3aIT Blog

It has recently been announced that PHP 7 has been completed, and is now available for developers to use in their projects. This is important for all of our clients, for reasons we'll go into.

What is PHP?

PHP is a programming language that is primarily used for web development. It is what powers almost all of 3aIT's systems.

How is PHP 7 better?

While the technical side of this question is beyond the scope of this post, one of the main improvements to PHP 7 over PHP 5 (they've skipped 6) which will hopefully impact all of our systems is that it is purported to be much more efficient. Twice the speed in some cases. While we're usually talking only talking about fractions of a second per request in most cases, this still mounts up with many users making many requests of a system.

Why does this matter to me?

This is the important bit. Like all software systems, as they are improved, it becomes impossible to support the older versions indefinitely. The highest profile example of this recently was Microsoft dropping support for Windows XP.

Any PHP systems written in the last few years, including all of our systems, and countless others (including CMSes like Wordpress and Joomla), will have been written using PHP 5. The final version of PHP 5 (5.6) ceases to be supported on August 28th 2017. Once support ends, any security issues will cease to be fixed, leaving systems vulnerable to attack.

While PHP 7 is largely backwardly compatible with earlier versions, there are some areas where it is not. Therefore, over the coming weeks and months, it will be necessary for all PHP-based systems to be tested with PHP 7. In the cases where this causes errors (and in a big system, this is almost inevitable), these will need to be traced and fixed.

If you have a development contract in place with us, we will be advising you on our plans to upgrade your systems (where applicable) over the coming months.

An important note for those that don't have contracts with us, but do use our hosting services - once PHP 5 support ends, we will need to ensure that our hosting servers are upgraded accordingly. This will mean that we will also be dropping PHP 5 support. This will mean that any website that isn't compatible with PHP 7 at this point will cease to work.

For those that ensure they are always running the latest version of the CMS system powering their site (Wordpress / Joomla / etc), this will happen naturally as the developers of these systems introduce PHP 7 support.

For those running legacy, unsupported versions of these CMSes, these will almost certainly break when run with PHP 7. It is very important that you plan to get these upgraded in the coming months.

For those running bespoke PHP systems, these will need testing with PHP 7 and will likely require some attention.

However, in all cases, there's still many months until this becomes an issue. We will be providing further updates on this in the future and, where we can, will try and identify potential issues with websites we host and contact clients well in advance.

If you have any questions at all about what this might mean for a system we've developed for you, or a website that we host, please let us know, and we'll be happy to help.

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