What is PHP on My WordPress Site and Why Would I Be Billed For It?

PHP is programming that is customarily included as a free feature on a shared hosting account. If you have a WordPress website you should be aware it and how it may effect the cost of your site.

What is PHP?

PHP is a programming language that is used for WordPress websites, WordPress plugins, and for functions like contact forms on some websites that don’t use WordPress. PHP is installed by your hosting company on your server and the PHP code on your website uses this programming to create pages, blog posts, run contact forms, and more!

Why a PHP upgrade?

PHP is upgraded periodically by its developers, just like Windows and other programs are upgraded. The version available on most hosting accounts at this time is 7.2. When WordPress updates and plugin updates are made somtimes the updates include code that relies on a newer version of PHP, so it’s important to have an up to-date version of PHP software on the server.

How is PHP updated on the server?

The easiest and therefore the preferred way to update PHP on the server is to login to your hosting account and select to use a newer version of PHP.

However…

Some hosting companies are now “monetizing” PHP. Here are two examples.

The first PHP tale involved a client’s website that slowed down to a snail’s pace. A check of the hosting account revealed that it was operating with a very old version of PHP. However, we could not easily update the PHP. The hosting company required the website be moved to a new server that had the newer version of PHP installed. This move was expensive and time consuming because the new server was more expensive and there was a charge to move the site.

The next upgrade issue was a real slick maneuver that just doesn’t feel right to the client (or me). A client received a letter from their hosting company. It said the client would be assessed an additional $8.71 per year for their failure to upgrade to a newer version of PHP. So the client called and the PHP was updated however the additional billing was still in place. It eventually took my intervention to get the charges removed. Frankly, I’ve never seen any other hosting company that initiates an upgrade at the client’s expense if not requested by the client.

Design to Spec doesn’t sell hosting. Because we’re not aligned with any one company we know how many of the hosting providers work and can make sound recommendations on their plans and customer service. Ask us.

GoDaddy Went Down and Came Back Up

GoDaddy.com was down for 4 hours yesterday. This was headline news because GoDaddy hosts more than 5 million small business website and may even be your hosting company. There has been speculation thorough out social websites that the outage was due to a hacking attack by the group “Anonymous.” Their involvement has yet to be confirmed, however small businesses found they were without their website and if using an email address that includes their URL, they were also with email.

No one likes to be hacked. With the new breed of hackers the larger the hosting company, the larger the target. The goal of the hacker is to do as much damage as possible. However, the inverse is that the larger the hosting company the more they spend to prevent hacking, the more resources they have to get their system and your website working again, and the more likely they can continue with “business as usual.” I heard some very good news yesterday from a client who uses GoDaddy– they called GoDaddy (like probably 5 million other people!) and they were able to speak with a representative.

Today I received an email that purports to be from the Chamber of Commerce suggesting other hosting alternatives. I’d like to urge clients who have selected GoDaddy not to make a rush to change hosts. You will incur a cost, your website will be again out of commission while it is transferred to a new hosting company, and and transferring to another hosting company will not eliminate the possibility of a future hacking attack.

You may already know, I don’t sell web hosting. I’m an independent consultant. If you’re unhappy with your hosting and would like to move to a hosting company I can recommend other hosts and help you move your website. Before you move you may like my blog post 5 STEPS TO VET A WEBSITE HOSTING SERVICE http://designtospec.com/hosting/tip-5-steps-to-vet-a-website-hosting-service/

TIP: 5 Steps to Vet A Website Hosting Service

Clients ask me how to pick a hosting company for their websites.   I can tell you who I like and don’t like, based upon mostly their technical limitations and response to major website problems. However who I like as a webmaster, may be very different that what an individual client needs from a hosting company.

When a client gets beyond the amount of disk space, bandwidth, and extras offered by a shared hosting account, there is only one thing that really matters—customer service.  The three key points that most web lay people want from a hosting company are the “3 C’s”: Convenience (Are they available through a  800 number and are they the there 24/7), Courtesy (Will they speak to me like a human being or talk down to me like I’m a toddler? Will there be a language barrier?), and Catastrophes (When something goes wrong will they put it right again?).

But how is the hosting consumer supposed to know if a hosting company will master the “3 C’s”? The Internet is a terrific resource to vet a hosting company. I recommend the following searches to get an idea of how a hosting company works… or in some cases uncover that a hosting company doesn’t work.

  1. Do they suck? It’s not my favorite word, but “sucks” seems to be the word of choice for the most dissatisfied consumers. Simply open up your favorite search engine and search the name of the hosting company and the word sucks. While this may not be the most scientific method to assess the performance of a hosting company, it will give you a window to a company’s most dissatisfied customers and give you an inkling of what may be in store for you.
  2. What the Tweet?  Another window to the performance of a host is Twitter. Search Twitter to see if they are a member. Search by putting a “@” in front of their Twitter username to see what others have posed about them. I also like to look at the companies Twitter profile: Has it been months since their last Tweet?
  3. Contact Info. Check out the contact information for the hosting company on their own website. Watch out for hosting companies where there are no means to contact them via traditional snail mail or telephone.  For consumers who only want to work with US-based companies this is where you can uncover the business location. 
  4. Free Customer Service.  A tough US economy has moved some hosting companies to charge for customer service. Be aware that discount hosting service may cost you more when you add a customer service package to their yearly fee.  How does this play out? You’ll see that these hosts offer assistance only via email and offer telephone customer service to those customers who purchase a larger hosting account.  
  5. Call ‘Em. I know this sounds like a nuisance, but it will tell you more than all of the first 4 steps. Your website is going to be the life-blood of your business—why wouldn’t you make a test phone call to them to be sure you will be happy with the hosting company? Making the call will reveal  how fast they are to pick up the phone, how long hold time is, if the phone system is confusing or a long process to reach a department. You’ll also learn if the person on the other end is polite and eager to help. I’ve made these calls and had some surprising results like reaching a rep who was a one man basement operation, or horribly rude reps, and the frightening poorly trained rep.

Congratulations, you are now ready to weigh the results of your investigation. While one bad review may not be a deal breaker and a bulky voicemail system may not put you off, these are all tell-tale signs. Know your tolerance and obey your instincts.  Vetting your hosting company will help you purchase shared hosting with confidence.