Important infrastruture upgrade

As part of your Cividesk service, we sometimes have to perform infrastructure upgrades in order to bring your core software up to date with the latest developments and/or for security purposes.

While most of these upgrades are done behind the scene, sometimes we have a major upgrade to perform and need to inform our customers of precautions and potential side effects. This is the case for the PHP upgrade planned this month (March 2019), so we wanted to take a moment to answer your most critical questions.

What is core software?

Core software is all the base software that allows your website (Drupal, WordPress, Joomla) and CiviCRM to run. Core software includes in particular:

  • the web server, whose purpose is to manage the dialog with the web browser and coordinate with your application to generate the pages requested
  • the database server, whose purpose is to store, query and retrieve all the data needed by your application (ie. website or CRM)
  • the PHP interpreter, which transform the application code from a human-readable form into something that can be run by a computer

What are we upgrading?

This month, we are upgrading the PHP interpreter from version 5.6 to version 7.2. That is a big jump, and the PHP language has gained many new features in this new version, but unfortunately also made a few changes that will render older code incompatible. These incompatibilities are the reason we waited to perform this upgrade, as we first needed the website, CRM software, and all modules, extensions and plug-ins used by our customers to be certified compatible with this new version prior to upgrading.

With the most recent Drupal, WordPress and CiviCRM releases nearing full compatibility with PHP 7.2, we felt it was the right time for us to perform this upgrade.

Why is this necessary?

Well, the release 5.6 of PHP, which we are now using on our servers, has reached End of Life (EOL) at the beginning of the year, this meant that security patches would no longer be backported to this release. While there are no known vulnerability associated with this version to date, it is more prudent to perform the upgrade to a supported release. PHP 7.2 is officially supported for security purposes until Nov 2020, so we should not need another major PHP upgrade for a little while.

Will it impact my website?

Potentially yes, since compatibility of your website's modules, plugins or extensions is uncertain. This is the biggest risk with doing such upgrades.

We however mitigate this risk in the following ways:

  • upgrade all your website's components to the latest release prior to the PHP upgrade, since latest versions have better compatibility with newer releases of PHP
  • perform a complete test all our customer's websites after the upgrade, to make sure everything works, and correct any deficiencies by adapting your website's code to PHP 7.2
  • have a backup server still running PHP 5.6 on which we can migrate customer's websites that wiould require too much work to be made compatible with PHP 7.2

Together these measures ensure that we will minimize risk and have plans to restore your website to a working condition if any issues arise.

What is the timing of this upgrade?

We started upgrading our first servers at the beginning of March and the upgrade is planned to be finalized by the end of March.

I have another question that has not been answered ...

As a Cividesk customer, always feel free to contact our customer support, via email at support@cividesk.com or through the Desk, for any questions you might have.