Install Multiple PHP Versions on Ubuntu 16.04

As a default, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS servers assign the PHP 7.0 version. Though PHP 5.6 is coming to the end of life in December of 2018, some applications may not be compatible with PHP 7.0. For this tutorial, we instruct on how to switch between PHP 7.0 and PHP 5.6 for Apache and the overall default PHP version for Ubuntu.

Step 1: Update Apt-Get

As always, we update and upgrade our package manager before beginning an installation. If you are currently running PHP 7.X, after updating apt-get, continue to step 2 to downgrade to PHP 5.6.

apt-get update && apt-get upgrade

Step 2: Install PHP 5.6
Install the PHP5.6 repository with these two commands.

apt-get install -y software-properties-common
add-apt-repository ppa:ondrej/php
apt-get update
apt-get install -y php5.6

Step 3: Switch PHP 7.0 to PHP 5.6
Switch from PHP 7.0 to PHP 5.6 while restarting Apache to recognize the change:

a2dismod php7.0 ; a2enmod php5.6 ; service apache2 restart

Note
Optionally you can switch back to PHP 7.0 with the following command: a2dismod php5.6 ; a2enmod php7.0 ; service apache2 restart

Verify that PHP 5.6 is running on Apache by putting up a PHP info page. To do so, use the code below in a file named as infopage.php and upload it to the /var/www/html directory.

<? phpinfo(); ?>

By visiting http://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx/infopage.php (replacing the x’s with your server’s IP address), you’ll see a PHP info banner similar to this one, confirming the PHP Version for Apache:

Example of PHP Info page

Continue onto the section PHP Version for Ubuntu to edit the PHP binary from the command line.

Step 4: Edit PHP Binary

Maintenance of symbolic links or the /etc/alternatives path through the update-alternatives command.

update-alternatives --config php

Output:
There are 2 choices for the alternative php (providing /usr/bin/php).
Selection Path Priority Status
------------------------------------------------------------
* 0 /usr/bin/php7.0 70 auto mode
1 /usr/bin/php5.6 56 manual mode
2 /usr/bin/php7.0 70 manual mode
Press to keep the current choice[*], or type selection number:

Select php5.6 version to be set as default, in this case, its the number one option.

You can now verify that PHP 5.6 is the default by running:
php -v

Output:
PHP 5.6.37-1+ubuntu16.04.1+deb.sury.org+1 (cli)
Copyright (c) 1997-2016 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v2.6.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2016 Zend Technologies
with Zend OPcache v7.0.6-dev, Copyright (c) 1999-2016, by Zend Technologies

Upgrade PHP 5.6 to 7


PHP is a programming language that can run with Apache or Microsoft IIS and works with your server to execute the requests that make up your website. 88% of online sites run on, soon to be vulnerable PHP 5.X technology. At the close of this year, scheduled by Dec 31, 2018 security support will end for our dear old friend PHP 5.6, meaning bugs and security fixes will not be tended to and could lead to security vulnerabilities. 
Each PHP version gets supported actively for two years while the third year only get critical security updates. Luckily, the PHP gods had smiled upon us and extended the life for just a year longer than the typical PHP version before giving us the new year deadline. For all of you developers out there wanting to know exactly what is changing, here’s a helpful migration guide from PHP 5.6 to PHP 7.X.

While the last of PHP 5 closes out with PHP 5.6, this will inevitably leave websites utilizing PHP 5 vulnerable to attacks as well as poor performance. It has substantially reached its infamous End of Life (EOL) title. Switching to the newer PHP 7 versions is not only good for the security, but updating can ultimately save you money. Reducing the cost of doing business by avoiding software incompatibility and compliance issues. If an emotional headache isn’t enough to persuade developers to switch, the benefits will. Benchmarks show PHP 7.x has been tested to run three times faster than PHP5.6!

Let’s see:

  • Faster performance resulting in less memory usage
  • Three times faster page loads*
  • Better for heavy traffic sites
*Performance increase as benchmarked in a testing environment. Other developer’s website performance changes between PHP 5 and PHP 7 may vary.

If you are in a shared environment that manages the OS and framework, then your hosting provider should be sending out notifications of the upcoming change, their plan of action, and cut off dates. Our managed hosting products, such as Storm VPS, Cloud Sites or Managed WordPress, have support teams that can help you switch from PHP 5.X to PHP 7.X easily. Our Managed WordPress product has a compatibility checker built in & one click button to upgrade, yet another reason to love it!


While using WordPress to power your site you can check some vital aspects by going to the
WordPress plugin page and searching for the plugins that you use. Once you find the plugin or themes that you utilize, their spec pages will usually say what PHP version they employ. Also, check out the review tab for comments from users as this section gives useful information. This review tab is helpful for seeing if others have had issues with the plugin or theme and newer PHP versions. It is good practice to look up reviews and see what people have been saying about said plugin. If you don’t see any responses or it hasn’t rated well, then you will want to stray away from it. If you use custom plugins, check with your developer to see how they operate in new PHP versions. The WordPress Compatibility Plugin check will give you a list of plugins and themes that may not mesh well with PHP 7.X.

If you run a mission-critical site its best to do a compatibility checker because blindly upgrading could result in some parts of your page to not function. Checking PHP compatibility, as you would imagine, is a little more in depth but from research online, there is a compatibility checker for VPS servers that you can utilize by downloading the repo from GitHub.

It is worthwhile to note that some plugins may need a PHP module to be installed for the plugin to work. When upgrading the PHP version, you may also need to re-install the PHP module. Fortunately, our support team can assist with installing any PHP module you may need or give the best course of action if the PHP module is not available for your PHP version.

If you are using a Linux VPS the easiest way to check is to ssh into your server and run the following command via your terminal:

php --versionOutput: PHP 7.0.30 (cli) (built: Jun 26 2018 20:34:16)

cPanel:

Note
It’s important to make a backup of your site before migrating to PHP 7.X

Search php, select Multi PHP Manager, will show this screen to show which php version you are using. While on the PHP Version screen you can update the PHP version here by clicking on the check mark next to the domain and selecting the desired PHP version on the right drop down and click Apply.

Search For PHP and Click MulitPHP Manager Icon

Featured Video: Liquid Web Managed WordPress and PHP 7

There’s no doubt that PHP 7 is a lot faster and more efficient than PHP 5.x versions. The reason it’s provides better performance is because PHP 7.x underwent massive internal changes. With such massive changes something has to be too good to be true, right? No not really, but there is something you should know before updating to PHP 7.

In this Knowledge Base article we feature a video provided by Chris Lema. Chris shows how the Managed WordPress Platform makes upgrading to PHP 7 simple and quick!

Continue reading “Featured Video: Liquid Web Managed WordPress and PHP 7”

EasyApache 4 & CLI based PHP utilities

With the release of EasyApache 4 in WHM 58 there are various changes to how PHP is managed. The most obvious being that EasyApache 4 brings support for installing multiple PHP versions alongside each other. However with multiple versions of PHP being installed on the server it’s easy to lose track of your command-line based PHP utilities and their PHP requirements. Continue reading “EasyApache 4 & CLI based PHP utilities”