PHP is the magic that makes your website run. Developers write code in the PHP language and the PHP software sitting on your web server then processes the code each time a page is requested.
The latest stable version of PHP is 8.1.6. If your server is using this OR the latest revision of an earlier still supported major release (8.0.19, 7.4.29)* then you can give yourself a pat on the back.
The problem is that a large amount of the web is still running on old and in many cases now unsupported revisions of PHP (ie v5.4, v7.0, v7.1, v7.2). Websites running these older versions are not receiving security updates which makes them more vulnerable to hacking.
PHP has also seen incredible performance improvements over recent versions, which is another key reason to keep your web server updated.
* We have an article in our FAQ section if you want to know more about PHP version numbers.
Recent versions of PHP provided huge performance improvements. The difference for many websites having made the switch from earlier versions is usually very noticeable.
Many websites need a lot of power to run due to processor intensive tasks going on behind the scenes to render the pages. Even a basic self-hosted WordPress site can run very slowly if it's not been well developed, has too many plugins or an overly complex theme.
Having a fast responding website is now an indexing factor for Google (ref) and other search engines, so improving the speed at which your server can render content can have a positive result on search rankings.
PHP 5.4, PHP 7.0, 7.1 & 7.2 have now stop receiving security patches! This means that many security vulnerabilities discovered after this date will likely go unpatched - any kind of hacking attempt on a website using an unsupported version of PHP can only be easier than on a website running up to date software.
You don't have to be running a famous .com website with millions of visitors in order to get hacked; most hacking is done in an automated way by software that doesn't differentiate between the popularity of websites.
For both your site's security and visitors' privacy this is a really important issue to resolve. Start the process now using our free test tool and guides.