done in the administrative dashboard of your hosting provider. This will vary based on who your hosting is done through, but normally a quick call to support and they will point you in the right direction. Once you are in the administrative dashboard all you need to do is go into your cPanel or cPanel equivalent and find something along the lines of PHP version manager. You can navigate to your specific site, switch the version to the newest and hit the “confirm” or “save” button provided.
You could also update using SSH command, but that can get complicated. If you would like to learn that process just follow the link here.
Confirm It Worked
Updating to the newest version of PHP can take up to 30 minutes. So give it a rest for a while and then check your website. If you’re noticing some issues something has gone wrong in the process. Trouble shoot for the issues individually or restart at the beginning of this list and see which steps you might have missed. If you’re still unable to solve the problem, we would recommend looking at individual plugins and see if there was compatibility error that wasn’t found when you updated.
Congratulations, your website is now on the far faster and far more secure version of PHP. Since you’ve updated your PHP you’re now less prone to security breaches and speed problem. Since we all know speed is a huge SEO ranking factor that can only be beneficial. If you need a bit more advice on keeping your WordPress website secure we’ve written about that as well. Don’t forget to leave a comment if you have any questions, or head over to our contact form and leave us a message!