Everything You Need to Know About WordPress Multisite.

WordPress Multisite allows an administrator to run multiple websites on a single WordPress installation. Multisite networks are controlled by a “Super Admin“. This user is capable of creating websites and managing the websites users, plugins, & themes for the multisite network. Imagine all of this, managed from a single dashboard!

While this control is extremely beneficial for some use cases, it also poses potential problems for others. Let’s explore the Pros and Cons of WP Multisite.

Pros of WP Multisite

The main advantage of WordPress Multisite is simplified administration. Marketing teams will appreciate benefits like brand control. Users appreciate the ease of accessing all sites from a single user profile.

  1. Simplified Administration:
    1. Managing all sites from the same WordPress dashboard is incredibly convenient for the Superadmin.
    2. The centralized control helps avoid messy administration. The Super admin is in charge of all design and functionality changes. Multisite restricts the capabilities for site admins to install plugins and themes, edit user profiles, etc.
    3. You only need to install your WordPress core, plugins, and themes once for all subsites. This becomes particularly convenient when running updates and can be a significant time saver.
    4. A single SQL database means a single backup. No need to back up multiple websites!
    5. A single user profile can be given access to multiple sites in the network.
  2. Network-wide Changes: Network-wide changes can be rolled out simply.
  3. User-Level Access: Multiple sites in the network can be accessed from the same user profile.
  4. Consistent Branding: Consistent branding is easy to maintain on a multisite installation.

Cons of WP Multisite

There are many situations when you might choose to host several WordPress sites, rather than a single Multisite installation. Be aware of the following when considering WordPress Multisite.

  1. Performance: WordPress Multisite websites share the same database, but every site has its own subset of database tables. This may have a negative effect on performance.
  2. Performance Issues Are Not Contained: Performance problems on one site (traffic overload, downtime, etc.) can also impact others.
  3. Complex Administration: A Superadmin oversees the entire multisite installation. This person controls the access rights of standard Admins for particular sites. Standard admins cannot install new plugins and themes, only activate the ones installed within the whole network. This means the Superadmin must be contacted whenever anyone, from any organization, wants to install a plugin.
  4. Plugin Versions: in some (rare) circumstances you may have to install more than one version of the plugin. This occurs when a plugin conflict arises on one or more of the websites following a plugin update. 
  5. Plugin Versions: It’s hard to keep customized versions of the plugins and themes for particular subsites. This might occur if your developer has to extend the functionality of a plugin for a particular website. 
  6. Multiple Plugins for the Same Functionality: This occurs when an administrator within the multisite prefers a particular plugin for specific functionality. An example that immediately comes to mind are email subscription plugins. One website administrator might prefer to use Constant Contact for their newsletters, while another might prefer Mailchimp. In a multisite installation, you would have both plugins installed at the network level and activated/deactived on each website.
  7. Plugin Compatibility: There are many WordPress plugins that do not work with multisite and can cause conflicts instead. In some circumstances, this might result in massive increases in programming costs. 
  8. Reliability: When one website goes down, they all go down. This is because the websites share the same database and resources.
  9. User-Level Access: Just like a shared user base can be a pro, it can also be a con. It’s hard to separate users completely as they all live within the network.
  10. Subscriber Access: User access becomes even more muddled if you intend to have subscribers or permit some level of access to your user audiences/public. 
  11. Security: Security problems on one site (a hacker attack or data breach) can create a wave of problems on the other websites within the multisite. 
  12. Consistent Branding: Consistent branding is easy to maintain on a multisite installation, this might be a con if you’re looking to create highly differentiated websites.
  13. Consistent Functionality: In circumstances where each website has a very different user journey. For instance, some of your websites are eCommerce and others are not, it’s may be more practical to create two different multisites or separate the websites entirely.
  14. Future Migrations: Multisite presents increased difficulty when creating future websites (outside of the multisite) due to the single database. Automated migrations are either difficult or downright impossible. 
  15. Hosting: Hosting can be expensive and difficult to find for multisite installation. 
  16. Implementation Cost: There are potentially unforeseen costs and complications when it comes to multisite implementations. There is a likelyhood that functionality will have to be custom programmed as many plugins do not support multisite implementation. Routine programming tasks may become more complex and time consuming.

Is WordPress Multisite for You?

WordPress Multisite is a great solution if…

  1. Your websites have very similar functionality: WordPress Multisite is a great fit for creating and administrating several simple blogs. Restrict yourself to simple standardized functionality as many plugins are not compatible with multisite.
  2. All websites follow simular brand guidelines: Maintaining a brand standard across many websites is a tremendous benefit to WordPress multisite. The ability to create and run a single theme for all websites really benefits those maintaining a brand standard.
  3. All websites have simular user stories and user journeys: The path to conversion follows a simular formula across all websites. For example, all websites are simple “lead generation” websites.
  4. Simplified administration is very important to you: if your organization is ok with a centralized approach to site management, where particular site admins do not need “game-changing” permissions.

When Might I Use WordPress Multisite?

WP Multisite is a great tool for universities. In this use case, an administrator may create independent websites for each department while maintaining control over the network. The single WordPress installation and central nature of WP Multisite simplify routine maintenance. The central theme maintains consistent branding for all departments. You also have the ability to create and roll out massive changes, like network-wide alerts, instantly.

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Contact us today if you need advice. We can help you decide if multisite is a good choice for your websites, or if multiple WordPress installations better suit your needs. We can even explore other CMS options with you!