The Importance of Keeping PHP Updated for WordPress Security

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As the backbone of your WordPress site, PHP plays a vital role in its performance and security. But did you know that an astonishing 77.5% of WordPress users are currently running on PHP versions that are no longer supported?【7†source】. This statistic is alarming, particularly considering the potential security risks and performance impacts this can have on your site. If you're among this group, it's high time you update your PHP version. Here's why.

Unsupported PHP Versions and Security Risks

PHP, like any other software, has a lifecycle. Each major PHP release is fully supported for two years from its release. During this period, bugs and security issues are regularly fixed and patched. However, after this period, the PHP version enters a period of 'Security Support'. During this phase, which lasts for one additional year, only critical security updates are provided.

Once the three-year lifecycle is over, the PHP version is deemed 'Unsupported'. This means it will no longer receive any updates, leaving any existing bugs or security vulnerabilities unpatched. Running your WordPress site on an unsupported PHP version thus exposes it to potential security threats. Hackers and malicious actors are always on the lookout for such vulnerabilities to exploit, which can lead to severe consequences like data breaches, loss of sensitive information, and even website downtime.

Performance Impact of Outdated PHP

But the risks of using an unsupported PHP version extend beyond security. Performance can also take a significant hit. Newer PHP versions come with improvements and optimizations that make your WordPress site run faster and more efficiently. By sticking to an older, unsupported PHP version, you're missing out on these enhancements, which can slow down your website, degrade user experience, and negatively impact your SEO rankings.

To illustrate this, a benchmark test conducted by Kinsta showed that PHP 7.4 could handle nearly three times as many requests per second as PHP 5.6. This means a website running on PHP 7.4 would be significantly faster than one running on PHP 5.6, all else being equal.

Updating PHP – It's Easier Than You Think

If you've been putting off updating PHP because you think it's a complicated process, rest assured, it's simpler than you might imagine. Most hosting providers offer an option in their control panel to change the PHP version with just a few clicks. However, before you proceed with the update, it's crucial to back up your WordPress site to avoid any potential data loss if something goes wrong.

Also, ensure your WordPress theme and plugins are compatible with the new PHP version. Most reputable theme and plugin developers keep their products updated with the latest PHP versions, but it's always a good idea to check and be sure.

Wrapping Up

Keeping your PHP version updated is a crucial aspect of WordPress security and performance. If you're running on an unsupported PHP version, you're inviting unnecessary risk and compromising your website's performance. So don't put it off any longer – update your PHP version today and give your WordPress site the secure, high-performing environment it deserves.