Our WordPress sites now on PHP 5.5 and above!

wp-to-php55
During the past few weeks, we have undertaken a serious campaign to increase the number of the WordPress sites that use more recent PHP versions on our servers. As a result, now more than 90% of all our WordPress sites are on PHP 5.5 or higher. As scary as such a massive update may sound when you have more than 100,000 WordPress instances, it turned out to be a real success.

But PHP 5.5 was available for our customers for more than an year…

We are one of the few hosting companies that always make the latest PHP version available for use to all its customers as soon as it has a stable release. But we also have a philosophy that it is the customer’s own choice which PHP version will be used on each of its folders. Providing this unique flexibility we thought we have done our due.

However, lately we have been hearing more and more talks in the WordPress community about the negatives of using the old PHP versions and especially PHP 5.2. That got us auditing the versions of the WordPress and PHP used on our servers. Although, the percentage of sites using PHP 5.2 was really low, we found the number of sites not using the current most widely adopted PHP version – 5.5, to be surprisingly high for our standards.

We got curious what are the reasons for so many people not to use more recent PHP versions, when we have provided them with the option to easily do that.

… so why did clients use old PHP versions in general?

When researching the reasons why, it turns out the greater majority of the clients were either unaware of the existence of a more recent one or felt uncomfortable updating on their own and thought they need a developer to do it. As it is our mission to both keep our clients safe (by keeping their software up-to-date), and make their life easier when it comes to website maintenance, we decided to help them make the change. By stepping in we also took over any additional maintenance work related to the update. Clients were given the option to opt out if they thought this update might have bad consequences for their sites.

We took the responsibility to do the move

So basically our conclusion was that giving the choice to the customers may not be enough. Taking the responsibility to make the right choice for them and being there to deal with any possible consequences turned out to be a better approach. We updated the PHP version of thousands of installations. We got a handful of tickets asking for assistance after the update, which were all related to a client using a specific plugin incompatible with the PHP 5.5 version. Such cases were either fixed, where possible, or downgraded to the old version upon client’s discretion.

So the conclusion of this campaign is that we will still stay true to our philosophy to value the customer freedom of choice. However, we will not let this philosophy prevent us from taking the responsibility and helping the customer make the right choice, whenever possible.

WordPress Initiatives Manager

Enthusiastic about all Open Source applications you can think of, but mostly about WordPress. Add a pinch of love for web design, new technologies, search engine optimisation and you are pretty much there!

14 Comments

  1. Reply November 30, 2014 / 15:50 Dan Knauss (@newlocalmedia)SiteGround Team

    I don't have a problem with you updating PHP for all customers, but you should not have done this without warning. A simple notice by email would be nice.

    You also should have tested your own plugins under PHP 5.5 first. With supercacher active update.php (core file) starts throwing errors on the plugin and update scrrens in the WP backend.

    • Reply December 2, 2014 / 07:59 HristoSiteGround Team

      Hey Dan,

      Thanks for your feedback, I really appreciate it! We did notify our customers that got their PHP versions upgraded. Unfortunately, after you brought up the issue and we investigated it, we detected later that the mailing list in for that notice isn't complete and there are some accounts missing, including yours. I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused to you and the other clients who weren’t notified. It's our basic policy to always inform our customers what is going on when we make any changes and we will make sure that this doesn't happen again in the future.

      As to your other question, SGCachePress works just fine with PHP 5.5. We've made, however, one big change - migrated from using our own update system to the WordPress.org repo. If you update your plugins manually, this works as a charm (SiteGround and internal autoupdates, WP-CLI updates work with no problems too), but we got few complaints mostly from people using WordPress management tools to control multiple app intances. Could you tell me how exactly did you try to update your plugin so I can troubleshoot this better?

  2. Reply November 30, 2014 / 18:08 Ivica DelicSiteGround Team

    Thx guys for taking care of security and for your initiative! 🙂

  3. Reply December 10, 2014 / 07:56 Dan Knauss (@newlocalmedia)SiteGround Team

    @Hristo

    There is no reply notification on the comments here, so I did not see your response. Please email me; I'll also open a support ticket about the plugin issue.

    SuperCache is working and up to date, but if it is active I get this error on the plugin list screen:

    Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/actshous/public_html/wp-includes/update.php on line 303

    Thanks for the explanation about the PHP upgrade and notifications. Although I didn't get a notice, I was aware the environment had changed, and I was no longer able to run an application with extremely obsolete requirements, even if I changed the PHP version in use. That application really needed to be eliminated, but it wasn't my choice to make, so I am actually glad it was made for us.

    • Reply December 10, 2014 / 10:15 Dan Knauss (@newlocalmedia)SiteGround Team

      Followup to this: It appears SiteGround's SG CachePress/Supercacher plugin throws errors on the WP update screens under PHP 5.5. It also prevents WP from checking for updates, so it will look like there are none. It will also prevent remote update services like WP Remote from connecting and checking for updates too.

      Solution: Roll back to PHP 5.4.33 until Supercacher is compatible with PHP 5.5. I see SG now has the system default set at PHP 5.3.29.

      What I hope has been learned: SiteGround needs to do more testing before imposing system wide changes to the PHP environment.

      • December 11, 2014 / 02:32 HristoSiteGround Team

        This is definitelly not the case. SuperCacher works flawlessly with all PHP versions we support. We've done a lot of testing, I can assure you of that. In addition, we have thousands of people using the plugin on PHP 5.5 and none of them is having those problems. This is something particular for your installation. I will take a look at your account and see what's wrong 🙂

  4. Reply December 10, 2014 / 12:14 Eric HelmerSiteGround Team

    I did receive your email. Basically I thought, great, let them do that but, even though I'm in the WordPress support business, none of my clients use SiteGround (please don't kill them). If I did have clients using SiteGround, I may not have been as sanguin about being checkmated. I've worked with PHP too long to jump on the most recent 'authorized' version and so I usually stay a version back until everyone else has suffered a meltdown. With respect to WP support itself, the things I've seen plug-in and widget developers do boggle the mind, plug-ins, etc., 'ready' for the latest version of WP. Although its not PHP, when jQuery decided to change the way it handles model z-index, and nobody paid attention, suddenly everyone's modal was set at 3 billion and nobody could see anything. I'm not sure but I think it was settled by a developer Hunger Games.

    So personally I'm kind of split on you hauling off and doing it yourselves unless you set a policy that PHP will always be upgraded to the most recent stable version. Otherwise, since you usually have to beg most hosts to give you an upgrade, it will always come as a shock when you do it.

    Cheers!

    • Reply December 11, 2014 / 02:34 HristoSiteGround Team

      This is the main reasons we email our customers notifying them about the upcoming change and allowing them to stay on the PHP version they're currently using 🙂

  5. Reply December 11, 2014 / 02:52 Gary JonesSiteGround Team

    When will PHP 5.6 be supported in PHP Version Manager?
    What's the policy on keeping versions up to date with patch fixes i.e. 5.5.17 is currently supported but 5.5.19 is available)
    How about an option for HHVM to really let us try and break things? 😉

    • Reply December 15, 2014 / 02:19 HristoSiteGround Team

      Hey Gary, you know we always do a lot of testing before we make a service or a product available to our customers. HHVM will not be part of the SiteGround shared or VPS products at least until it becomes stable enough to be used on real servers. You can get a Dedicated server though and break things as much as you want on it 🙂 As to PHP 5.6 it's already in the test cycle and will be available soon.

  6. Reply February 4, 2015 / 14:51 AnnieSiteGround Team

    I was looking up the SiteGrounds policy on HHVM. Goog to know this feature is taken under consideration, good point to wait until it is considered stable!

    I I am well informed this will be great to even speed up the back end admin, not only the front end?

    Altough I see improvement even in the dashboard speed, thing good be better especially with a lot of plugins, let along a full blown Woocommerce.

    • Reply February 6, 2015 / 05:47 Daniel KanchevSiteGround Team

      Hi Annie,

      Once we test HHVM and we make sure that it is compatible with our custom server setup we'll most probably start offering it to our clients. Stay tuned!

  7. Reply October 19, 2016 / 14:29 MhSiteGround Team

    Hi, as far i know 5.5 is not secure at all, no update for this version all user should use 5.6 its secure and satble

    • Reply October 20, 2016 / 04:14 Daniel KanchevSiteGround Team

      Please note that this blog post was published on Nov 27, 2014. Right now all SiteGround hosting accounts are created with the latest PHP 5.6. In addition, all of our clients can easily switch from one PHP version to another. We were the first hosting company to offer PHP 7 support. For more details you may check this blog post:

      https://www.siteground.com/blog/php7-available-on-all-siteground-servers/

      Thus, in terms of the PHP versions available on our hosting servers we have done everything within our reach in order to secure our clients' sites.

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