PHP 7.4 is here and performing well

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WordPress hosting companies are notoriously behind in upgrading PHP – the web service that processes a website’s data and logical code into HTML output. The cost of this delay is enormous in terms of website maintenance and performance.

The jump from PHP v5 to v7 was a big one that required software updates and often times modifications to any custom component (theme, child theme, custom plugins). PHP 7.0 was a huge performance improvement over its predecessor. Since PHP 7.0 we’ve seen four annual releases, each offering further performance improvements.

If your hosting service is one of the few who offers PHP 7.4 right now you should consider upgrading a staging site first to test it, then go live with the upgrade. If your hosting service doesn’t offer PHP 7.4 currently, you should request it and based on your satisfaction with their response decide whether they measure up. My favorite managed WordPress hosting service SiteDistrict has PHP 7.4 available. You can migrate your current site there at no cost to test it out.

Some developers have run benchmarks among versions of PHP. Kinsta did a great article on PHP 7.4 and recent versions and they link to an excellent PHP benchmark report by Phoronix Media.

Here’s some interesting takeaways from these reports:

  1. PHP is used by 78.9% of all detectable websites.
  2. PHP 5 is still used by 44.0% of all websites.
  3. Previous version PHP 7.3 will remain supported for one year with security patches for a year beyond that.
  4. WordPress requires PHP 7.3 or greater.

Remember to regularly test the performance of your website without caching (append ?something-unique to your URL).

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