December 23 2022

What is WordPress Multisite?

WordPress Multisite or WordPress MU allows you to run multiple websites on your server using the same WordPress installation.

WordPress Multisite

WordPress Multisite is a popular feature of WordPress, which allows you to build and run multiple websites using the same WordPress installation on your server. In other words, you can manage several WordPress websites from a single dashboard.

However, people are sometimes not sure how to use this feature. This guide will help clarify questions about what WordPress Multisite is, who needs it, and how to install it.

Let's start with the basics.

1. What is WordPress Multisite?

WordPress Multisite is a feature that allows you to build and run multiple WordPress websites from a single WordPress dashboard. Previously, it was called WordPress Multi-User or WPMU. WordPress Multisite is not a new feature. It is an advanced feature of the WordPress platform that has been around since the launch of WordPress 3.0. You can use it for a variety of purposes, such as updating all your websites with a single click or charging your subscribers for building a website on your Multisite network.

2. Main Features Of WordPress Multisite

WordPress Multisite comes with various unique features. For starters, you can run a network of blogs and websites from a single WordPress installation. It allows you to create a network of subdomains, such as https://john.example.com, or directories, such as https://www.example.com/john/. Alternatively, you can also have a separate domain for every website on the network. It's also easier to replicate functionality across a network of websites.

In WordPress Multisite, you can control the entire network as a Super Admin. As a normal website administrator, you can only control one website on the network. As a Super Admin, you control the accessibility of users who want to create an account and set up their own WordPress blogs or websites.

wordpress-multiple-single-sites-vs-multisite

A Super Admin can install new themes and plug-ins, make them available to websites in the network and also customize themes for all websites. Another feature is the ability to create websites and online stores targeting languages, regions and specific currencies.

Both Super Admin and Website Admin can control the contents. Although this control extends to the entire network for a Super Admin, the website administrator has the right to choose which content from the root domain is displayed on the respective website. Plugins are also under the control of a Super Admin. However, a website administrator can activate and deactivate plug-ins on their website as needed.

3. Who Should And Who Shouldn't Use WordPress Multisite?

While WordPress Multisite offers several features, it's not always the right choice. The main concern is that websites on a Multisite network share the same database. In other words, you can't back up just one website. That's why all websites on a network must belong to the same root domain.

Let me explain with an example. A university could use WordPress Multisite to create different websites for each department, for student and faculty blogs, and for forums. Since the websites would share their database with the university's root domain, they would be easier to manage on a Multisite network.

Likewise, banks and financial institutions with a national or global network of branches, digital publications with multiple content sections, government offices with multiple departments, hotel chains, retail stores with multiple outlets, e-commerce companies, and Websites like Wix could also use a Multisite network to their advantage.

However, a web designer cannot use Multisite to manage several unrelated client projects. If one of the customers decides to move their website elsewhere, it would be a problem because the website would be sharing its database with others on the network. Multisite makes it difficult to back up a single website over the network. You'd be better off using a single install in this case.

4. Pros And Cons Of WordPress Multisite

Now that we know who should and shouldn't be using WordPress Multisite, let's look at the technical pros and cons. You will need to weigh them carefully before making a decision.

Pro

  • The main benefit is the ability to manage multiple websites from a single dashboard. This is useful if you run multiple websites managed by different teams under one main domain, such as an e-commerce store with several country-specific subsites.
  • However, you can also assign a different administrator to each website on your network.
  • With a single download, you can install and activate plugins and themes for all websites in your network.
  • You can also manage updates with one master install for all websites in your network.

Cons

  • Since all websites share the same network resources, they will all go down if the network goes down.
  • A sudden increase in traffic to one website will affect all others on the network. Unfortunately, beginners often find it difficult to manage server traffic and resources on a Multisite network.
  • Similarly, if one website is hacked, the entire network will be compromised.
  • Not all WordPress plugins support a Multisite network.
  • Similarly, not all web hosting providers have the necessary tools to support a multisite network.
  • If your hosting provider does not have the server requirements, you will not be able to use the Multisite feature. For example, some hosting providers may not allow you to add a domain to the same hosting server. In that case, you may need to change or upgrade your hosting plan or switch providers.

5. Requirements For WordPress Multisite

Knowing the technical pros and cons, you must have decided if Multisite is the right option for you. If you're going to use it, you'll need to meet some technical requirements first.

One of the first things you will need is a web hosting service provider that can handle multiple domains in one web hosting plan. While you can use shared hosting for a couple of low-traffic websites, you need to use VPS hosting or a dedicated server, due to the multisite nature of WordPress.

You will also need to have the fundamental knowledge of how to install WordPress. It would be an added bonus if you already have a WordPress installation. However, you will need to back them up. You will also need to deactivate all plugins.

Make sure you have FTP access. You will also need to know the basics of editing files via FTP. Finally, you will need to activate nice permalinks. In other words, your URLs shouldn't look like https://example.com/?p=2345, but how https://example.com/my-page.

6. Multisite Domain Mapping

By default, you can create additional websites on your Multisite network as subdomains or subfolders of the main website. They look like this:

subsite.network.com

or like this:

network.com/subsite

However, you might not always want to, because you'll be required to create a unique domain name for each website. This is where domain mapping comes to the rescue. You can use this feature within the Multisite network to map other websites to show as domain.com. Using domain mapping, this is what you'll see:

subsite.network.com = domain.com

o:

network.com/subsite = domain.com

Prior to WordPress 4.5, you had to use a domain mapping plugin to map additional websites. However, in version 4.5+, domain mapping is a native feature.

7. Multisite Hosting AND SSL

As you probably know, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) allows you to transport data over the Internet securely. The data remains indecipherable for malicious users, bots and hackers.

However, some hosting providers offer free SSL certification only for the primary domain. You may need to purchase it separately for each subdomain. If one of the websites on your Multisite network does not have SSL certification, this will compromise the security of all other websites. Therefore, make sure that all websites on your WordPress Multisite network have SSL certificates.

Our company is able to supply WordPress Multisite Hosting without any limits inherent to the HTTPS and SSL configuration, both with free certificates such as Let's Encrypt and with commercially verified ones such as RapidSSL.

8. Installing And Configuring WordPress Multisite For New And Existing Websites

First, you'll need to install WordPress. Once installed, you will need to enable the Multisite feature. You can also enable it on your existing WordPress website. Before you do that, however, back up your website.

    • Use an FTP client or the cPanel file manager to connect to your website and open the wp-config.phpfile for editing.
    • Add the following code to your wp-config.phpfile just before /*:
/* Multisite */
define( 'WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true );
  • Now save and load wp-config.phpthe file back to the server.
  • That's all!

Next, you'll need to set up the Multisite network. If you are already logged into your WordPress dashboard, refresh the page to continue to the next steps. Otherwise, you will need to log in again.

Concluding

As you can see, WordPress Multisite has several advantages. You can control and manage different websites from a single dashboard. It can certainly reduce the legwork and make tracking your website hassle-free. Hopefully, you now have enough knowledge about installing, troubleshooting, and working with applications on a Multisite network to take the plunge.

Work with a WordPress consultant expert of multisite

We recommend working with a WordPress consultant who is experienced in scaling WordPress Multisite. As your multisite network grows, you'll need to keep an eye on the number of server resources your site is using, as well as the maintenance of your database. It's perfectly manageable as long as you're proactive, and it helps to work with an expert who can guide you through the growth phase of your Multisite.

Choose a good hosting provider that is experienced in multisites

For WordPress Multisite, it is also important to use a great WordPress hosting provider that already supports the various features of Multisite and your specific type of Multisite. At Pressable, for example, we host some large subdirectory URL Multisite networks and have developed technologies and practices to ensure that our Multisite Subdirectory deployments run smoothly and efficiently. A hosting provider with great experience hosting Multisite deployments will greatly increase the likelihood of continued success for your projects.

We hope this information makes it easier for you to determine if Multisite is right for you. If you have questions about your specific Multisite setup, we'd be happy to help. Contact our account team with your questions.

Do you have doubts? Not sure where to start? Contact us


We have all the answers to your questions to help you make the right choice.

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