Out With the Old, In With the New: Moving to PHP 5.3 and MySQL 5.5

Posted By: Brian Farrell

Last Updated: Saturday May 11, 2013

As of this announcement, all of our servers are now running PHP 5.3 and MySQL 5.5 as the default versions. Up until this point (and for a number of years), we were running PHP 5.2 and MySQL 5.1 as default, and they’ve served us well. There comes a point though where you need to say goodbye to old friends, and usher in the new generation.

Whats up with PHP?

Technically, PHP 5.3 isn’t exactly “new”. PHP 5.3 was first introduced back in 2009, and it was first made available for customer use in November of 2010. We even have PHP 5.4 and PHP 5.5 available on all servers, so why’d it take us so long to move to PHP 5.3 as the default version? Primarily, compatibility. We have a lot of customers running software that for the longest time wasn’t compatible with the newer branches of PHP. An unannounced, sudden switch would have broken a number of their sites. Obviously, as a webhost, our job is to avoid those situations. Crisis averted.

Nowadays PHP 5.3 is pretty much the de facto standard for minimum requirements on new software. In addition to this, most software maintainers/developers have added compatibility for the newest versions of PHP for their software, making this transition a logical decision finally. You’re not going to be forced to run PHP 5.3, if you wish to stay on the 5.2 branch that is fine for now. Eventually it’ll be removed from our systems entirely, but for those slow to upgrade or using legacy scripts which absolutely require 5.2, we’ve got you covered. That said, look into upgrading or finding new scripts. You shouldn’t be relying on a language version that reached its end-of-life over 850 days ago.

As for benefits to this, primarily it comes down to new features and performance. Even if users on our shared plan rely on the default PHP version, moving their application from 5.2 to 5.3 should show them a slight boost in overall load time and execution for anything using PHP. This should hopefully make customers more aware of the importance of keeping their software and versions up to date.

Welcoming MySQL 5.5 to the Hawk Host Family

Continuing the theme of performance, moving away from MySQL 5.1 to 5.5 should show a drastic improvement for all of our systems and customers. Simply put, our MySQL servers are busy. I don’t have exact numbers, but I would venture a guess and over 75% of our customers use software that relies on MySQL. Whether it happens to be Wordpress, Joomla, Magento, IPB,  SMF, vBulletin, their own custom solutions, etc…you get the idea. MySQL is the backbone of what we offer. We’ve done a lot of work over the years to improve MySQL performance at the hardware level, so now we’re finally getting a major upgrade at the software level.  Here are a few highlights of the changes from MySQL 5.1 to 5.5

You may be wondering why it took us so long to upgrade. I mean, MySQL 5.5 has been out since 2009, just like PHP 5.3. Whats our problem, right? The major reason is the control panel we use, cPanel, has only recently started supporting MySQL 5.5 in their stable releases. And while they claim it is stable, we prefer to do our own evaluation and testing as well. Our philosophy has always revolved around not jumping on the latest and greatest, instead staying a little behind the times to guarantee uptime, reliability, and a lack of critical bugs. This mindset has treated us well for years and waiting a bit to move to MySQL 5.5 is further evidence of that.

For those who may have missed it, here’s a brief timeline of what we’ve started offering over the past few months:

The next few months should bring some more exciting announcements, including new products and changes to our existing services. We hope you’re all looking forward to it as much as we are :)

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