What is WordPress Multisite?

Contributor, Benzinga

The WordPress Multisite feature can be helpful to those of you who are tired of running multiple WordPress websites across numerous dashboards. It is an excellent feature for anyone who needs to make similar edits or upload content onto multiple sites simultaneously.

The multisite feature makes it possible to effortlessly create and run multiple WordPress websites from the same dashboard without having to perform separate installations. Even better, you don’t have to create multiple web hosting accounts either. 

The multisite feature has been around ever since the launch of WordPress 3.0, meaning you can add this feature to your WordPress site as long as you have installed a newer version of WordPress. Now, let’s learn more about what it’s like to use WordPress Multisite. 

How Does WordPress Multisite Work?

Unlike individual WordPress sites that are tied to different web hosting accounts, the WordPress Multisite feature allows you to create many sites under one web hosting account. 

The Multisite feature also lets you add or customize WordPress themes, plugins, or other configurations using a single super administrator dashboard. You can apply any and all changes to every subsite within your network without having to open separate accounts.

How Do We Use WordPress Multisite?

WordPress Multisite is an excellent option for managing a network of sites that share similar configurations, functionalities, plugins or custom applications. The feature is very instrumental in terms of reducing expenses and the amount of time you spend actively investing in your websites. 

Instead of creating separate web hosting accounts and installing individual websites one by one, let WordPress Multisite expedite everything for you. No matter your niches or industries, the WordPress Multisite feature can help you massively. 

A business with different divisions or a university with more than one campus can reap the benefits of using a WordPress Multisite network to build separate websites for each department or all of the individual stakeholders. However, if your network consists of WordPress sites serving distinct purposes, WordPress Multisite may not be a good fit.

How Do I Create a WordPress Multisite? 

To set up WordPress Multisite, you have to either activate it on a new WordPress site or add it to your existing site. Learn how to get started with WordPress Multisite both manually and automatically.

Activating WordPress Multisite with an Auto-Installer

You can install WordPress Multisite using an auto-installer provided by a web hosting company. To enable a Multisite website, check the Activate WordPress Multisite box during installation. You can also choose between subdomains and subdirectories after successfully activating the Multisite feature.

Activating Multisite Manually

To manually activate Multisite for a new or existing WordPress account, you will need to insert a certain line of code into the wp-config file. 

Important: The wp-config file is a core WordPress file. Any changes made to this file can affect your website, so back up your entire site before proceeding any further.

To access the wp-config file, locate the root folder of your WordPress installation via a file manager and open it using a code editor. Then, follow the steps below to activate Multisite manually.

  1. Open the wp-config.php file.
  2. Find the following line of code.
/* That’s all, stop editing! Happy Blogging. */ 
  1. Add this line of code immediately above it.
Define (‘WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE’, true);
  1. Save the file.
  2. Navigate to the WordPress Admin section in your browser.
  3. Navigate to Network Setup via the Tools menu located in the sidebar.
  4. Select the Multisite Option to start editing.

You can use the steps above to activate Multisite on both new or existing WordPress sites. Next, start adding your sites to the Multisite network. The following steps will show you how to add your sites via the WordPress Administrator dashboard.

  1. Click the Sites menu on the left sidebar.
  2. Click Add New.
  3. Fill in the required details like site URL, title, language and email.
  4. Click Add Site.

Features of WordPress Multisite

WordPress Multisite lets you manage different sites from a single URL. Here are a few more significant reasons for using WordPress Multisite.

Single Installation

When you use Multisite, you’ll only need to install WordPress one time for the hosting website. Once installed, you can add unlimited WordPress sites via a one-time installation process. All of the added sites will use the same theme, plugins, server configurations and WordPress dashboard.

Shared Themes and Plugins

Multisite allows all of the subsites within the network to use the themes and plugins from the original site regardless of the number of active sites. This feature makes it possible for you to install themes or plugins from the central dashboard and share them with all of your subsites. Multisite will also reduce the need for any additional server storage or costs required to purchase multiple themes and plugins for different websites.

Multiple Access Levels

Each site in the Multisite network can have unique access roles and administrators. However, only the super administrator can access the main site and the subsites within the network. A super administrator can install themes and plugins as well as share changes made to the theme. In contrast, the administrators of the subsites won’t have the ability to change themes or alter plugins.

Shared Code and User Base

Multisite has a shared code base and configuration for every site within the network, so maintaining and managing the websites is easier for developers and administrators. This feature makes it easier to apply updates or patches to all of the subsites from one central location. 

Similarly, a member of a subsite with enough access rights can access the other subsites within the network without having to create different accounts. This attribute helps to improve communication and the overall flow of management between the members and the administrators.

Advantages of WordPress Multisite

The main advantage of WordPress Multisite is the ability to host and manage unlimited websites all from a single dashboard. For example, if you run a country-specific website for an e-commerce store, WordPress Multisite will let you quickly edit or upload content to the subsites within your network.

By using a single dashboard, you can install and activate plugins and themes for all of the websites on your network. You can also assign separate administrators to each website on your network, retaining the right to change themes and plugins.

Similarly, WordPress Multisite will eliminate your need to separately install WordPress for each individual site. Instead, it lets you manage the installation process and take care of any updates all from one place.

Disadvantages of WordPress Multisite

The main disadvantage of WordPress Multisite is the lack of support you might receive from your web hosting provider. Not all hosting providers have the tools necessary to support Multisite. If this is the case, you might need to change or upgrade your hosting provider of choice.

Similarly, suppose someone attacks the main website or the main website goes down temporarily. In either case, all of the subsites within the network will be affected because they all share the same resources, codebase, database, and hosting provider. So, if any part of your website’s security is compromised, it is likely that the entire network will be at risk.

Likewise, a sudden increase in traffic to one site will affect the performance of all others within the network. Managing the performance of a multisite requires extensive resources and they can collectively become very expensive.

Manage Unlimited WordPress Sites from Single Dashboard

WordPress Multisite is a compelling feature offered by WordPress. You can control and manage several websites all from a single dashboard, which reduces the need for multiple hosting services and makes the installation process a lot faster.

Limiting your sites to a singular network can also reduce the time and effort required to maintain and update your WordPress sites. Managing your websites with Multisite is similar to managing a single WordPress site on various fronts. 

However, be sure to take the time to understand how WordPress Multisite can open new opportunities for you in the long run. Also, consider if these opportunities are applicable to your business before getting started.