WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) that uses PHP Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) as the underlying scripting language. Being a server-side language, web servers parse the PHP files before sending them to a web browser. PHP permits customization of the core WordPress files and allows website developers to add additional functionality to your website. Learn why you should use PHP7 to speed up WordPress.
Each time a web browser requests a web page from a WordPress website, the PHP engine compiles the raw PHP files into Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). The web server then sends this HTML to the web browser and you see the web page.
This process takes time.
Each newer version of PHP is faster than the previous version. This is important because a faster website is better for the visitor experience. Studies show that a slow website discourages website visitors and they will not wait for a slow website to load. Web server testing indicates that PHP 7 processes files between two and three times as fast as PHP 5.6. That is a significant improvement. And initial tests of the soon to be released version 7.3 show that it is even faster than version 7.2.
WordPress recommends that web hosts use the newer version 7.2 or greater.
Sadly, many web hosting platforms do not use the newer versions. Many web hosting platforms still use PHP 5.6. WordPress reports that only 8% of all the available WordPress websites use PHP 7.2. Considering that WordPress powers 32% of all websites on the Internet, that’s a considerable number of websites using an older version of PHP.
So why don’t web hosting companies support PHP 7?
PHP code written for PHP 5.6 may not be compatible with PHP7. Updating your WordPress website means you must test all the files (themes and plugins) to ensure that they will work on PHP 7. There is an excellent plugin (PHP Compatibility Checker) that checks these files and provides a report on which files are PHP 7 compatible.
If your current website is compatible with PHP 7, then you should ask your web hosting company to update the PHP version used for your website. Some web hosting companies permit website owners to do the updating themselves, either through SSH or the cPanel. Others allow changes to the PHP version through their dashboard.
If your web hosting company won’t update the PHP version, then you may want to consider changing web hosting companies. WordPress recommends using Bluehost, Dreamhost, and SiteGround because they all support WordPress and they use the latest version of PHP.
Each version of PHP is only supported for a certain period of time. Both PHP 5.6 and 7.0 will reach their end of life support on 31 December 2018. This means that they will no longer receive bug fixes and security updates. If your WordPress website is using PHP 7.0 or older, then you should consider upgrading your PHP version to 7.2 or better (when 7.3 comes out). Updating your PHP fixes bugs, closes security holes and speeds up your WordPress website.
Want to speed up WordPress by updating your PHP?