As many of my daily readers know that my site is running on a WordPress Multisite Network platform for several years now. So, I get a lot of emails and tweets asking me why I use a WordPress Multisite over general WordPress installation. Is there any true benefit of having a multisite network over general WordPress installation? Is WordPress multisite is resource consuming and/or slow down the websites? How can someone upgrade their general WordPress sites to WordPress multisite network? Well, today in this post I’m going share the answer of all these questions along with the advantages of having a WordPress multisite over general WordPress installation. So, if you wanna know more about WordPress multisite network, just keep reading. 🙂
Initially when I started using WordPress, I also used general WordPress installation on my personal site. But as times passes, I realize that I do need more than one website for myself for various reasons, like I love to do photography, I realized that having a dedicated photography website is going to be great. It will allow me to showcase my work and also I will have a dedicated web address for it. But creating a new website comes with a lot of financial and effort constrain like having a new domain name, new server space and various other things. But to eliminate those cost, I wanted to create my new photography site on a subdomain of my existing site i.e. isaumya.com. Tough you can always create a subdirectory inside
public_html folder then install general WordPress in it and at last create a subdomain for it manually to achieve the same thing. But this is hectic and tedious. Creating 5 or 50 different sites on different subdomains like this way will make any webmaster crazy. This is where the WordPress Multisite Network comes it to make your (the webmaster’s) life easy and simple.
WordPress Multisite Network initially was a different project of WordPress outside of its core functionality. It used to me called as Multi User rather than Multisite. But overtime the WordPress core developer understood the important of Multisite Network and merged it into the core functionality of WordPress to meet the growing people interest about it. This is why even today when you search for any plugins which are made exclusively for WordPress Multisite, you will see that it uses
mu inside plugin’s name where mu stands for multi user.
Advantages of having a WordPress Multisite Network
Though many people think of it as something which only geeks should be using, but I can assure you that it’s pretty easy to create a WordPress multisite network and it has numerous advantages over general WordPress installation. But as I said earlier, multisite network is only helpful for those webmasters who have more than one website to manage or may be planning to add more WordPress website soon. If you just run one single website, then multisite almost no use to you. Now I’m going to share some major advantages of having a WordPress multisite over general single installation point by point basis so that you can understand all of its advantages properly.
Ease of Administration
The major problem of having multiple WordPress site is its administration. All WordPress sites are actually a combination of Rock solid CMS + Themes + Plugins. Now among these, there are few must have plugin which you might install on every single website you have (e.g. Jetpack, Akismet etc.). Now when any new update gets released by the theme or plugin developer you have to update the plugin/themes on each and every single website you have. It’s daunting right? I know many webmasters who is still using old version of WordPress / themes / plugins just because they don’t have much time to do the same thing over and over for every different sites. It’s insanely time consuming and have no meaning to do that.
On the other hand if you have a WordPress multisite network, you can initiate the updates for all themes and plugins across your whole network of site from a single Super Admin Panel. You update the plugin once and it gets updated to all of your sites present on that multisite network. Pretty slick right? Beside all this with multisite network environment you get a new user role in your WordPress site i.e. Super Admin or Network Admin. This is someone who will have the top most access level and allowed to initiate any kind of installation or update procedure. So, if you have a multisite network, you can create unlimited number of sites within your network and even give others the Administrator access of their site. So they will have all general admin privilege on their respective site within that network but won’t be able to initiate any installation or update as they are not the Super Admins. So you always be the top most authority in terms of your site.
Network Activation feature
Now as I said earlier, there are always few plugins which we want be a part of every single site (like Jetpack, Akismet etc.). With WordPress multisite network, super admins have the ability to activate some plugins as “Network Activated”. So, no matter how many sites you have in your network, all of them will have these plugins activated by default, even if some new sites are created inside the multisite. Also if the plugin allows multisite installation, you will have to change the plugin settings at one place, i.e. your super admin panel and those settings will be reflected on every single subsite of yours. No need to save the same settings for every single site. Though all themes must have be network activated to make sure sites in the network can use it.
As an example let’s say you have 50 different sites inside your multisite network and now if you decide to add a caching plugin for your sites it might get difficult as you have a lot of sites to manage. So, instead activating the cache plugin for every single individual site you can just network activate the plugin and then configure the cache plugin the way you want it to be from your super admin panels and hit save. That’s all. Now all those 50 websites will have that cache plugin activated by default and follow the same settings you have set on the super admin panel. Even if you want to add the 51st site, it will have this plugin activated from the very beginning.
Single CDN for all sites in your network
This is one of my most favorite features in WordPress multisite. Let’s imagine you have 10 website which are built upon general WordPress installation and not using the multisite network. I’m assuming that you have created 10 different sub directories inside your server and then installed WordPress in them individually, at last you have set up the subdomains manually too. Now with this approach everything may seems to work fine (though it will increase your server load insanely), but the main problem you will face is with CDN. With this approach, you have to purchase 10 different CDN accounts for each of those 10 sites because as they are different WordPress installation instance, they need unique pull zones.
But with WordPress multisite network, if you use plugins like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache and activate them as “Network Activate”, the CDN service that you will set up in the super admin panel is going to be used for all of your sites within that multisite network. So, if you have 10 or 100 sites, you can just use a single CDN package to use it for all those sites. You don’t need to purchase different CDN plans for different sites. This unique feature of multisite only works because no matter how many sites you have created inside your multisite network, it still is using a single WordPress installation with a single instance, not like 10 different WordPress installations.
Map dedicated Domains to your network sites
This is one of my another most favorite feature of WordPress multisite which allows you to map a dedicated domain name like
example.com to your subdomain based network sites. Suppose you have a website in your network with an address of
site1.example.com, you can easily map this site url to a dedicated domain name like
myanothersite.com using a multisite specific FREE plugin called WordPress MU Domain Mapping. If you have set up this plugin properly with your multisite, then you can easily map any domains to any of your sites inside the network. If you don’t know how to do domain mapping for WordPress multisite, I would highly recommend you to checkout this detailed tutorial. It will really help you out.
Less resource utilization
Though I’ve seen many web hosting company scares people saying bad things about WordPress multisite in terms of resource utilization and security, but I can assure you that all these things just speculation to scare people off so that they use general WordPress installation over multisite. As counting multisite is hard for web hosts instead if you have 5 installation, they can just easily calculate the number of WordPress instance you have installed give them ease to bill their users. As a WordPress multisite is going to show as a single instance even if it has 50 sites in it. Also another part is that most people who work in this web hosting company’s support department they barely have any knowledge about WordPress single sites so to them multisite is like a whole new domain. Also most hosting companies sells overcrowded shared servers to people. So if someone host a multisite network with 10 different sites on it then things might get slow. That is why they scare people off about WordPress Multisite beside telling the truth “We sell overcrowded shared servers to earn more money by spending less.”
In terms of security, I personally feel that managing security with WP multisite is more easy than managing it with different single installation, because with multisite if you find a security flaw in your site’s theme or plugin, you just patch it up and its get applied to all of your site instead of doing the same thing over for every other site you have. Also with multisite as you have the more ease of managing and updating your plugins, you can always keep your site’s code up to date with whatever updates get pushed.
No matter how many sites you have inside your multisite network, it is still going to use a single database instead of creating each new database for every single site and this also gives you more ease to manage your site database. For every new site WordPress multisite will create bunch of new tables inside the same database, to make sure no site collide with each other. Generally the primary site uses the table prefix provided by you during the installation, e.g.
gkv_ and for every new site after that inside your network, the table prefix is going to be increased by 1 for every new site like
gkv2_ and so on. Also most of the WordPress specific objects inside your server is also going to be initialized once for all of your sites as you are using a single instance of WordPress as multisite network. In short it reduces a lot of resources rather than using 50 different single installations.
How to upgrade to WordPress Multisite Network form single installation
So, after reading all this cool stuffs you might be thinking that how you can upgrade your site to WordPress multisite network, well don’t worry, I got this covered for you. As this is a little technical stuff, that’s why I’m going to share a playlist of videos which will contain everything starting from how to setup WordPress Multisite along with How to setup MU Domain Mapping plugin with WordPress multisite, you that you can upgrade you general WordPress site to WordPress Multisite with ease. But before doing that I want to discuss a little about the two types of Multisites that are allowed in WordPress and which kind of multisite you should use for yourself.
You see in WordPress multisite can be created in two ways. Either with a Subdirectory Based URL structure or Subdomain Based URL structure. If you select the Subdirectory based URL structure then your primary site URL is going to be
http://www.example.om whereas other sites in your network is going have URL structures like
http://www.example.com/somesites/. This new site URL might collide with other existing URL of your primary site. Also if you have two different websites with the same URL structure, it became hard for the search engines to identify each different site properly and it results a very bad SEO. That is why I always suggest everyone to use subdomain based multisite where every site will be located at different subdomain URL. This is also great for SEO and search engines love this approach. So if you are going to upgrade your single WordPress installation to Multisite Network, I will always suggest you to go with Subdomain based Multisite instead of subdirectory based.
So, now as you got all the information you need to know about WordPress Multisite Network, take a look at this below video playlist to see how you can upgrade your existing WordPress site to Subdomain based Multisite Network along with WP MU Domain Mapping Plugin.
I hope this article will help you to understand the benefit and feature of WordPress Multisite Network more deeply and why should you consider using it over multiple single instance of WordPress. If you are using a WordPress Multisite currently, I would love to hear your experience with it as I’m a very happy multisite user. Also if you are planning to move to WordPress Multisite network, let me know if this article has helped you at anyway. If you have any other question or if you think that I would have missed some vital feature of WordPress Multisite in the above post, you can let me know your thought about this matter in the comment section below. I will be happy to hear them all.