Why You Need To Upgrade Your Hotel's WordPress Website To PHP 7
TL;DR: Older versions of your server's PHP software will a) leave your hotel's website vulnerable to hackers since security updates for PHP 5 have ended, and b) you will no longer be able to update WordPress itself, further increasing your vulnerability and putting you further behind your competition.
That was the "Too long; didn't read" version. You could stop here, but then you'd miss out on the fascinating world of in-depth software versions, and who doesn't love hundreds of words talking about that?!
What is PHP & Why Does It Matter For My Hotel's Website?
The server running your WordPress site requires software called PHP in order to function, somewhat like your home computer needs an operating system like Windows or the Mac OS. And just like with your home computer, updating the server's software is a pain in the neck, which means most people keep putting it off for a long (long!) time.
Why Do I Need To Upgrade My Hotel's Website Website To PHP 7? Can't I Just Keep Using PHP 5?
PHP 7 was released in 2015, but until the last month or two, WordPress still only required PHP 5 to function. As a result, very few people bothered to update PHP (see "neck, pain in the", mentioned earlier) – in fact, 65% of all sites today using PHP are still using PHP 5:
That's changing, however. If your server does not have at least PHP 5.6.20, WordPress will now show you a scary warning in your dashboard, and will prevent you from updating WordPress itself to the latest version. Furthermore, support for PHP 5.6 ended on December 31, 2018.
So, Should You Update Your Hotel Website's server to PHP 7?
In short YES, you absolutely should update your hotel website's server software to PHP 7!
There are quite a few reasons to switch over to PHP 7, particularly if you use WordPress. As mentioned earlier, the minimum PHP requirements for WordPress core have increased, and many plugins and themes may soon become incompatible with older versions of PHP. Meanwhile, those past versions have stopped receiving security updates, which could leave your site exposed to hackers.
As a result, if you don't update PHP, over time your hotel's website will get more and more vulnerable, leaving you with no way to update both WordPress and your plugins. You'll miss out on new features and capabilities as well, leaving a poor user experience and causing you to fall behind your competition.
To make it an even better proposition, PHP 7 is significantly faster than PHP 5, so your hotel's website will be able to handle more traffic in a shorter amount of time than ever before. Not to mention Google uses page speed as a ranking signal in their search results and has a great impact on overall website conversion rate.
Luckily, the PHP update is a relatively simple one to make, and generally does not cause problems. There is always a risk that something might break, of course, particularly with older themes that may use functionality that has fundamentally changed or been removed. If you do decide to have your hotel website's server updated to maintain security, be sure whoever performs the maintenance has experience and knows how to recover in the event something goes catastrophically wrong.
Please reach out to GCommerce with any questions you have about how to ensure your hotel's website is upgraded to PHP 7. We can help guide you to the best course of action to protect your site from vulnerability to hackers and to provide the greatest user experience to support your ultimate goal of driving more bookings.