PHP 7 ignites the turbo for your WordPress sites

Tobias Schüring Last updated 15.01.2020
5 Min.
N08 PHP7

Since December 2015, the full version of PHP 7 is available. The now not so new PHP version will soon also become a requirement for WordPress -WordPress -projects and is already officially recommended today. PHP 7 makes your WordPress sites more powerful. We explain which advantages the new PHP 7 brings and what you have to consider if you want to ignite the WordPress turbo.

The new PHP version entered the alpha phase in 2015, and the final version of the scripting language was released in December. The version leap is accompanied by a massive performance boost. Simply put, PHP 7 doubles the speed at which WordPress can operate. Mind you, not all WordPress components necessarily run smoothly under the new PHP version. And this despite the fact that developers have been able to work with the new standard for more than a year.

PHP 7 is now also listed by WordPress .org as a recommended minimum requirement for web servers. This makes the latest PHP version, along with HTTPS and HTTP/2, one of the most important building blocks for your web server in 2017.

PHP updates are security and performance relevant

PHP is the programming language behind WordPress and is mainly used for programming websites and web applications. PHP generates all functions and elements that make up your website and with which your visitors interact.

PHP updates are relatively rare, but all the more important. If the PHP version is outdated and is no longer provided with updates, massive security gaps can occur. But also the loading time of site suffers under an old PHP version. In addition, in extreme cases there may be incompatibilities with Plugins and Themes can occur.

If you are interested in the developer perspective: You can find detailed reports for developers and a migration guide e.g. at entwickler.de, heise.de and at php.net.

More performance through better use of resources

PHP 7 ensures that PHP operations now require significantly fewer resources, and above all less CPU processing power, than in version 5.6. This means that up to twice as many operations are possible with the same server power. For WordPress this also means up to twice the performance. PHP 7 thus brings one advantage in particular: In order to run a large WordPress site with many dynamic elements such as shopping carts, you now need significantly less computing power with PHP 7 than with PHP 5.6.

PHP 7 ignites the turbo for your WordPress sites
The numbers are taken from a performance test by ZEND, the developer of PHP 7 and refer to WordPress 4.1. However, our internal tests with WordPress 4.4.2 gave similar results and you can assume that a rough doubling of the performance can be expected under newer WordPress versions as well.

We can illustrate the speed advantage of PHP 7 even more concretely with a short test with raidboxes.de. We tested a version of the website with PHP 5.6 and one with PHP 7 at Webpagetest. There was a clear improvement in all important parameters. The Document Complete time has improved from almost 10 seconds to 5.5 seconds, almost halved. The Start Render value has decreased from a good 3 seconds to a little under 2 seconds. This reduction can also be seen in the Speed Index: Under PHP 5.6 this is still 3487 points, under PHP 7 it has improved to 2774 points. A reduction of 20 percent.

PHP 7 and WordPress : raidboxes.de once under PHP 5.6, once under PHP 7
Result of the direct comparison between raidboxes.io on PHP 7 and PHP 5.6.

Compatibility is the big problem

WordPress in itself is fully compatible with PHP 7. Difficulties are plugins caused by the use of frameworks. Themes with PHP 7, developers have abandoned parts of the backward compatibility of the language. That means: If a problem occurs plugin under PHP 7, you have to wait until it is fixed via update (or if you can: adapt the script itself).

There is a tool with which you can determine the compatibility of Plugins and Themes for PHP 7, but this is only suitable for developers. For the WordPress normal user there is for example the Plugin PHP Compatibility Checker. Also a developer function like Staging allows you to determine the compatibility of Plugins and Themes with PHP 7 without compromising the functionality of the live site.

How do you get PHP 7?

In most cases, the hosting provider will perform the PHP update (unless you have your own root server). Then, after the update, either all sites running at the host should automatically run under PHP 7, or the host offers an update mechanism. The latter should be the normal case. Because of the lower backward compatibility there is always the risk of problems with Plugins and Themes.

By now, most host should also offer a corresponding option. If not, it could possibly become tight for future WordPress -WordPress - projects.

For example, as a RAIDBOXES customer you can switch your BOXES between PHP 7 and the previous version PHP 5.6 with one click.

PHP7 for WordPress enable at RAIDBOXES
With PHP7 RAIDBOXES can be used for your WordPress projects can be activated and deactivated with a single click in the web page settings.

Conclusion: PHP 7 offers WordPress WordPress -Projects a massive performance boost

Overall, the update of the PHP version is WordPress only recommended for However, it may happen that important plugins or your theme PHP does not support 7. In such a case, you will need to contact the manufacturer to find out when and how the program will be made compatible.

In the worst case you have to wait or find an alternative for the program in question. While this would mean investing some work at this point, it may be a good opportunity to redesign the technical and design aspects of your site program and help you to make it more WordPress future-proof.

In any case, you should consider the question of PHP 7 in the near future. Because PHP 7 should become a minimum requirement for WordPress as early as mid-2017.

By the way: The current PHP version 5.6 has not been updated since the end of 2016. So it makes sense to consider switching to PHP 7 as soon as possible.

Do you have questions about switching from WordPress PHP version 7? Then just write a comment to this article.

As a system administrator, Tobias watches over our infrastructure and finds every possible way to optimize the performance of our servers. His tireless efforts mean he can often be found on Slack in the early hours.

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