What is Multisite?
If you administer one or more WordPress sites, you should take a look at the Multi-site feature. It is a feature of WordPress 3.0 and later that allows a single WordPress install to host multiple sites and configure them within a single dashboard. A primary example would be, a teacher who could use this feature to give each student their blog and administer all of them from one single place or a developer who builds WordPress sites and have to manage them on a daily basis. This is where multi-site feature comes in, If you do not use this in cases such as these you need to the have a separate WordPress install for each site, and you would need to administer each one of them separately via different admin dashboard.
How is Multisite Different from a normal WordPress install?
A Multisite installation is very similar to a standard install. The folder structure, core files, and code base are the same. Only two things are different. The wp-config.php file has some extra lines that indicate that Multisite is enabled and how it is configured. And the wp-uploads folder contains a subfolder for each site in the network. Files uploaded to a site are stored in its subfolder. Multisite also add extra tables to the database, because each site gets its own set of tables.
The admin screens are also pretty similar to a standard WordPress site and should be familiar to anyone who has worked with WordPress. There are only a few differences here and there for the Super Admin. Only the Super Admin can install plugins and create new sites from this dashboard. Also, the Super Admin can assign a Site Admin for each new site locaton where he/she can choose to activate plugins that are available to the whole network. However, site admin cannot install new ones. The same goes for themes. The admin screens for installing themes and plugins are not visible to Site Admins.
Pros & Cons of Using WordPress Multi-site
- Ease of Maintenance: You can update the version of WordPress and any plugins used by the network with a single click.
- Shared Themes: A single theme can be installed on multiple sites at once.
- Shared Plugins: You can easily add a plug to every site on the network.
- Custom Dashboards: Each site and site admin can have a unique dashboard tailored to his/her site.
- Single Super Admin Dashboard: The Super Admin doesn’t have to open up individual dashboards for each site. Instead, they have one dashboard to manage the entire network.
- Plugin Compatibility: Some third-party plugins may not work well with activated multisite features.
- Security: If one site gets hacked, the entire network is at risk. Protecting the network is crucial.
- Shared Risk: All the files and folders in the install are shared by the entire network. A mistake in the configuration of a site or plugin can slow down or take out the entire network.
- Traffic Management: A spike in traffic to one site may impact the speed of all the sites. Managing the network can be tricky for beginners.
Who Should consider & avoid using WordPress Multi-site feature?
- Schools and other educational organizations who want to offer each student their own site or a blog to handle.
- Online publishers, like magazines and newspapers, with multiple sections and different teams working on each project.
- Anyone, running a large network of blogs.
- A business with many branches where each branch needs its own site.
- People who only need a single website.
- For sites that need individual IP addresses. Every site hosted on a multi-site network has the same IP address.
- Sites with heightened security may not be a good fit. The shared database and file system may not be appropriate for all sites.
- If each site admin needs to be able to install plugins and themes.
How to setup a Multi site network?
Step 1: What to do before you set up WordPress multisite
The first and important step is to get a high quality and a reliable host. Although you can run smaller networks on shared hosting, it is advisable to use your own server, VPS or good hosting plan from a reliable source. Also, you should know the process of installing a normal WordPress website, as well as working with an FTP client.
After choosing your hosting server, get your network domain structure, which is either sub-directories or sub-domains. The difference between sub-domain and sub-directories is that sub-directories require the enabling of permalinks, while the sub-domains require configuration of wildcard sub-domains.
A sub-domain URL is like https://site-1.yournetwork.com whereas a sub-directories domain will be like http://yournetwork.com/site-1
Step 2: Activation of Multisite network
After installation of your WordPress, select the FTP client you are using and open the WP-config.php file. Within the file go to the line reading
/* That's all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */
Above this line, create a new line that reads as follows and save the file on your server.
define( 'WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true );
Step 3: Network Configuration
After activating your multisite feature, you need to configure your network, to avoid hiccups when you start adding other sites. To do so, first, deactivate all the plugins available on your website. You can skip the process, but you might experience some problems in other steps.
After the deactivation of plugins, move to tools and then Network setup (Tools >Network Setup) for configuration.
This is where you will choose if you will be using sub-directories or sub-domains on your network. During the installation process, you will be receiving some explanation at some point on your screen and will have to edit your network title and add in the email address of your network administrator. After this, your files (wp--confg.php and .htaccess) will require some additional rules which have to be copied on them. Make sure you have a backup in hand, and you may have to change settings in code editor if your .htaccess file is hidden and not visible to you.
Step 4: Network Settings
You now need to perform some settings on your network admin dashboard. The network dashboard is vital because you will be using it to install themes and plugins on your network.
To access the network admin dashboard and other options, go to My Sites > Network Admin. The network admin dashboard has several other modules that you can use in network management. Also, it is where you add users to your sites, as well as making other sites. For all network settings like email address, title, and other vital details, click the settings tab on your dashboard. To add sites Sites > Add New and enter your details as required.
Step 5: Configuration of Uploading Settings
It is important to regularly check how your servers are functioning because large networks might compromise your servers.
To avoid such complications, you need to configure the uploading space of each site. To perform the configuration, move to your multisite dashboard, uploading setting section and set the space each site will be using for its uploads.
Step 6: Management of Menus
Since site admins on your network can access all plugins available on your network, it is advisable you manage the menus, to avoid the misuse of some plugins. To manage the menus, move to menu settings on the dashboard and activate what you want. For example, you can let the site admins use the plugins on their sites by activating the buttons. Upon activating the administrative menu, site admins on your network cannot remove the plugins they do not want on their sites.