written by: Sam OBrien•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 2/15/2010
What are the benefits of using PHP? If this is a question you're asking yourself, you'll find the answers you need to make an informed decision for your web development projects here.
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PHP, which stands for PHP Hypertext Preprocessor, is a popular server-side scripting language used primarily by back-end web developers in the development of data driven web sites. There are, however, several scripting and full blown programming languages that can be employed to write server side scripts, so, what are the benefits of using PHP? Of course, this question will be answered a little differently by different people. Many of the answers are based purely on opinion, which is understandable. When it comes to choice of programming languages, it's sometimes preferable to code in one that might not be the prime choice for the task, but with which you're familiar, rather than attempt to work with one you don't really know.
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Why PHP Has Earned Popularity
Nevertheless, regardless of opinion, there are legitimate answers to the question, "What are the benefits of using PHP?" One of the most attractive advantages to choosing PHP for developing server-side scripts is, undoubtedly, the fact that it can legally be obtained free of charge from the web site www.PHP.net. It can legally be used for personal and commercial web sites. This advantage exists because PHP is open source software which has provided millions with a very economical solution for acquiring necessary applications. PHP runs very fast and efficiently, using few resources on Unix and Windows servers whereas ASP can only run on a Windows server. It also interfaces with almost every database management system in existence, allowing developers great freedom in the application choices they can make. MySQL, a very popular on-line database, tends to be the choice to work with PHP, especially where there's concern for saving on operating expenses. The combination of PHP and MySQL is robust enough to handle web sites that receive millions of hits per month.
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The Undisputed Advantages of PHP
PHP can easily be extended to suit the custom needs of businesses because it's a modular system that can interface with a wide variety of libraries such as those for graphics, and Extensible Markup Language (XML). Community support and development are also advantages. Any security holes are usually very swiftly detected, fixed, and made publicly available by the international community of programmers. Those who have limited knowledge of the language for writing scripts can also take advantage of the many scripts already written, many of which are made available for download free of charge. Finally, it's often said that PHP is easy to learn. I think it would be better to say that PHP does not have nearly as steep a learning curve compared to other languages used to write scripts such as Perl, C/C++ or Java. It is, however, important to keep things in perspective. Using PHP to code for data driven web pages also calls for some knowledge of (X)HTML and the SQL language because of the mandatory connection to a database and the information that must be displayed well on the client computer. Essentially, you end up working with three languages simultaneously as PHP and SQL are embedded in your (X)HTML code to accomplish the tasks the site must handle. Solid knowledge is a must to guard against malicious hackers.
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Convincing Arguments for a Switch to PHP
Business executives who make financial decisions for a company and who are interested in saving money may ask staff responsible for the company web site, "What are the benefits of using PHP?" Although they might not have much knowledge of programming languages or all that goes into a data driven web site, these are some of the most compelling reasons to make a switch to PHP. If you already know one programming language, you'll probably be able to learn PHP quickly. A Simple PHP Tutorial explains some of the versatile ways in which this language is used and How to Create a MySQL Database is a brief introduction for those who choose to use the popular PHP/MySQL combination.