Hosting companies need to do more to keep things updated

Posted on August 31, 2013


With the addition of generators into PHP 5.5, giving us greater ability to traverse large amounts of data without the heavy memory impact, the following question has to be asked: is it the hosting company’s responsibility – or even duty – to keep versions of the software on its hosting up to date with the most recent stable release?

When a new version of any piece of software is released, it often contains security and bug fixes, some of which are critical to the ongoing functionality of the server. It is not uncommon to come across a server with a version of PHP that is so far outdated that it cannot handle OOP (object oriented programming) properly.

Surely it is in all hosting companies’ best interests to maintain the server at the most current stable release and prompt their customers to ensure their code will function with this new version?

On the other side of the coin, the introduction of OOP into PHP 5 prompted a large number of website owners to have to redo swathes of code to bring their sites in-line with the new method. This meant the code would not function on anything below PHP 5, creating a void for a brief period of time in which sites had to migrate. During this period, it seems sympathetic hosting companies have held back the updates and kept some servers on a lower PHP version. With the potential security flaws and issues of running older versions of software, surely the choice should be with the customer?

The default situation is that the server is updated to the latest stable release with the previous two versions available to roll-back to if serious issues are found.

Is it fair to implement the merciless ‘update or perish’ method to keep servers secure and to force a website to bring itself up to date with the current methods? Should older versions be used by request? Should there be a consistent standard across the board for all hosting companies to adhere to? These are all important questions that may never get answered given the variable level of service and knowledge found among hosting companies.

Steven is Engage Web’s go-to man for all things web-related, bringing his knowledge of current trends in web design and development to the team.
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