PHP Update Roadmap

April 13th, 2017 / Shane Larrabee
php upgrade roadmap

What is PHP?

Let’s geek out a little bit here, if you don’t mind. For those who don’t know, PHP is a programming language that popular web platforms/CMS’ are written in, WordPress and Drupal for example are written in PHP.

PHP is an open source language and like most software is updated and modified over time. These modifications include performance improvements, new features, bug fixes and security patches. The PHP Group maintains the software and publishes these updates at php.net.

The software developer writes for compatibility with the version that is installed on the host server.

Software Compatibility

As software developers we write in our chosen language, such as PHP, to be compatible with the particular version we plan to deploy it on. However over the years different versions are retired so that focus can be maintained on the latest and greatest versions.

The PHP group maintains several versions in various stages of lifecycle. These go from Initial Release to Active Support and then Security Support. Each phase is given a particular amount of time until it has expired. Meaning with each version of the platform we know that it will be supported until a certain date. The most important phase here is the Security Support, which once it ends, it basically means that all support for that particular version has stopped and most importantly, no more security patches will be released. At this point it is important that your web application be updated and moved to a supported version of the language.

source: php.net

What This Means for FatLab

From a hosting perspective FatLab has supported sites/applications built for PHP versions 5.3.x, 5.6.x, and 7.x. The current/latest version is version 7.1 (there was no version 6 released). As of this blog post our support policies and upgrade roadmap is as follows:

PHP 5.3.x

FatLab General Support: No longer supported.
Official Word: The PHP Group stopped all support, including security updates for this platform in September 2014.

FatLab Hosting Support

  • Load balanaced support ended May 2016
  • Single server support for select clients, though we are working to get these updated ASAP.

PHP 5.6.x

FatLab General Support: Supported until March 2018
Official Word: Security support ends December 2018

FatLab Hosting Support:

  • Load balanced support planned through July 2017
  • Single server support (not load balanced) planned through December 2017

PHP 7.x

FatLab General Support: Supported – No end date determined
Official Word: Security Support ends December 2019

FatLab Hosting Support:

  • Load balanced support planned launch June 2017 (v.7.1.x), end date to be determined.

So Why Do We Have to Upgrade?

SECURITY! The number one threat to any system is outdated software and software that is no longer receiving security updates should be considered a major risk.

How Hard is it to Upgrade?

Let’s talk about WordPress since 99% of the sites we host are WordPress based sites. For most WordPress sites, the upgrade is fairly easy as the majority of WordPress software is PHP 7 compatible. It’s only sites that use plugins or themes that have php code that is no longer supported by the latest version, or sites that are unable to upgrade their WordPress core because of one reason or another that may pose challenges. Sites that we typically see issues with are those with custom applications developed for them (i.e. not using standard plugins) or sites that use older themes. It depends on the scope of incompatibility that determines how big a challenge an upgrade might be.

Our Upgrade Strategy

For all the sites we host we will take care of the testing and migration with zero down time. For those sites that prove to be incompatible we will contact the individual client to discuss options. For those sites we do not host but maintain, we will advise our clients if they are on an unsupported version and work with them to develop an upgrade plan.