PHP and hosting

When is it Important to Know these Two Geeky Hosting Details?


After the initial install of WordPress, I never used to pay much attention to what PHP version my host was running.

Recently, though, I changed my ways.

While doing some routine maintenance — backing everything up, upgrading plugins, and such like, I got a series of error messages, and even a white screen of death. (If you’ve never experienced one, it’s that heart-stopping, totally blank screen you see instead of your beautiful WordPress site.)

After nearly three hours spent troubleshooting, checking for viruses and malware, and a few other things, I went into geek mode. I logged into the hosting site and discovered that this particular host (not one I recommend, by the way) was set up to run some very old versions of PHP and mySQL.

Normally, as a WordPress site owner, you don’t need to know about acronyms like these. But just like your car owner’s manual tells you what type of fuel you need and what kind of oil you should use for optimum auto performance, WordPress has some optimum performance requirements as well.

There are two times to pay attention to them — when you’re choosing a hosting service, and after a new version of WordPress is released.

With WordPress 4.7, your host should be running:

  • PHP version 7 or better
  • mySQL version 5.6 or better, OR MariaDB version 10.0 or better

WordPress also recommends servers running Apache or Nginx for WordPress. (Apache uses mySQL while Nginx uses MariaDB.)

Note that the versions above are not yet required, but they will be soon. WordPress will work with PHP 5.2.4 and mySQL 5.0, but not for long — they have officially reached their end of life and may expose your site to security vulnerabilities.

To find the most up-to-date information about server requirements, check the page at before you choose a web host, and whenever WordPress releases a major upgrade.

All told, I wasted a lot of time fussing with a site that couldn’t work properly, because the servers running it were inadequate.

Let’s quickly review the types of hosting (for a more thorough look, check out this article), and some recommendations. [Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. That just means if you purchase hosting after clicking the link here, I earn a small commission. It helps me keep the site going, and to keep my prices low.]

Shared Hosting

It’s where most site owners start.

Shared hosting is inexpensive, and it’s fine for beginning bloggers and other online businesses.Click To Tweet

Shared hosting is inexpensive, and it’s fine for beginning bloggers and other online businesses. If you’re using shared hosting, I’m still recommending Siteground, which includes PHP 7.0 for all accounts.

If you’re using a different shared hosting service, contact customer support to see whether PHP 7 is available to you. Also, find out whether they use Nginx or Apache, and request an upgrade to MariaDB 10.0 (Nginx) or mySQL 5.6 (Apache).

If you’re with a shared host that does not offer the server software you need to run WordPress properly, it’s time to move to one that does! Here’s an article to help with that.

Managed WordPress Hosting

If you’re a blogger with significant traffic, or you’re a freelancer or solopreneur earning real money from your online business, you should think about upgrading to managed WordPress hosting. Click To Tweet

If you’re a blogger with significant traffic, or you’re a freelancer or solopreneur earning real money from your online business, you should think about upgrading to managed WordPress hosting. It’s a bit more expensive than shared hosting, but well worth it.

Because you’re sharing better servers with far fewer other users, hosting is faster and more secure. And because they’re set up to handle only WordPress sites, performance is maximized in other ways as well.

What does this mean for you? Well, faster translates into more of the visitors who find your site sticking around, and more secure means less wasted time on your part, less downtime, and a raft of other benefits.

Here are three excellent managed WordPress hosting companies.

  • WPEngine (gives you the option to move to a server running PHP 7, so remember to request it!)
  • Dreampress (the managed WordPress hosting service of Dreamhost includes PHP 7)
  • Synthesis (includes PHP 7 for all users)

How to Find Out Your PHP Version

If you’re on shared hosting with cPanel, look for an icon similar to this one.

PHP version manager

Click on it, and you’ll see a list that will look similar to this.

PHP version selector

To select a different version of PHP, select the appropriate entry and click Save. As always, before making any major changes — and changing PHP is major! — completely back up your site first.

After saving, you should see a success message.

PHP version success

Finally, check your site carefully to make sure everything is working as it should be.