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While digging into the data on one of our plugins, we saw that only 2% of our WordPress users had moved to PHP 8! Technology keeps advancing, and we need to keep up to ensure optimal experience and security for our users. The PHP programming language which is responsible for powering the WordPress ecosystem has now upgraded from the 5. x, 6. x, 7. x, to version 8. The PHP 8 upgrade comes with a lot of exciting features, which we will explore in this article. It is quite important to note that the patches to address security issues for older PHP versions will expire on November 28, 2022.
In this guide, you will learn about the features, functions, benefits, and what you need to know before you start your PHP 8 upgrade.
Meanwhile, if you want to consult with experts on your PHP 8 upgrade, set up a free consultation with our WordPress team today.
Reasons why to move away from older versions of PHP
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Let’s take a look at the top reasons to go ahead with the php 8 upgrade.
PHP Security Risk and Vulnerabilities
The main reason to upgrade PHP is to ensure that your WordPress applications are running on a fully supported version that regularly receives updates.
The new version features some security patches that ensure that applications using PHP remain secure.
Again, the unsupported PHP versions don’t have fixes for security vulnerabilities, so before hosting a PHP web application, first, check if the hosting providers have upgraded versions of PHP.
So if you keep on using the older version of PHP you’re prone to malicious attacks.
PHP version incompatibilities
Another important reason to use the most recent version of PHP is compatibility support. When you run older versions, you risk breaking your site, and this is the primary concern for web developers.
PHP versions that are supported imply that these protocols are regularly monitored and improved.
Each one of the upgrades comes with major and minor updates to improve security and eliminate flaws, configuration failures, and other issues. It’s an undebatable idea to stay up to date on the latest versions and their upgrades.
There is a significant performance boost with the PHP 8 upgrade. PHP 7.4 allows the system to perform 3x more REST API requests per second than PHP 5.6, and PHP 8 is almost 4x better.
See the speed score and REST API columns in the table below.
Comparison of PHP versions (Source: phpbenchmarks.com)
Benefits of upgrading to PHP 8
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In order to operate your platform built with PHP such as WordPress, you need to be running on a version of PHP that is fully supported and routinely updated for security issues.
Overflow, memory corruption, XSS, DoS, code execution, directory traversal, information traversal, and retrieval are just a few examples of the risks that might exist if you continue running on obsolete versions.
For compatibility reasons, you should use the most recent version of PHP that is well backed and supported. When you use outdated versions, your website’s themes and plugins may become messy.
It is a good habit to keep up with the most recent versions and their upgrades to curb off any threats that may arise from using older versions of the language.
Peace of mind for developers
PHP 7.4 is the most recent stable version before PHP 8. Released on November 28, 2019, the PHP 7.4 version included an array of new features, syntax enhancements, and bug fixes.
Sadly, many developers become weary of supporting a wide range of versions, exposing their projects to instability, lack of security, and performance gaps.
To resolve the workload, it is recommended that your platform is upgraded to PHP 8, this reduces the workload for the developers working on your online business.
How to do the PHP 8 Upgrade
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Upgrading your PHP version can be simple and straightforward if you know what to do. Of course, as with any upgrade, there is always the possibility that problems may arise. It could be bugs, failed upgrades, or something in between.
First, check whether in general everything on your website is compatible with the latest PHP version. This information can be seen when you log in to your web hosting control panel. If the version of PHP selected in your hosting platform is not the latest, you can upgrade it in just a few steps. For the control panel migration to a different PHP version is simple, you just need to select from the PHP versions that PHP.net is presently supporting.
The typical lifespan of a PHP version is three years, after which time it should no longer be utilized. Use the following methods to upgrade the PHP version of your website.
Method 1: Using a staging site
Before upgrading your live site, you should have an exact replica of your website in a development environment (also known as a staging site) where you can test the PHP version change.
There are numerous advantages to using a staging site for upgrades over a live site, which include:
Securing your revenue: If you upgrade your live website and it breaks, you could lose revenue or users. But by testing on staging sites, all that risk will be mitigated.
Time: Upgrading your WordPress PHP version on a staging site allows you to test for a few days to ensure that everything works properly. Upgrading directly on a live site only allows for a brief testing period. As a result, broken bugs are easily overlooked, resulting in a negative experience for your users.
Maintaining your reputation: Your reputation will suffer if you upgrade a live site and it breaks; as a result, people may stop visiting your site. If any problems arise as a result of the upgrade, you will be able to address them first without jeopardizing your reputation.
Method 2: Using a site backup plugin
This method involves having your WordPress site backed up first before proceeding to upgrade the version of your PHP to 8.
On your WordPress dashboard, Navigate to wp-admin > plugins > add new and look for “Updraft“:
Next, click on the “Install now” button and then “Activate,” to be taken to the tour/setup wizard:
Now, click on the “Press here to begin!” button then, on the following page, click “Backup now“:
Next check the boxes next to “Include your database in the backup” and “Include your files in the backup“.
When you’re finished, click the “Backup now” button in the modal.
It will take anywhere from a few minutes to 30 minutes or so, depending on the size of the content on your website. When the backup is finished, a success message will be displayed to you and your backup will be added to the list as can be seen in the image below.
That’s it; you’ve successfully backed up your WordPress website and are now ready to upgrade to PHP version 8.
Because the backup is stored on your server by default, you must download it using the steps below.
Scroll down to existing backups in your wp-admin > Settings > UpdraftPlus Backups, and you should see all of your backups listed as follows:
To speed up the download, only check the items that are absolutely necessary:
- Additional files
When you click on an item, it will be located on your server and you will be able to download the file to your computer.
Clicking on each item will have them downloaded to your computer. After you’ve downloaded everything, you can upgrade your PHP version with confidence, knowing you can restore your website if you encounter any errors.
Method 3: Ask your hosting provider
Another option you can use for safely upgrading your PHP version is your host; but of course, you should also make backups of your websites.
The flow normally involves:
- Logging in to your control panel.
- Scrolling down to the Advanced settings tile and selecting PHP and database settings.
- Scrolling down to Update PHP version.
- Select the PHP version you want to switch to and click the Update button.
You can do the above steps if you have an understanding of how to use your website control panel. Otherwise, you should ask your hosting providers to upgrade your PHP version.
It’s been a pleasure sharing this information with you; hopefully, you’ve gained a thorough understanding of why you should upgrade your PHP to version 8.
Migrating to the most recent PHP version is the best way to keep your business, such as your LearnDash online platform, WooCommerce store, or WordPress site secure.
In addition, the newer version of PHP performs better than the older versions.
A significant increase in performance and security may be all that is required to improve and secure a positive user experience on your website.
PHP 8 is significantly faster than PHP 7 according to various web benchmarks.
So, what’s your plan? Are you going to try it? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
Till next time, all the best!