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.