Do you need a WordPress Multisite?

Should You Consider WordPress Multisite?

Raise your hand if you have more than one website. Don’t be shy; I know it can be addicting. After all, launching your first website is an exciting adventure, especially when you do it all by yourself with the help of WordPress. It’s only natural that you want to feel that sense of accomplishment again and bring your next big idea to life. In fact, you probably have two or three sites under your belt. But, if you’re like most WordPress users, you’re probably logging into each website separately. In that case, you know the hassle of managing multiple sites. You have to update WordPress, themes, and plugins on one site, and then repeat the process for every other website you operate.

But what if I told you there is a better way to manage multiple sites? What if you only had to install WordPress once and perform updates on one installation and watch as all the other sites get updated at the same time? The good news is that there is a feature in WordPress that would allow you to do all of the above. It’s called WordPress Multisite, and it allows you to create a network of sites. All of the sites on the network use a single WordPress installation, and they all share the themes and plugins installed on the main site.

So is Multisite the right choice for you? Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons, along with how to enable it for your sites.

What Are the Benefits of WordPress Multisite and Why Should You Use It?

Multisite sounds wonderful if you own more than one WordPress site. However, like most things, it comes with advantages and disadvantages. Before making the leap and enabling it on your site, let’s go over the benefits and why you should use it.

Some of the advantages include:

  • You only have to remember one username and password.
  • You can easily manage multiple sites from a single dashboard.
  • You can connect separate blogs together, since user accounts exist across the network.
  • You can update all the sites from one dashboard.
  • You can share plugins and themes across the network.

With that in mind, not every situation warrants a multisite. However, a multisite installation is practical in the following scenarios:

  • A magazine or newspaper site with different sections.
  • A business site with subsites for various locations and branches.
  • Government sites with subsites for each department.
  • A single platform where multiple users can have their separate blogs, like a family website where each family member has an individual blog, or a school where students can create their own blogs.
  • You want your site to be available in multiple languages.

But what happens when you’re running several unrelated sites? Let’s examine a few cases when you shouldn’t use Multisite and discuss its cons.

When Should You Avoid Using Multisite?

Even though WordPress Multisite is a powerful feature and has plenty of uses, it’s not always the best option. Using a network of sites is a complete miss if you run several blogs dealing with different topics. It’s also better to avoid Multisite if you have a few distinct businesses in various industries or if you are a developer working with multiple client websites where each client needs to be able to install their own themes and plugins.

There are a few other considerations to keep in mind:

  • If someone hacks your website, they gain access to all of the sites on the network.
  • Since all the sites share the same resources, if the primary site goes down that means the rest of the sites will go down.
  • Some WordPress plugins are not compatible with Multisite, in which case you will have to find replacements.

How to Enable Multisite on Your Website

The process of activating Multisite is not complicated, but it does depend on whether your site is a brand new one or an existing one. It also depends on whether you plan to use subdomains or subdirectories for your network’s sites.

If you choose subdomains, each site will have a URL like http://site1.yournetwork.com.

If you opt for using subdirectories, the URLs will be http://yournetwork.com/site1.

How to Activate Multisite on a New WordPress Site

First, you need to install WordPress as you normally would: either by following the “famous 5-minute install” or by using a one-click installer in your hosting dashboard.

When you’re done installing WordPress, open your wp-config.php file and find the line that reads:

/* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */

Right above it, add the following:

define( ‘WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE’, true );

Save your wp-config.php file and head over to your WordPress dashboard. Go to Tools > Network Setup. On this screen, you can choose whether you want to use subdomains or subdirectories for your installation. Once you’ve made your choice, edit the title and the email address of the network administrator. Click the Install button.

Creating a network of sites on a fresh WordPress installation

WordPress will give you some code that you need to add to your wp-config.php and .htaccess files. Go back to your hosting dashboard and open both files with the code editor. Then, paste the corresponding code provided by WordPress into each file.

Add this code to wp.config and .htaccess files

Save both files, and Multisite will be enabled. You will need to log in again and start adding sites, plugins, themes, and more.

How to Activate Multisite on an already Established WordPress Site

If you want to enable Multisite on an existing site, you will follow the same steps as above with one difference: you won’t have the option to choose between subdomains or subdirectories. Instead, you will be forced to use subdomains to prevent problems with existing URLs.

How to Manage Your WordPress Multisite

Managing your network involves creating and maintaining new sites, installing and activating themes and plugins, and updating the network.

How to Create a Site

You will notice a new section in the admin bar called My Sites. Clicking on Network > Dashboard will allow you to administer your network. Let’s start by adding a new site.

Go to Sites > Add New. Fill out the fields for the site’s address, title, and the admin email, then click on Add Site. If you used your email address, you will be able to see it in the My Sites admin menu. If someone else is the admin, you will still be able to see it from the network admin screens.

Adding a new site

How to Install and Activate Themes

On a Multisite install, only the network admin can install the themes and make them available for all other sites. To install a theme, click Themes > Add New and then follow the usual theme installation process. After you install it, you can enable it for all sites by clicking Network Enable.

Enabling themes for all the sites on the network

You can also make the theme available only to one site. To do so, select Sites and then hover over the site where you want to enable the theme. Choose the Edit link and select the Themes tab. Click on the Enable link under the desired theme.

How to Install and Activate Plugins

Plugins, like themes, have to be installed by the network administrator You can activate the plugin for all the sites or install it and let the users decide if they want to enable it.

To install a plugin, head to Plugins > Add New and install the plugin as usual. On the next screen, click the Network Activate link. If you want to activate the plugin on just one site, skip the Network Activate link and select the Return to Plugin Installer link. Then, visit the dashboard area of the site where you want to use the plugin and manually activate it from there.

Activating plugins on a single site

How to Update the Network

Updating your Multisite installation is a two-step process. You will notice a notification that updates are available. When you click on the Update icon, you will be taken to the network admin screen to install the updates as usual and then you will need to upgrade the network of sites. It is a straightforward process that requires a few extra clicks, as opposed to a regular WordPress install.

Is Multisite the Right Choice For You?

WordPress’ Multisite feature is an attractive option for reducing the maintenance time and managing updates in one place. It is an excellent choice for websites that share a common topic or those that a part of a larger organization. But if you have separate and unrelated sites, then you would be better off using regular WordPress installations and using a plugin like ManageWP to facilitate the maintenance.

Furthermore, if security is of paramount importance, keeping WordPress installations separate is the best course of action. So before making the final decision, do your research and keep in mind all the pros and cons of enabling Multisite for your websites.

What is your experience with Multisite? Do you have any examples you’d like to share? Drop us a note in the comments below.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means Nimbus Themes may receive compensation if you make a purchase using these links.

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About the Author

Brenda Barron is a writer from southern California. She specializes in WordPress but she’s really not all business. In fact, she spends her free time outside with her family or on the couch knitting.

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