Сommon excitement for anything new, whether it is a new device or a video game release, doesn’t work the same when it comes to business innovations. Until everything seems to work fine, business owners do not pay attention to system updates. However, keeping up with the updates can save you a lot of money on fixing security issues and provide better customer experience.
Most businesses operating online have PHP as their application platforms. Millions of applications still rely on older PHP versions older than 5.6, and less than 5% of known applications updated to PHP 7.
Many business owners are not exactly aware how much their business is exposed to many security vulnerabilities without updates. There are a few reasons that make managers delay application migration. First of all, the migration process is very complicated and time-consuming, and must be performed professionally. Another thing is a fear of possible risks. For the most part, what delays migration is the fear that application that brings business its value will stop working properly. In this article, we will figure out what PHP 7 is different from its predecessor PHP 5.6 and how the difference affects website capacity and business opportunities
Why there is no PHP 6?
There is no mistake, no missed news and no working language version under the number 6. PHP 7 comes right after PHP 5.6. PHP 6 was indeed planned to be released, but the development stalled. The idea was great and supposed adding Unicode to PHP 5. But the task of rewriting the huge existing code base was found unsustainable. While the name of the supposed new version was already all over the place, the completed version was released under the name PHP 7.
Sticking to older PHP versions is up to you, but….
...is it really worth it? In the industry of ecommerce, data security is everything. You can lose it all with a minor safety breach, and never gain your revenue and reputation back. Despite of security patches and fixes being constantly released, vast majority of PHP applications’ users prefer staying on old PHP versions. It works, but there is a drawbacks you can’t underestimate.
There is no official support for older versions. Staying there you are straight up risking to be left with your problems alone. PHP developers provide official support for every version for two years after the release, and for PHP 5.6 and it is no longer available. There is one more additional year of support for critical security fails, and fixes are provided only when needed and only for major vulnerabilities. Upgrading to a new version, to PHP 7 in that particular case, will help you get regular fixes and security updates. Even though there can be some issues, the solutions are provided much faster in the phase of active development.
What are the risks of leaving PHP version as it is?
Old PHP versions have common security flaws PHP 7 now covers. Basically, all of them are aimed to get secure data from your website by malicious ways. For example, your customer database or confidential payment information. Here are a few words about most frequent vulnerabilities to give you a better impression:
SQL Infections.It is a code infection targeted at database-driven websites. When successful, it helps attackers get access to your database. It is customer information, their usernames and passwords and everything else on users’ accounts. The hackers can steal, change or delete it.
Remote Code Execution.It is another threat for data theft. This one exploits a bug in a PHP that accepts user input as PHP code and executes it. That way, attackers can gain full access to your website. This vulnerability is the easiest to exploit and therefore very dangerous.
Cross Site Scripting (XSS).XSS makes your website do things it shouldn’t do, for example, upload malicious code to users’ browsers and execute them automatically. All it takes is a click on a wrong link in a comment or review by a user, and their cookies are stolen. From their, attackers gain additional or administrative access from a user who was deceived and use their possibilities, the rest is history.
Session HijackingюWhen session is hacked, the session’s ID is stolen. That means, intruders can view the info of the session. These attempts are harmless until the session contains some valuable information like user authentication. It gets worse if it concerns a user with admin rights.
Directory Traversal.This is literally the search for websites which are vulnerable enough to be hacked. This happens because of some files the owner left accessible publicly by mistake. This vulnerability is easy to exploit as it takes only one successful guess. The attackers can get access to application source code and delete or add files, causing critical damage to the website.
Damage made by threats mentioned above is not always curable or reversible. What is left to the website owner is either pray for the best or go for an update.
Killer reasons to migrate to PHP 7:
Better performance.This is probably the biggest reason, because site performance works as crucial factor for ecommerce, influencing customer behaviour and expanding SEO opportunities. 25% of customers leave if they have to wait more than four seconds, PHP 7 demonstrates significant increase in load speed, getting up to 50% compared to its previous versions.
Cost efficiency.In case of online business, you depend a lot on technical capacity. Besides increasing the visits number, you need to make sure you can handle every single one and still cover your operational expenses. According to statistics, PHP 7 on Magento allows to process 68% more requests than PHP 5.6. Not only your website will be at least two times faster, but it also will be able to handle more customers using the same hardware.
More effective memory usage.Every customer who leaves the page after a few seconds of waiting is lost forever. PHP 7 got rid of deprecated functionalities and poor programming practices, and that positively influenced memory consumption and page load time. For example, memory consumption is lower up to 30% with Magento on PHP 7. That means, three times more user requests per server. Webpages will load faster because of increased response time.
Online business opportunities.About 50% percent of online purchases made via mobile devices. That means, the mobile version of your online store should be good enough to compete with its web version. PHP 7 features make websites more suitable for mobile devices, catering for the needs of the mobile users with limited browsing abilities.
New language features.Updated programming practices mean nothing to you if you are not a programming specialist yourself, but when something is easier to work with, it is easier to fix. PHP 7 allows do more with less coding and offers improved error handling and presents a few syntax updates that make coding significantly easier.
Considering upgrading to PHP 7?
After you have decided on moving to PHP 7, you have to take care of your business and customers. All the data should be saved and functionality should stay the same. The last thing you want is something not working or causing too much of downtime.
The first thing you should consider carefully before moving to PHP 7 is compatibility. There is a myth that migration to a newer version breaks your site, but PHP developers did a good job at making the migration as trouble-free as possible. The incompatibilities are easy to prevent in you check everything first. What you ensure is deprecated functions and changes won’t spoil the website functionality.
- Update your CMS to the latest version. The newer CMS version is, the more compatible it usually is with PHP updates. This can prevent possible software compatibility issues.
- You need to make sure all extensions, plugins or add-ons you have installed, are compatible with PHP 7. Since official support for your CMS doesn’t extend to the third-party extensions, pay special attention to their compatibility.
- Reserve some time for migration. Even if everything is ready for moving forward, plan with enough and to spare time in order not to harm your sales numbers Compatibility check will take time depending on the size of an application, but even for bigger projects it shouldn’t take more than a few days. The migration itself takes even less.
- While downtime, make sure your customers know you will be back very soon. Avoid 500 Server Error response and use 302 Redirect instead if your absence is noticeably long.
Online business requires you to constantly improve your general performance, so your customers will continue choosing you. Updating PHP version is another step in making customer journey on your website worth experiencing. For your part, you can implement the latest solutions on the market and better website performance and resource efficiency will do the rest.