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Is WordPress multisite a good thing compared to a single WP website? In this post we answer this question, describing all the pros and cons of multisiting.
In this post, we discuss one of the most convenient and yet controversial WordPress features — multisite. We define it, describe its main advantages and drawbacks, and highlight its main use cases. We hope this information will help you resolve the WordPress multisite vs single site dilemma when you need to start a new WordPress development project that comprises more than one site.
WordPress is one of the oldest and most widely used content management systems (CMS) in the world, dating back to 2003. It’s used for creating all kinds of web solutions, from real estate, insurance, and lawyer websites to MVPs and online stores.
Over its long history, this CMS has received a great number of helpful features. The examples include the cutting-edge Gutenberg content editor and support for REST API added to the WordPress core in the past few years.
One of the most hotly discussed WordPress features is also multisite. On the one hand, it allows admins to save time by concurrently managing several web resources from one place. On the other, however, it hides some unpleasant pitfalls that can lead to serious, and at times fatal consequences for site owners.
To address the WordPress Multisite vs Single Site controversy and help you decide which option to choose for your own project, we have written this post. Let’s get going.
To give you a clear idea of what this feature is, consider the following example. Suppose there’s a large international chain of retail stores. All the stores are managed from the head office. However, each outlet has its own local specifics, including a different language, currency, and culture.
How can you create an online presence for every chain link? One way is to build a separate website for each store with its own database, plugins, themes, and user roles. This approach means that you will have to update every site on an individual basis, keep the database in order, add or modify the content, and perform other essential management tasks.
If the chain includes just a few stores, this approach seems fine. What if it comprises hundreds or thousands, though? Updating each site one by one will take ages, as well as managing their content.
This is when WordPress multisite feature comes to the rescue. It enables a single administrator to work with multiple sites through one WordPress installation, that’s from one dashboard. In other words, multisite represents a network of WordPress sites that are similar in function.
With multisite, all the plugins and themes are updated from one centralized location. There’s no need to switch from site to site performing this drudgery manually. This results in considerable time-saving for the network admin, who’s called a Super Admin. Let’s take a look at all the advantages of WordPress multisite.
One of the most powerful arguments in the WordPress Multisite vs Single Site debate is the ability to run multiple sites from one central location. If you have a number of separate sites, you have to install WordPress for each of them. With the multisite feature, there’s just one WordPress installation that “serves” all the websites within the network.
Thus, a Super Admin can install and update themes and plugins for the entire group of sites at once. Each site’s administrator can disable or enable a specific plugin. However, they can’t install their own plugins.
Not only is this good from a management standpoint but it’s also great from a troubleshooting perspective. It saves time on finding faulty plugins once something goes wrong. There’s no need to rummage through each site individually searching for a bug. You can be certain that the problem lies in one of the add-ons hosted in the central network hub.
Another point in the WordPress Multisite vs Single site discussion is a single user management system for the entire network. A Super Admin creates users, passwords, and user roles for all the sites, while each site admin grants access to these users on an individual basis. This means that a user can sign into all the sites across the network without having to create separate accounts for each.
As we’ve said, there’s no need for separate WordPress installations within the network. WordPress is installed on the main site only. All the plugins are in one place, as well as themes and core files. This reduces the pressure on the server considerably and brings your hosting expenses down.
In addition, all the sites are connected to the same central database, although 10 tables are copied for each site. This makes creating a backup of the entire network an extremely simple affair.
This arrangement is also great from a development perspective. WordPress developers can work with the core files, themes, and plugins in one location instead of many.
Returning to the retail chain example above, making sure the sites within the network are styled in the same way as the main site is paramount. The WordPress multisite feature makes this a breeze.
Just create a framework theme that includes all the principal brand style elements and then build a child theme for each individual site to reflect the store’s specifics. This will ensure brand consistency for the entire group.
Now, let’s discuss the main multisite’s shortcomings.
WordPress is an exceedingly popular CMS used by millions of sites across the globe. This universal love, however, has another, darker side. The platform becomes a preferred target for cybercriminals. Despite all the security precautions that site owners can take, they are still vulnerable to hacker attacks.
This can be a big headache for a single site. When it comes to WordPress multisites, though, this can have truly disastrous implications. Once the main WordPress installation is compromised, the whole network is under threat.
The same holds true as far as privacy is concerned. Since all the sites are connected to the central database, a hacker may get hold of sensitive user information across the network.
As long as all the sites within the network run on the same server, some of them can grab the biggest piece of the pie. That is, they can use more server capabilities than the peers. This can result in slow operation and even crashes among the sites. Also, certain hosting providers don’t work with multisites at all.
We haven’t mentioned it yet: all the websites within the network share the same domain. The time may come when the admin of one of the sites will want to move the resource to a different domain. This will be an extremely difficult task since the sites are connected to the same database. In this case, it’s advisable to outsource WordPress development to professionals who will move your website to a new domain without losses.
The WordPress multisite feature assumes working with plugins in a centralized fashion. This is convenient when you need to install and update plugins on multiple sites at once. However, this can also lead to certain issues down the line:
Besides, some plugins don’t work with the WordPress multisite feature. You should find this out in advance.
Reuters Blogs: A Good Example of Leveraging the WordPress Multisite Feature
We have reached the key point of our discussion: when you should use the multisite feature. To understand if a network of WordPress sites is the right solution for your project, answer the following questions.
Yes? Then, go for WordPress multisite with confidence. No? You’d better stick with a single WordPress installation for each of your sites. You will have a very hard time trying to manage WordPress sites with very different plugins and structure within one network.
Let’s be honest: this is not a good idea. You can easily achieve this goal with a single site. The platform’s creators have greatly simplified the process of categorizing the content. Besides, you can use various plugins to change a website URL if necessary.
You can’t. Each admin can grant access to their own site to specific users. They can also change the content and enable or disable centrally installed plugins.
Yes? Then, we must disappoint you. You should think twice before going down the multisite path. As we’ve said, a security hole in the main WordPress installation will open the backdoor to all of the sites within the network.
Yes? WordPress multisite is a good choice for this scenario. This can be a network of personal and business sites, blogs, and others. It’s also a good option for white label WordPress development services.
The WordPress multisite feature has its light and dark sides. The fantastic ease of management and scalability are countered by security and migration concerns. Weigh all pros and cons carefully before you activate this option. Once you get in, it can be too challenging to get out.
Still on the fence about whether to use multisite for your project? Our expert WordPress developers have answers to all your questions. Having recently received the status of a top-performing WordPress development company on a global scale, this is indisputable proof of our professionalism and unrivaled expertise.
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No. Each site has its own media folder. The admins can store images and other files they upload inside this directory. Along with ten database tables copied for each site, this ensures that the content of one resource is separated from the content of other resources.
Yes, it is. Individual site admins can add any theme to their websites.
Yes, they do. If your main site has the domain name mainsite.com, the entire network’s address will be identical. When you enable the multisite feature, you have three options regarding the URLs of the sites within the network:
You should enable this option for sites with very similar functionality. Here are some examples: