The world of digital marketing and product development is fast paced. Understandably, the pressure to deliver results often sees Heads of Marketing and Product managers put technical maintenance tasks like software and infrastructure upgrades on the back burner in favour of developing new features. 

It’s an issue we see frequently even on all types of business-critical SaaS applications that deliver vital operational and customer functionality. That includes Laravel, a leading PHP web framework we work with that powers many complex digital platforms for companies like the BBC, Pfizer, Tesla and our client Worcester Bosch, the UK’s leading boiler and water heating company.

We’ve frequently rescued Laravel applications that are four or even five versions out of date, have no testing regime, where development has effectively ground to a halt and have long since stopped receiving security updates. And with Laravel’s latest version, Laravel 11, launching just this past month, Laravel 9 no longer receiving security fixes and Laravel 10 only getting bug fixes until August 2024, knowing what version of Laravel you’re on has never been more important…

This article looks at the significant hidden costs and consequences of neglecting software updates and doing regular maintenance and testing in terms of time, resources, customer trust, the bottom line and even share price. And, more importantly, it tackles the common misconception that Laravel, or any digital ecosystem updates, are a purely technical and limited issue, rather than a strategic necessity.

In addition to the security vulnerabilities that can arise from any out-of-date application (the cost of cybercrime is expected to be a staggering $23.84 trillion by 2027) it also leads to performance issues, poor user experience and delays in development. All of which can frustrate your team and customers alike and impact your ability to deliver on your ultimate marketing, business and product development goals.

If any of this already strikes a chord about your application’s current upgrade or maintenance status, you don’t know what PHP or Laravel version you’re on or are just worried about how your app is (or isn’t!) performing or scaling, do read on. Or get in touch with our expert Laravel and technology team today to discuss a Technical Audit to see where you’re at and how to fix it.

The importance of regular Laravel updates 

As a framework, Laravel is renowned for its robust upgrade tools and precise documentation, making the upgrade process relatively straightforward. Yet in general, a staggering 25% to 52% of businesses admit to running outdated versions of various software, Laravel included. Stephen Rees-Carter, a leading Laravel security consultant cited out of date and vulnerable dependencies as the 6th in his top 10 Laravel security audit issues. These statistics are alarming, considering the potential security risks and performance issues associated with outdated software.

The hidden costs of neglecting Laravel updates 

Many businesses don’t realise the severity of running outdated software until a major issue arises. A single cybersecurity incident can cost large businesses an average of $4.35 million (and more than double that in the United States). This cost isn't just monetary, although they are significant, such as resources spent on development, legal and audit fees and lost revenues due to downtime and service disruption —it also includes the time spent identifying and fixing the issue, the potential loss of customer trust, and the impact on the company's reputation including its credit and investor ratings and share price.

The impact on system scalability and new features

Upgrading applications is crucial for scalability and introducing new features. Developers spend 42% of their time fixing maintenance issues rather than working on new development work. And tech debt also makes onboarding new people harder, resulting in higher costs without delivering value. Simply put, the more outdated any application, the harder, longer, and more costly it is to add new features. And in some cases, the technical debt can be so high that it prevents development entirely or the system breaks down.

For example, we worked to rescue an enterprise-level Laravel application over 18 months past end of life (EOL). It took 4 months, with all other development at a total standstill and significantly delaying a much-desired new product launch, to upgrade the PHP and Laravel framework. For smaller applications, this would likely be significantly less, though the timeframe would still be “weeks” as opposed to “hours”. The perceived purely technical chore now a fundamental roadblock on the company's ability to innovate and scale.

Trust and quality: The long-term ripple effects on your team and business

Neglecting software and ecosystem updates can lead to a drop in software quality, affecting the trust between the business and the development team. A survey revealed that only 40% of users trust brands to use their data responsibly. This lack of trust can be exacerbated by frequent system issues and security breaches, which are often associated with outdated software.

The wider ripple effect of neglecting software updates can be far-reaching. A study by Stripe revealed that companies lose an average of $300 billion per year due to inefficiencies in developer productivity, a significant portion of which can be attributed to outdated software and the associated maintenance issues.

We’ve been called into to support the development team of a company who were experiencing a significant drop in team morale due to frequent system issues caused by an outdated Laravel application. The constant firefighting and patching of issues caused by the focus on adding new features left the team feeling frustrated and demotivated, affecting their productivity and the quality of their work. Over time, the issue also started to affect the company's relationship with their customers, who began to publicly question the company's competence and commitment to quality on social media as the application suffered increased downtime. What started as a ‘mere’ technical maintenance issue turned into a major team morale and customer experience problem.

The role of regular maintenance and testing

Regular maintenance and testing go hand in hand with continuous Laravel upgrades. Our decade-plus of Laravel application and wider product development and support experience finds that dedicating around 20% of development time to maintenance makes it more manageable and actually clears the remaining 80% of our time for more predictable and higher-quality delivery.

By dedicating that regular portion of time to maintenance and regular software updates, it significantly reduces the number of system issues and improve the stability of applications. This commitment to regular testing also ensures that any potential issues introduced by updates are identified and resolved promptly, further improving the quality of the software.

Embracing updates as a strategic advantage

Keeping your application up-to-date is a business-critical task that requires strategic planning and prioritisation. Regular updates not only ensure optimal performance and security but also contribute to maintaining trust with your customers and within your team. Ignoring updates can lead to significant costs and disruptions, as well as missed opportunities for growth and innovation.

As heads of marketing and digital product, it's crucial to recognise the value of Laravel updates and integrate them into your business strategy. By doing so, you can ensure that your applications remain secure, efficient, and capable of supporting all your business goals, both internally and externally. The cost of regular updates is an investment in your business's future, and the returns—in terms of improved performance, security, and customer satisfaction—are well worth it.

The benefits of upgrading to Laravel 11

If you do decide to embrace the positives of keeping your Laravel software up to date, the latest version Laravel 11 looks to offer many business and development benefits.

Backwards compatible with all previous versions and fully compatible with PHP 8.3, Laravel claims to enhance app performance with improved data caching, increased speed and faster routing. There are also new security features and fixes, advanced debugging tools and error-handling capabilities, all backed up by improved documentation. And married with improved authentication and streamlined API development, it all means better user experience on an even more secure platform.

So, if you want to speed up your development, are facing application challenges like an out-of-date framework, or want to ensure your roadmap will deliver both technical improvements and on your long-term business objectives, speak to our experts today about how we can help.

To find out more about our Laravel development services experience and how to successfully update, maintain and scale your Laravel project or application, read our Laravel white paper, with a foreword by Laravel founder, Taylor Otwell.