Improving PHP Performance for Web Applications

Improving PHP Performance for Web Applications


Programmers love the latest version of PHP Web Applications because it’s one of the faster scripting languages, but maintaining optimal performance requires more than quickly executing code. The best tool for improving PHP performance isn’t any individual program; it’s knowing which problems to look for and how to address them. This guide will cover everything you need to know to ensure that your PHP applications always run smoothly.

A brief history of PHP :

PHP is a scripting language invented by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1995. Initially intended for the developer’s personal use, “PHP” was originally an acronym for “Personal Home Page.” However, as Lerdorf expanded its functionality, PHP came to stand for the recursive acronym “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor”.

Since last two decades, the PHP Development Team has overseen many advancements in PHP’s performance. PHP 4, which was released in 2000, included an in-memory compiler and executor model that enabled PHP to be used for creating dynamic web applications. In 2015, PHP 7.0 was released with updates including improvements to the Zend Engine and an overall reduction in memory use. The content explains extensive details about all of the changes made between PHP 5 and PHP 7.1.

What exactly is good PHP performance?

Performance and speed are not necessarily identicals. Achieving optimal performance is often a balancing act that requires trade-offs between speed, accuracy, and scalability. For example, while building a web application, you may have to decide between prioritizing speed by writing a script that loads everything into memory up front or prioritizing scalability with a script that loads data in chunks.

Based on a representation from phplens, the image below depicts the theoretical trade-off between speed and scalability :

The red line represents a script optimized for speed, and the blue line is a script that prioritizes scalability. When the number of simultaneous connections is low, the red line runs faster; however, as the number of users grows, the red line becomes slower. The blue line also slows down when traffic rises; however, the decline isn’t as drastic, so the script tuned for speed actually becomes slower than the script tuned for scalability after a certain threshold.

When to begin optimizing PHP code :

A more sensible approach is to conduct tests during the development process. Otherwise, you may find yourself rewriting large chunks of code to make your application function properly.

Before you start designing a PHP application, run benchmarks on your hardware and software to determine your performance parameters. This information can guide your coding by helping you weigh the risks and benefits of specific trade-offs. Be sure to use adequate test data, or else you could create code that doesn’t scale.

Tips for optimizing PHP scripts :
  • Take advantage of native PHP functions
  • Use JSON instead of XML
  • Cash in on caching techniques
  • Cut out unnecessary calculations
  • Use isset()
  • Cut out unnecessary classes
  • Turn off debugging notifications
  • Close database connections
  • Limit your database hits
  • Use the strongest str functions
  • Stick with single quotes
  • Try three equal signs
Types of bottlenecks that affect PHP performance :

Messing with your scripts can certainly be beneficial. However, there are also issues that have nothing to do with code which can also delay PHP performance. This is why developers requires a thorough understanding of their server’s subsystems to identify and address bottlenecks.

Below are areas you should check if you’re having performance issues.

  1. The network
    One clear source of bottlenecks are networks. Depending on your current network’s capacity, it may lack the power to handle the amount of data being transmitted.
  2. The CPU
    Transmitting plain HTML pages across a network doesn’t drain your CPU, but PHP applications do. Depending on your requirements, you may at least a server with multiple processors to process your PHP code efficiently.
  3. Shared memory
    A lack of shared memory can disrupt inter-process communication, which can lead to lagging performance .
  4. The filesystem
    Your filesystem can become fragmented over time. A file cache that uses RAM can speed up disk access so long as there’s enough memory.
  5. Process management
    Make sure your server isn’t overburdened with unnecessary processes. Remove any unused networking protocols, antivirus scanners, mail servers and hardware drivers. Running PHP in multi-threaded mode can also result in better response times.
  6. Other servers
    If your application depends on outside servers, a bottleneck on the other server can slow you down. There’s not much you can do in such scenarios, but you can make alterations on your side to mitigate deficiencies on the other end.
The importance of monitoring PHP performance :

Your web application may be running fine at one minute, but a sudden blast of traffic can cause your application to crash if you’re unaware. Of course, making changes always requires time, effort and money, and it can be difficult to tell if the investment is worth it. The best way to make informed decisions is to continually collect data.

PHP performance monitoring software can help you immediately measure the effects of any changes you make. Also, knowing what to measure is equally important. Speed and memory usage are considered the best indicators of performance because they impact page load times, which are critical to web applications.

While data collection is crucial, you should turn off your monitoring system when you don’t need it because an inflow of logs can slow things down. Definitely, such logs give you valuable information about how to improve performance, so you should periodically monitor during peak traffic periods.

The future of PHP performance :

The evolution of PHP is ongoing. The newest feature currently in the works for PHP 8 is Just-In-Time Compilation, or JIT, which will grant for the creation of even faster web applications. As the rate of technological advancements increases, so do users’ expectations. Therefore, developers must always keep one eye on the coming changes.

When building web applications, remember that what works today might not work tomorrow. You may have to make adjustments to maintain steady PHP performance. Focusing on the broad view during the entire development process is the best strategy for building PHP apps and websites that work for the crowd.