What Is WordPress Multisite?

Did you know that WordPress has the ability to run multiple websites from one installation of WordPress? This type of configuration is called WordPress Multisite.

In the past there were two versions of WordPress; standard WP that we all know and love and WordPress MU (Multi User) were distinct downloads.  With the release of WordPress 3.x those two versions were brought together.

What Is Multisite?

After a making a couple of configuration changes, you can make your current installation of WordPress manage multiple WordPress sites.  Each site will have it’s own content, users, plugins and themes.

The benefit is you only have one installation of WordPress to manage and maintain, a brilliant time saver for owners of multiple WordPress sites.

UPDATE June 2012: Video Tutoral

Feel free to read the whole blog post, but I’ve created a free video tutorial to show you how to build a multisite installation.

Making A Single Site Multisite

This post is an overview of multi site, so I’m not going to go into the technical details of configuring a network in this post (if there is enough demand I may setup a training session, leave a comment if you would like this type of session).

There is a very good tutorial over at WordPress.org which will take you through the process.

http://codex.wordpress.org/Create_A_Network

Compatibility

The first thing to consider before moving to MS is the question of compatibility.  Not all themes and plugins will work on Multisite.  Check with your theme and plugin suppliers to see if it is compatible first.  For example my favourite back plugin Backupbuddy it not MS compatible when I last checked,

A great source of premium WordPress multisite training, plugins and themes is WPMUDEV.org (aff)

A second compatibility consideration is your hosting.  WordPress MS works in a different way to normal WP, please check with your hosting supplier to see if they support the requirements from http://codex.wordpress.org/Create_A_Network

More Difficult To Admin

Administration of WP MS is a little more difficult, there is the concept of a network administrator, who installs and enabled themes, plugins and site wide settings, next level down there is a site admin who can then admin only aspects of their own site.

This additional layer of administer has caused confusion in me, so be aware of this if you decide to go down this route.

Easier to manage multiple sites

This is the main benefit of MS, with one installation of WordPress, you can administer multiple WordPress sites.

Install a plugin once, and it is available to all sites it you network activate it.

Update WordPress once, and all of your sites are updated.

Sub Directories or Subdomains

When you install MS you get to control how your sites are configured. There are two options sub directories (the easiest method) or subdomains.

Subdirectories install your sites in the following fashion yourdomain.com/site1 yourdomain.com.site2

Sub domains create configurations like this site1.yourdomain.com site2.yourdomain.com.

There are also domain mapping plugins available for MS, which allow you to map a site to an alternative domain, for example you could setup yourdomain.com/site1 to map to the domain name mysecondcomain.com.  This allows you to manage multiple domains from one install of WP.  This is brilliant if you run multiple domains and want to reduce your admin overhead.

Are You Going Multisite

Are you going multisite?  Just to recap you need more technical skills to manage a network, some of your plugins may not work, and lastly check out your hosting is compatible. Feel free to ask me any questions on multisite in the comments.

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18 Responses to “What Is WordPress Multisite?”

  1. Ahmad April 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    This very nice article Wpmu is very useful for biz that’s depends on multisite but i still think the default version Wp is the best

  2. Keely April 7, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    Nice article … to the point and clear.

    I am definitely interested in reading more articles about WP Multisite. It should cut down the time it takes to update WP itself, and plugins.

    I still haven’t got the hang of it though I installed it easily enough.

  3. Ukion May 28, 2011 at 12:29 am #

    Hi, very interesting… I have one question: Are multiple sites using multiple databases or they are all connected to one wp database?

    Regards,
    Ukion

    • Neil Matthews May 28, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

      Hi Ukion

      Multisite has one database witha set of tables per site, plus some shared network tables

  4. Jim Sullivan June 4, 2011 at 3:51 am #

    I’m trying to get my head around Multisite. What would be the reason for using it?

    I’m researching to develop a variety news publication web sites. I want them to all look different and stories at least sometimes be cross posted, sometimes not. I’m wondering if Multisite would be a good use for it and how it would enhance this project.

  5. Cody June 19, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    Nice tut on WP Multisite. Never got the hands on it but it seems worthwhile.
    Thanks

  6. Scott July 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    My website covers a range of sports under a single domain, I was wondering that if I bought domains that were more focused and used these separate domains for particular pages if this would be beneficial for my SEO ranking. I have 6 sports and will have 6 domains and 6 identical websites but the links for say wakeboarding would all lead to the website and page with the wakeboarding focused domain and the same would be true for the other sites. I would then concentrate backlinks focused on a particular sport to a particular domain from relavant sources.
    Does this make sense?
    Would Multisite help?
    Thanks

  7. Mario Peshev November 28, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    BackupBuddy now works on Multisite – http://pluginbuddy.com/purchase/backupbuddy/

    So it works pretty well I hear. I am trying the ManageWP feature for single installs but I think multiples are also available there.

    • Neil Matthews November 30, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

      Thanks for the update Mario, I knew they were looking at it but I did not know that was live now

  8. BB April 20, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Does Multisite offer user single sign-on between the different site

    • Neil Matthews April 20, 2012 at 11:31 am #

      Yes it does, you set permissions per site for each user

  9. Heather May 8, 2012 at 6:15 am #

    Thanks for your great information about wordpress networks.
    Can you answer this for me? I am setting up a site where users can find information about different cities. I’d like each city to have it’s own path, but I want them to share a theme and categories. We are currently on shared hosting though. Is multi-site a good option for us?
    Thanks in advance for your time!

  10. crazyblogger September 9, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    Great information. I was planning for a multisite install on my blog and this kind of information is exactly what I want.

  11. dean November 12, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    hi thanks for your post, i need bit more information. can this be used for my need.

    i want to have a main website, lets call it Abc.com, then category specialized websites, say one for sports, one for cinema. i want to be able to display the latest post from sports in my main webpage abc.com and if visitors want to read more about that topic, when they click, they are taken to sport.abc.com.

    i do not want to post the article multiple times in multiple wordpress.

    can this be done? i have seen many word press sites set up like this. just wondering are they using word press multi sites.

    thank you.

    • Neil Matthews November 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

      Hi Dean

      Personally I think multisite is a little over kill. I would go with in built wordpress categories. Write your post then add it to say category sport and then direct yoru users to

      abc.com/category/sport and an archive page of all posts in the sports archive will be displayed. YOu only need to add the post once

      • dean November 12, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

        Thanks Neil,

        but since i have so many variety of categories with in a category, say for instance, if sports, then i would have all the different sports, local, international, then score cards, tables.. ect ect

        so its very hard to include everything in a in built category. hence its easy and best solution to do something like my initial question, but to the matter, can that be done? im sure its done cose i have seen many set up, but i dont know whats the technical term for it. so is that multi site?

        thank you.

  12. Alex November 12, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    Thanks so much for the detialed break down, i have set up multisite by using your steps with no problem.
    Cheers,

  13. John @ BWH January 10, 2013 at 5:53 am #

    Nice write up. I’d love to see a bit more on ideal hosting configurations, along with some specific recommendations, for multisite. Clearly it’s different, you’ve got to have wildcard DNS for subdomain set ups, but there have to be other major considerations for long term hosting of a multisite instance.