SOS (Save Our Site)! How Our End-of-Life PHP Upgrade Spared One PE Firm a Costly Website Redesign

By MVP Marketing + Design | March 12, 2024

Personal Home Page Tools (PHP), or hypertext preprocessor, is the open-source scripting language for secure data encryption and content management system (CMS) updates.

If you currently have a WordPress website, you may experience problems from a forced PHP update. This could come in the form of error pages, messages, or completely white pages appearing in some sections of your website. Before you start looking for an agency to design a completely new website, consider the possibility that you just need to safely complete a PHP upgrade with a firm that has proven its capabilities to do so.

MVP recently saved a major LMM private equity firm an estimated $75K to $100K+ in redesign fees as its prior WordPress website’s PHP 7.4 install had reached its end-of-life in November 2022. This is no small issue as 75% of all websites utilize PHP where the server-side programming language is known, and we suspect that there are many sites still running PHP 7.4 that are long past their expiration dates. For those sites site limping along on PHP 7.4, this post offers the approach that MVP took to giving our PE “patient” a new lease on life through an upgrade to PHP 8.0 and beyond (8.2).

One firm’s dilemma: 

A leading middle market private equity and credit investment firm with over $10 billion in assets under management encountered a PHP problem. And a big one. This client’s web host forced a PHP upgrade on their website, which was not ready for the update. Therefore, fatal errors were present in the test environment and many of their pages were not rendered at all.

Unfortunately, the client’s prior web services team could not properly troubleshoot why the fatal errors were present on the new environment nor find a solution to remedy them. To operate at peak efficiency, a WordPress website requires knowledge of the hosting environment, the front-end language, the back-end language, and how they all communicate, store, and utilize information using a database.

Fortunately, MVP is home to a top-notch full technology stack team that has created more than 75 private equity, portfolio company and investment banking websites since 2000, and please click here for the latest.

MVP’s solution: 

MVP pulled the client’s website to both a local and staging development environment, simulating as many of the production website’s server configurations as possible. The MVP DevOps team identified the problem areas triggering the fatal errors and tracked down the root cause through the website’s PHP version history.

Multiple errors that were previously only notices and warnings on functioning pages had upgraded their severity levels to fatal errors that displayed only a white screen. MVP’s “Best of the Midwest” developers rewrote the code triggering these events, tested both development environments, and pushed changes to production.

The Payoff:

MVP completed the PHP 8.0 upgrade in a secure staging environment to demonstrate proof of concept. Following client review and approval of all website features and functionality, MVP published the site to its earlier home on a WordPress Engine production server, garnering stakeholder accolades in the process.  However, despite the site’s new lease on life, MVP’s PE firm client is not out of the woods just yet as PHP 8.0, initially released on November 26, 2020, has now concluded its journey with active community support ceasing in November 2022, and critical security support ending in November 2023.

The Clock is Ticking:

As of today, without official security updates, PHP 8.0 end of life (EOL) installations are exposed to potential vulnerabilities and compatibility challenges. Additionally, not complying with certain regulatory requirements can put operations and data integrity at risk. Short of embarking on an entirely new website, what can private equity, investment banking or other firms affected by this condition do in the face of this near doomsday event?

For firms planning for EOL and beyond, there are three main options:

Self-support: Internally manage security patches and updates. This is a risky approach and is generally not recommended. Due to the considerable expertise and resources required, self-support is often not cost effective in the long run. In any event, most LMM private equity firms, and their mid-size manufacturing and services related portfolio companies, as well as investment banks, lack the in-house IT resources do accomplish this.

Upgrade to PHP 8.3: This should be done by an outside website design and development firm with proven DevOps PHP upgrade experience to minimize site downtime and errors. Plugin incompatibility and slower performance are common problems often associated with an upgrade due to changes in the underlying code when fixes are attempted by inexperienced ad agencies, PR firms, and website designers who rely solely on third-party plugins without the requisite coding knowledge necessary to troubleshoot technical issues arising from out-of-the-box plug-and-play solutions.

Extending the PHP Lifecycle: Skilled developers like MVP’s DevOps team can offer extended support for PHP 8.0 and other EOL PHP versions through a combination of vetted third-party solutions and technical programming knowledge, minimizing risks while providing critical security patches and compliance assurance.

A PHP upgrade is just one of many technical services that MVP offers, and we are always here to help you avoid the cost of a completely new website if possible, as much as we love creating award-winning and trend-setting private equity, I-bank, sub-debt and other financial services, manufacturing and healthcare websites.

To sum up, we’re pleased to share the top-five reasons for Private Equity, M&A advisory and Mezzanine Capital firms to upgrade their WordPress website’s 7.4 or 8.0 version of PHP.

The Top 5 Reasons Private Capital Firms Should Upgrade their 7.4 or Later (8.0) Version of PHP

  1. Security. Outdated versions of PHP can leave your website vulnerable to cyber-attacks such as structured query language (SQL) injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and other security threats.
  2. Speed. Updating PHP can make code execution quicker and outline inefficiencies in existing website code.
  3. Compatibility. Keeping PHP updated ensures that your website is compatible with the latest version of WordPress and other plugins and themes you use. Note: At MVP we minimize the use of third-party themes and plugins in favor of custom code to make your site run more efficiently, load faster and appeal more favorably to search engines as noted below.
  4. SEO. Search engines like Google and Bing penalize websites that have technical issues on page errors associated with PHP. The cleaner the code, the more search engine friendly your site will be.
  5. User-friendliness. By keeping PHP updated, your WordPress website will be ready to impress and function perfectly for every visitor.

Plan and Protect Your Investment:

The majority of compatibility issues that exist between PHP versions date back to documented changes that existed long before functions fail to execute, resulting in some of the errors described earlier. When a core function makes a fundamental change as to how information is handled or executed, it is brought to light during an “in between” phase where both methods properly execute for quite some time, usually a full versioning of a platform. During this period the older function and its execution is labeled with a low tier warning of “deprecated with fall back.” A full versioning would be any version with the same whole number applied such as the 7 series or 7.*. Having both near-identical functions operate in tandem is intensive and redundant on any server hardware at scale, so eventually the prior method goes into expiration mode. This is usually done during a version shift such as 7.4->8.0, which is what happened in the Private Equity firm scenario outlined above. Expiration alters the depreciated warning to a “fatal” or “parse” error, interrupting execution and rendering. This change, and how to adapt to it, had been public since the 7.0 beta in early 2015. Given the age of the site in this instance, it could have easily been planned and accounted for had the client had a more knowledgeable firm on the scene.  In any event, MVP came to the rescue in this “Save Our Site” (SOS) scenario.

Final thoughts:

Private Equity firms, Investment Banks and Sub-Debt firms whose sites are beginning to show their age can attract more visitors such as management teams, investors and younger talent, showcase their investment portfolios more effectively, and establish themselves as industry leaders by being proactive and upgrading their WordPress sites to the latest version of PHP wherever they are on the software lifecycle.

While PHP 8.0 is EOL as of November 2023, PHP 8 itself is still in active development, with PHP 8.4 releasing later this year. PHP 8.0, like other PHP versions, has a defined community support lifecycle, with each minor release receiving community support for three years.

If you’re concerned that your WordPress website’s version of PHP may be outdated or if you have a question about the features and functionality of your website, not to mention exploring a new one, feel free to send us an “SOS,” as we’d love to hear from you. Please contact us directly at and we’ll respond with interest. As we love to say at MVP: We look good when you look great. Given the opportunity to help, we’ll strive to become your most valuable partner for digital marketing and design, making your business and brand—invaluable.

About MVP Marketing + Design, Inc.

MVP Marketing + Design, Inc., is an award-winning digital agency based in Minneapolis, with a Boston satellite office. With over 38 years of experience, MVP has established itself as a leader in branding, website design and development, digital marketing (including SEO, PPC, and social promotion), and videography services. The agency has successfully served a diverse range of clients, including private equity firms, investment banks, mezzanine debt providers, real estate syndicates, and divisions of the Fortune 500, including 3M’s Consumer, Healthcare, and Industrial groups, as well LMM and Professional Services firms in related markets across North America and globally.

MVP’s commitment to excellence has earned numerous accolades including multiple Hermes Awards, Communicator Awards, Davey Awards, and MARCOM Awards, among others.

MVP partners with WordPress VIP, HubSpot and Lead Forensics to offer clients value-added design, development and lead generation services.

To learn more about how MVP Marketing + Design can help your business or organization thrive, please reach out to us at

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