When you search online for “php” there are tons of pages coming up with the most diverse types of answers. Basically after that search you should know everything what there is to know about php, right?
Php started out as a simple scripting tool to make web pages display things that you could not do with simple html, like showing date and time on your home page. Quickly after that, the power of php made that one could do a lot more than make your Personal Home Page more interesting. The scripting language turned out to be a powerhouse with unlimited possibilities.
Combined with a database like MySQL or MariaDB, php is capable of retrieving results from those databases, do operations on the results and display a pretty version of these results. Php is embedded into your HTML and as such doesn't need lots of code and a master's degree to write that code. Php is fairly simple to write, but can become as complex as you like or need it. Of course, if your website consists of one or two pages of html and a few lines of php in there, you don't really care what version you have or how safe or hackable your php becomes over time.
Where it all began
Php version 1 in 1994 was called Personal Home Page Tools. In 1995 the source code was released to the public as maintaining the code had already become more than the creator of php had anticipated.
Php3 was the first version that resembles the code as it is today. Php 5 was first released in 2004 and has seen many updates over time. During that time, the internet climate had changed radically. Countries with hackers in their employ made it their goal to make sites using php to do their bidding by altering the php code of the sites.
Once a vulnerability had been identified and fixed, a new release of php then became available. The last of the php5 series was php 5.6.30. That version is still active on many servers today.
The Latest and Fastest
The latest, fastest and shiniest version of php, however, is php 7.1 today. It contains the latest protections and fixes against embedded malware. However, to make things safer, older coding styles had to be sacrificed for the security to be effective.
Companies like Coolcom today offers a possibility to run either php5.6.30 or a php7 version. You can change that easily in your cPanel.
About getting the latest PHP
Joomla, Drupal and Wordpress are a few examples of many of the CMS'es out there. All rely on a specific version of php and may not run on a more recent version. If your site runs on one of the 3 big ones (Joomla, Drupal or Wordpress), support for php7 is already there and all you have to do is switch it in your cPanel. If you have older extensions for those systems, you may experience issues ranging from Notices popping up on your pages to outright failure of the site. If that is the case, simply switch back to the previous version of php and you're back in business.
Php7 has an extended range of protections against hacking as well as a serious increase in speed. Since php3, many libraries were added and many of them were not optimized. Optimizing them often meant a total rewrite of the code to make it faster and more secure.
If you want your site to run on the faster, more secure php7 and don't see the option in your cPanel with Coolcom, just post a ticket and we can move you to a server that does have it.