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April 20, 2020

Why Development Teams Should Upgrade PHP 5.6 to 7

PHP Development
Zend Server

Community support ended for PHP 5.6 in December 2018. And PHP 7 releases provide security and performance enhancements as well as support. Yet many web-based applications still run on it. 

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How Many Organizations Still Run PHP 5.6 Apps?

According to Packagist logs, the footprint of those still remaining on PHP 5 is 21%. These results are subjective. Many companies and applications do not use Composer and Packagist, so they are not represented in these statistics.

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A March 2019 study from W3Techs reveals that 70% of PHP users still run PHP 5.6. Even though the surveys provide different metrics, it's safe to say that a majority of PHP-based sites are no longer supported by bug fixes or security updates. This includes WordPress and other PHP-based commercial applications.

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Reasons Development Teams Aren't Upgrading PHP 5.6 to 7

To understand why people are not upgrading PHP 5.6 to 7, I put out a Twitter (now X) poll. The responses provide a large enough sample group to make the following deductions. 

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Obstacle to PHP Upgrade: Company Says No

Many companies believe that a PHP upgrade will be too costly. These respondents believe they will need to rewrite their entire codebase, which will:

  • Put critical projects on hold.
  • Drive up development costs.
  • Result in lost customers frustrated by the wait for new features.

This is unfortunate because oftentimes, upgrades are not as difficult as projected. It's important to consider that many organizations:

  • Are unable to measure the value of a migration.  
  • Find the cost to upgrade is minimal. 
  • Suffer huge losses by not taking advantage of the improvements in PHP 7. 

See here for more information.

Obstacle to PHP Upgrade: Laziness

About 25% of developers in the survey admit to avoiding the upgrade to PHP version 7 due to laziness. They are reluctant to rock the boat and introduce more work into their daily lives.

Please don't be too harsh on these folks. Followup revealed that many were not upgrading because they: 

  • Feared confrontation with employers.
  • Did not understand the effort involved

As such, they labeled themselves as "lazy," which is not accurate.

Obstacle to PHP Upgrade: Other Reasons

Of those that indicated there were other reasons, we found a mixture of responses. For example, some:

  • Moved on to other technologies and avoided the upgrade. 
  • Drew a line in the sand and said they will not upgrade.
  • Blamed the company or poor team communication for lack of innovation.

Obstacle to PHP Upgrade: Not Sure How

Only 10% of  Twitter (now X) poll respondents put this down as the key reason for not moving forward with a PHP upgrade. After further investigation, we found lack of training should be closer to 80% instead of 10%. Here's why: 

  • 75% of respondents who blamed their companies did not understand how to drive a PHP upgrade. 
  • 60% of respondents who selected "laziness" were avoiding the pain of investigation. They didn't know what to do or how to do it.

Why Upgrade PHP 5.6 to 7? Improve Security, Performance, and Innovation

If your applications run PHP 5.6, you:

  • No longer get community support, including security patches and bug fixes. 
  • Miss out on new features needed to help deliver modern services.
  • Miss out on performance enhancements that can dramatically speed response times.

By upgrading to PHP 5.6 to PHP 7.1, you will:

  • Boost the performance of your applications. 
  • Get new features needed to help deliver modern services.

And if you upgrade to PHP 7.4, you will:

  • Boost the performance of your applications. 
  • Get new features needed to help deliver modern services.
  • Gain community support.
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The Twitter poll is not 100% conclusive. Yet, a larger sample of responses would likely yield similar results.

If you are running PHP 5.6 in production, we can help. Zend provides:

See PHP Support Options

Additional Resources

This blog was originally published on March 20, 2019. It has been edited for clarity and completeness.

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