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WordPress Multisite: What it is and Why Should You Care

A way of networking a collection of websites under the same WordPress installation

Originally dubbed WordPress MU, WordPress multisite is simply a way of networking a collection of websites under the same WordPress installation. The individual websites in the network are like children websites of the main installation. All share the same hosting account, WordPress themes, and plugin options.  They can have unique URLs or have different subdomain addresses based on the main URL.

Why does any of this matter and why should you care?  WordPress multisite can rock the web when used properly and in the right situation.

Why Use WordPress Multisite?

  • You can easily set up and manage multiple websites within one single hosting account and WordPress installation.
  • Based on access levels, users can manage only one website or every website using the same account.
  • If needed, access to one website can be completely separate and segregated from others.
  • If desired, WordPress themes and plugins can be shared across multiple websites.
  • Updates and upgrades can be rolled out across multiple websites in less time, which significantly reduces overhead and maintenance costs.
  • Customizations are made once and not per installation.

Why You Should be Cautious About Using Multisite?

  • Multisite is not as easy as the standard one-click installation process on a shared hosting accounts.  As much as I love the one-click installation option, you need someone with experience to set up a multisite installation and teach you how to deploy the children websites. Our resident WordPress guru Chris not only helped me see the benefits of multisite, he also taught me about the set up.  I would have struggled figuring it out on my own.
  • You need more robust hosting than the general shared hosting can manage.  While you don’t need a dedicated server, you do need more than a regular shared hosting account.
  • Loading themes and plugins is easy, but not nearly as easy as in a regular WordPress installation.  You load plugins at the root directory and then activate them at the child website level.
  • Not all plugins will work with multisite WordPress installations.  Some of my favorite plugins just don’t work in this environment and I’ve been forced to find alternates.
  • You need to be careful who you give super admin status to and allow to make updates across websites.  On more then one occasion I have found myself modifying the wrong website, because they are all housed on the same server and dashboard.

Would I Recommend Multisite to Clients?

Absolutely.  In the right situation, multisite is a dream come true.  It works great, it is efficient, and it saves money.   That being said, it isn’t right for every client or every WordPress installation.  It is a niche usage that is perfect in the right situation.

What Are Some Real World Applications of Multisite?

Very well know companies are already using multisite and have been for quite a while.  Examples include Adobe, The Wall Street Journal, BGSU, and Best Buy.  With the exception of Best Buy, many of those are blogs.  But they don’t have to be simple blogs, as multisite is more than capable of supporting full blown websites.

A recent example of one of our multisite website design clients is a franchise.  We started with one website for the main parent company and as new locations were created, we used multisite to deploy websites for each location.  We were able to quickly update the header, content, images, and SEO for each new website.  Instead of paying thousands per location website, our savvy client was able to do it for a fraction of the cost.  Each location owner has access to their unique website, while the overall maintenance and updates are easily managed by the parent company – aka our client.

Another design client we have had us create two unique WordPress themes and set them up in a multisite environment for her.  She and her company are going to create websites and host them for their clients.  No this company isn’t a website design firm, but once our client realized how easy this would be, they quickly warmed up to the idea.  This client originally came to me to redesign their own website, but when our conversation took the multisite route; she quickly changed gears and decided to jump on multisite for her clientele.

If you’re considering a redesign and you want to consider multisite as an option for your project, give us a call.  We’ll be happy to discuss the project with you and see if multisite is a good solution.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Rebecca Gill

Founder and President of Web Savvy Marketing, a Michigan based internet marketing firm that specializes in website design, organic SEO, social media marketing, and WordPress consulting.

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