If you have a WordPress or Joomla website or other Content Management System (CMS), it is quite likely that your site is hosted on a server which uses PHP. No, don’t let your eyes glaze over and close this page, I am not going to give you a computer coding lesson. You can learn about PHP here if you are so inclined.
Having your own website is wonderful, and if you are a business it is essential. However, far too often the website management is left to the web developer and you assume everything is kept up to date and secure.
Until something breaks and it is panic stations.
For those of you who have WordPress sites, you have quite possibly encountered some difficulties with the major WordPress upgrade to version 5.0 and the introduction of the Gutenberg editor. This is because some of the themes and plugins were not compatible with the new version of WordPress and the site stops functioning as it should. They either need to be upgraded or changed to compatible versions.
Many websites are also still using http and not https and when you visit the site you get a message in your browser (Google Chrome / Firefox / Internet Explorer etc) that the site is not secure. Click here for a lovely infographic explaining the difference.
If you have successfully navigated these 2 issues, it is time to focus on the PHP upgrade.
I have seen many websites that are still using PHP version 5.6. Today I received an e-mail from Hetzner, who hosts all my websites, which says the following:
Upgrade to PHP 7.2 before 30 June 2019.
Due to the lack of security support for PHP 5.6 and 7.0, we will no longer support these versions on our hosting platform after 30 June 2019.
If your website is still making use of PHP 5.6 or 7.0, it will automatically be upgraded to PHP 7.2. This does not apply to customers on PHP 7.1.
What does this mean if your website is hosted on a server that uses PHP?
WordPress and Joomla have thousands of themes, components and plugins that you can use when creating your website. These are created by developers all over the world. Some you pay for, some are free. Inevitably some developers abandon their projects and the add-ons they have created are not updated. This means that if the plugin was created based on PHP 5.6, it may no work with a later version of PHP and the site will break. These add-ons can include sign-up forms, social sharing plugins, image galleries, slide shows, custom themes, online store etc.
What should you / your web manager do?
1. TAKE A FULL SITE BACKUP AND DOWNLOAD TO YOUR COMPUTER OR TO THE CLOUD!
2. If you have server access to your site, you can probably check and update the PHP version yourself. Or ask whoever hosts your site to do it for you.
3. If it is not at least 7.2 ask when they will have PHP 7.2 available. Some international hosts are using later versions.
4. Even if your web host still supports old versions of PHP, it is good practice to run the latest stable version of all software on your website, just as you do with your computer and mobile phone.
5. TAKE YOUR SITE OFFLINE
6. Login to the back-end of your website and disable all add-ons that have been installed. This includes your theme or template. There is always the risk when you update an add-on, the site may break because it is incompatible with others.
7. Using C-Panel or konsoleH or whichever admin panel your hosting server provides, update your PHP to the latest version.
8. Check the site from the front end to ensure the core programme is working.
9. Enable your add-ons one at a time and check your whole site.
10. If it breaks when you enable an add-on first see if there is an updated version of the add-on available. If not, see if you can exchange it for a similar one that is compatible.
If you can’t find a suitable alternative, try rolling back the PHP one version and see if it works. If the add-on is vital to your website keep your PHP version on this level for now.
11. Contact the developer and find out when the add-on will be upgraded. If they can’t guarantee that it will be fixed, you need to look for alternatives.
12. When all is working as it should, take your site back online.
13. Remember to schedule weekly backups as a minimum and check your website for updates and new versions.
I offer web hosting, web development, management and training. Contact me if you would like more information.