Why are you still on PHP 5.3?

2 minute read

Seriously, why?

Let’s start with some facts. PHP 5.3 officially experienced EOL (End Of Life) in March of 2013. That’s nearly 1 1/2 years ago (an eternity in tech years). The last bug fix for PHP 5.3 was released in December of 2013 – 8 months ago! There has probably been 2 dozen flash bug releases since then (seriously flash, please just die already).

If that isn’t enough to convince you to upgrade, how about a nice little case study in the performance gains PHP 5.4 affords you?

I recently worked on a server migration for a client. We’ll call them Client X. Client X was migrating from one hosting provider to another (for reasons not relevant to this post). The new provider does not support PHP 5.4 (crazy, I know. But let’s move on). So we initially setup the site on PHP 5.3.

In preparing for the switch over, we noticed the site was notably slower than the old server, even though the server specs were very similar. As we started on the task of diagnosing the slowness we found a few things. First, the network card was set to half-duplex on a 100MB/s backend. Even after fixing it to full we still found performance was slow. We then had the provider move the server to a 1G/s backend. This made a major difference. Not only did we see a speed improvement by a factor of 2, but load capacity increased to nearly 3 fold. A very big difference indeed. Yet the site was still slower.

At the same time that we were troubleshooting performance, we had also encountered a weird issue where SOAP requests were failing when zlib compression was enabled in PHP. After some internal debate, a business decision was made to “risk” running PHP 5.4 without support from the provider. After upgrading, we notice the site felt much better – even comparable to the old server. We ran another load test. The results were surprising. Just upgrading from PHP 5.3 to 5.4 we saw an improvement of 20% in average response time and 45% improvement in capacity.

So the lesson here? NOT upgrading from PHP 5.3 to at least 5.4 is down right crazy.

Load Test Results<figcaption class="wp-caption-text">Test in chronological order. PHP 5.4 upgrade is the top test.</figcaption></figure>

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