PHP 5.3 has passed its End of Life support period. This means that there will be no more updates to the 5.3 series, even if serious security flaws are found. That's a signal that any minimally competent hosting company should move at least to PHP 5.4, or even 5.5. Hosts have been warning that the days of 5.3 were numbered, and now a lot of people running Joomla 1.5 have been told to upgrade or find another host. The problem is that Joomla 1.5 under PHP 5.4 is a mess. The core code throws hundred of warning messages for every page, and the occasional serious error. Extensions are even worse. If you're lucky, your Joomla 1.5 site is barely recognizable, if you're unlucky, all you get is a white screen (fondly known as the White Page of Death because a PHP Fatal Error has occurred and stopped page processing).
So what do you do? The right thing to do is upgrade Joomla, build a new site, update the look, get your site mobile friendly, and take advantage of the huge number of major features that have been added to Joomla since 1.5. A lot has changed since 2007, and Joomla has done a pretty good job of keeping pace. Its easy to say upgrade but its not so easy to do. First off, the migration path from 1.5 is not the easiest. Then there's the issue of budget. Not many small businesses have allocated funds for a website redevelopment, and few have the time to take a good look at how they want to update their site and refresh their image.
Meanwhile your host is about to force an upgrade and your site is going to break. What do you do? Find a host that understands. With the right security defenses, a host can isolate your site from others on the same server, let you run an older version of PHP, which means you can still run 1.5. With good backups, a host can provide insurance against having your site hacked -- and let there be no question about it, both Joomla 1.5 and PHP 5.3 have security vulnerabilities. The best defenses available merely minimize the risk, but there's no way to reduce it to zero. Over at Abivia we've gone to great lengths to help keep our older customer's sites working for them, but if you are still running Joomla 1.5, its time to start planning for an upgrade. Its an investment that will pay off over time.
Image used under a CC license. Credit: Pero Kvrzica.