PHP 5.6 is Approaching its End of Life this Year
December 31, 2018 marks the official end of security support for PHP 5.6, this means there will be no further updates to the software. PHP 7.0 was released in December 2015 and PHP 7.1 was released December of 2016. In case you're wondering, yes the official numbering does skip over "6" - don't ask.
What This Change Means For You
Most site and application owners will have no issues with PHP 7 provided they are running reliably updated software. If you're not sure about the age of your platform and its compatibility with PHP 7 talk to your developer (here at iTMG or your developer, we're happy to discuss) to confirm when the last upgrade was, how far forward it took you and if that included PHP 7 support. Broadly speaking, most reputable platforms upgraded within the past 1 to 2 years should be supporting PHP 7, all the same, still check before making the switch.
Why would your platform have issues with PHP 7 could include:
If you’re using various software alongside one another, most applications today should be compatible with PHP 7.1 which was first released in December of 2016, again you need to check all your systems to make sure that you and your development team are aware and are, one way or the other, supporting the update.
Preparing for PHP 7
Most recent installs, or CMSs and applications recently upgraded will have no issues with PHP 7. You may just need to upgrade to the latest version of your system. There is generally ample documentation and support forums focussed on guidin users through the move to PHP 7.1.
Where it is more likely users may find themselves stuck is customizations and smaller plugins or addons. If you have had customization done, a particular theme or module installed and have not had any upgrades done to these plugins or (in the case of WordPress) themes in recent years, you may find yourself in a quagmire: can't upgrade your website or application because of a plugin, but can't figure out how to upgrade the plugin so you can go ahead and move to PHP 7. Or worse, you tried to upgrade a plugin and it crashed your site altogether.
You're stuck. Well not really, but it can feel that way; and yes it will take a little patience and effort moving beyond. And you're best off to find a qualified developer or engineer to help navigate the waters.
Getting Ready? Need Help?
For businesses, website and application owners who are unsure about how to prepare for the upcoming changes, we advise you to contact your developer. If you’ve lost contact with your developer, you can find a qualified engineer or professional developer to assist. And yes, you can contact iTMG to help.
The sky won't immediately fall once PHP 5.6 is discontinued. Hosting providers will continue to support it for the near and (probably) medium term, but the writing is on the wall.