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The client had a website that had suddenly stopped showing the contents of a database. Neither their web designer nor web hosting company knew why and had no solution.

Diagnosis was easy and the web hosting company in particular should have immediately identified the cause. The host web server had upgraded the version of a key software element, the extensively used PHP programming language.  As it was their action that caused the problem they should have identified it – and will probably be dealing with the same problem from other clients.  They probably sent clients an email warning of the impending change but I know these commonly sound a bit technical and if the client doesn’t understand, they put it off for another day and then forget (please don’t! ask someone like us to explain).

The normal solution is to switch the user back to the previous version of PHP, this is a stop-gap to allow time for changes to be implemented on the web site to render it compatible with the new version of PHP (the same consideration applies to other server software but PHP is used by most websites).

This hosting provider didn’t provide support for any older version of PHP.  Their rationale being that the new version included new security-related fixes.

In this instance that was “unhelpful”, it meant the website needed an immediate fix and the web designer didn’t know how.
At that point one of our options was to implement those fixes.  That’s harder than it sounds. Finding your way round someone else’s program code involves a lot of time and effort which is expensive. Instead the client chose to migrate the site to a different host where they could continue, for a while at least, on the older version of PHP, allowing them time to update their program code.