How To Deploy A PHP Website or Application


Deploying a PHP website or web application involves getting your codebase configured on a live server to be accessible to end users on the internet. This comprehensive guide will take you through all the steps involved in deploying PHP apps, from setting up your local development environment to choosing a hosting platform and uploading your site.

Local Development Environment

Before you can deploy a PHP app, you need to build and test it locally. Here are some tips for setting up a development environment for PHP on your own machine:

Install PHP

  • Install PHP and a web server like Apache or Nginx on your local machine. The easiest way is using a package like XAMPP, MAMP or WAMP which bundles them together.
  • On Linux, PHP and Apache usually come pre-installed. You may just need to enable and start the Apache service.
  • This will allow you to run PHP code locally through the CLI and preview your app on http://localhost.

Code Editor

Use a good code editor like VS Code, Sublime Text or Atom to write your PHP code. Modern editors provide syntax highlighting, auto-completion and other helpful tools for PHP development.

Debugging Tools

  • Browser developer tools allow debugging PHP code from the browser itself by inspecting network requests and responses.
  • Xdebug extension helps debug PHP backend code with step debugging and breakpoints. Integration with editors provides variable inspection and other debugging features.
  • Tools like Postman are useful for testing APIs by allowing you to easily send different HTTP requests and inspect responses.

Version Control

Use Git and services like GitHub or Bitbucket to manage and version control your code. Committing code regularly allows you to track changes and easily revert if needed.

Structuring a PHP Project

It’s important to structure your code well so it’s easy to navigate and maintain as the application grows.

Separate business logic

Don’t put complex PHP code and business logic directly in .php files. Maintain separate class files for different concerns and call them from main scripts.

Use a config file

Store configuration like database credentials in a separate config file instead of scattered through code. Load the config globally to access settings application-wide.

Follow naming conventions

Use lowercase filenames with underscores like database_connection.php for PHP files and CamelCase for classes. Keep filenames short but descriptive of functionality.

Organize files sensibly

Placing code in relevant folders like /classes, /config, /models keeps related files together and makes accessing them intuitive.

Testing your Application

Before deploying, thoroughly test your PHP application locally to catch issues early.

Unit testing

Write unit tests for critical components like classes and functions using PHPUnit. Aim for high test coverage of all use cases.

Integration testing

Test major workflows from end-to-end like user registration. Set up test fixtures and verify the correct behavior is happening at each step.

Functional testing

Manually test by creating real accounts, adding test data, going through flows to catch issues. Cross-browser testing is important to check compatibility.

Performance testing

Load test the app with tools like Apache Bench to catch bottlenecks under heavy load. Profile slow code paths to identify optimization areas.

Security testing

Check for vulnerabilities like SQL injection by testing all user inputs. Scan for security lapses using automated scanners. Conduct penetration testing to exploit flaws.

Thorough testing from multiple angles makes your app robust for real-world usage.

Choosing a Hosting Provider

To host your PHP application, you need a hosting provider with PHP installed on their servers. Here are the main options:

Shared Hosting

Shared web hosting providers offer simple plans for personal sites and blogs. But they are less optimized for complex PHP apps due to limited resources.

VPS Hosting

Virtual private servers give you an independent virtual machine. This allows installing custom software like PHP versions. Resources can be configured to your needs.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated physical servers provide maximum control and resources. Fully manage and configure the server however you want. Ideal for heavy traffic sites.

Managed Hosting

Managed hosting providers offer optimized PHP hosting. They handle security, updates, caching and clustering allowing you to just focus on your app. Easy to scale.

Cloud Hosting

With cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, and GCP, you can easily spin up a PHP server instance. Flexible to scale and only pay for resources you need.

Evaluate options based on your application’s resource needs, traffic, and budget.

Deploying to Server

Once you have a hosting provider, it’s time to deploy your PHP application from development to production.

Transferring files

Use FTP, SFTP, GIT or available control panel to transfer all your PHP files, assets and libraries to the live server. Keep the same file structure locally and on the server.

Database migration

If using a database, migrate the schema and any test data from local to the remote database. Many providers offer GUI database management tools for this.

Configuration files

Update any configuration pointing to local paths or services like caching, email services, file storage etc. to use live production URLs.


Check permissions on files and folders. Set strict owner permissions for sensitive files. Enable hotlink protection for assets if needed.


Test all critical functionality on the live site after deploying. Catch any issues with file paths, database connections etc. early.

Version control

Use version control for further updates. Tag a version after major deploys. Roll back to previous versions easily if something breaks.

Optimization and Security

Here are some best practices to follow when running PHP apps in production:

Use a PHP accelerator

PHP accelerators like OPcache speed up PHP execution by caching bytecode. Caching avoids redundant compile times and improves performance.

Enable PHP caching

Caching of objects and query results with APCu or Redis avoids bootstrapping on each request. Configure caching layers based on your common query patterns.


Enable Gzip compression on both PHP output and static assets. Smaller responses lead to faster transmission over the network to end users.

Use a CDN

Distribute static assets using a content delivery network. CDNs improve performance by caching assets at edge locations closer to users.

Limit errors

In production turn off full error reporting. Log errors to file instead of displaying. Don’t expose sensitive information in error output.

Follow security best practices

Validate and sanitise user input, use prepared statements for SQL, enable SSL, use hashed passwords, conduct regular security audits etc. to harden your PHP application.


Monitor resource usage, application metrics, uptime, and server health. Get notified of any issues before they cause problems.

Continuous Deployment

For frequently updating applications, use continuous deployment to automate deploying code changes.

Version control workflow

Follow a Git flow branching model and use pull requests for code reviews. Merge approved commits to the master branch which is the source of production deploys.

Automated deployment

Services like DeployBot, Codeship or CircleCI can listen for Git commits and auto deploy changes from master branch to production.


Run unit, integration and other tests automatically on commits to catch any regressions before deploying to users.

Atomic deploys

Use a blue-green deployment strategy to shift traffic between old and new versions. This prevents any downtime or partial updates.


Quickly rollback any bad deploys automatically by reverting to the last known good version from before issues occurred.

Automating deployments through continuous integration improves developer productivity and reduces errors.


Deploying a PHP web application requires planning and attention to details at each stage from development to production hosting. Follow security best practices and optimize performance. Automate deployments through continuous integration to simplify maintenance and updates to your live site.

Carefully testing locally and migrating your database and assets ensures a smooth transition to the production environment. Keep optimizing and enhancing your application based on real user data.

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