How to install WordPress Multisite

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WordPress Multisite uses one WordPress installation and one database across a network of WordPress sites.

WordPress Multisite allows you to create a network of similar or related WordPress websites and blogs with just one WordPress Installation; however, Multisite is not for everyone.

It is ideal for companies that need to spin up  hundreds of micro or niche sites quickly.

These include

  • a university for each of its departments,
  • a company network,
  • DIY Premium network sites like wordpress.com,
  • the owner of a string of boutique eateries,
  • or a realtor who needs to control the branding of multiple agents with their own domains.

Advantages of Multisite

WordPress Multisite is a "sharer."

  • It shares one installation of the core code.
  • Its common user base is shared across the network; one login profile grants access to all sites on the network.
  • The super admin controls the plugins and themes that are shared across the network for the other sites to use, and the super admin can update those themes and plugins for all sites at once from the master dashboard.

Disadvantages of Multisite

The things that make Multisite a great sharer also contribute to its flaws.

  • Migrations are exceedingly complex as each site shares one database. Migrating one site off your network is very difficult.
  • You cannot truly separate users; each one will still have access to the entire network. You cannot create separate system users for SFTP uploads.
  • A plugin cannot be installed on only a single site in the network. Once the network administrator installs the plugin, it will be available for all sites on the network. If you delete a plugin, any site using that plugin will be affected. Some plugins do not work with Multisite.

Reasons Not to Use Multisite

Because Multisite can be extremely complex, it would be best to use a standard WordPress installation or multiple installations on a single server if your goal is any of the following:

  • Don't use Multisite to manage a small number of different sites. Multisite works best when you want to create a large network of 50, 500, or 5,000 (or more) similar sites. Along with those listed previously, WordPress.com is a prime example of the proper way to use Multisite; each blog on WordPress.com is a branch of the main site with access to a controlled library of themes and plugins.
  • Don't use Multisite to organize your content by categories. WordPress is already built to organize your posts and pages. If you don't want the category to appear in the slug (the part of the URL after the domain), plugins are available to remove the slug or to put the category in a subdomain.
  • Don't use Multisite to make all of your sites look 100% the same. This can be accomplished with custom post types, which are more lightweight and use fewer resources than Multisite. Custom post types also let you restrict users to a specific type of post.
  • Don't use Multisite to prevent admins from making changes. While Multisite does share resources, it creates multiple separate sites, each with its own admin who can do what he or she wants (activating/deactivating shared plugins, changing the theme to another from the network's shared library, controlling all content for the site including posts and comments, etc.).
  • Don't use Multisite to create special sections of a site or to give each section a different appearance. Again, custom post types allow you to do this.
  • Don't use Multisite to give a user a different profile on each site or to keep a user of one site from knowing about the other sites. Multisite creates a network of sites that are branches of the parent site; a user has the same profile across the network and can see the other sites on the network when logged in. The only way to truly separate users is with separate WordPress installations.
  • Don't use Multisite to do development work before pushing the site into production. Migrating one site from a Multisite network is extremely complicated.
  • Don't use Multisite if you want to ensure the security of each of your sites. If one site on your network becomes compromised because of a poorly coded plugin, then all of the sites on your network can become compromised.

Considerations

Multisite is a powerful tool; however, it is not for most developers.

If you are a developer thinking about creating a Multisite network to easily manage the sites of multiple clients, consider these questions before setting it up:

  • Who are your clients?
  • How do they currently use WordPress? Do you want them to be able to see your other clients' sites when they log in?
  • Will you always want them to be on your network? What will you do when they are no longer a client?

Installing Multisite

To set up WordPress Multisite on your server, first, follow our instructions to install WordPress. JungleWP recommends setting up Multisite on a fresh WordPress installation; you'll experience fewer frustrations.

After completing your new WordPress installation, open  wp-config.php from your website's public folder using your SFTP client.

Immediately above the line  /* That's all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */, add the following:

/* Multisite */ define( 'WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true );

Save  wp-config.php, and click Refresh in your SFTP client.

Next, log in to WordPress and select Network Setup from the Tools menu.

Decide whether you want your Multisite to use subdomains or subdirectories for your installation; make your decision based on what will work best for your organization or network. If you choose to use subdomains, be sure to configure a wildcard domain in JungleWP and with your DNS provider. You can reach out to us if you need help.

If you are converting an existing website to a Multisite network, you will be forced to use subdomains.

You can also name your Multisite network and enter the network administrator's email address.

Click Install.

WordPress will now provide you with two snippets of code, which you need to add to the  wp-config.php and .htaccess files. Both files are located in the root directory of your WordPress.

  1. Set up an FTP connection to your website.
  2. Add the first code snippet to your wp-config.php directly above the line
    /* That's all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */
    The snippet looks like this, but adapted to your own site:
    define('MULTISITE', true);
    define('SUBDOMAIN_INSTALL', true);
    define('DOMAIN_CURRENT_SITE', 'My Website');
    define('PATH_CURRENT_SITE', '/');
    define('SITE_ID_CURRENT_SITE', 1);
    define('BLOG_ID_CURRENT_SITE', 1);
    	
  3. Add the second code snippet to the .htaccess file and replace other WordPress rules.
    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteBase /
    RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L] 
    # add a trailing slash to /wp-admin
    RewriteRule ^wp-admin$ wp-admin/ [R=301,L]
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -f [OR]
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -d
    RewriteRule ^ - [L]
    RewriteRule ^(wp-(content|admin|includes).*) $1 [L]
    RewriteRule ^(.*\.php)$ $1 [L]
    RewriteRule . index.php [L]
    	
  4. Save both files.

Using Multisite

You can now start adding sites to your Multisite network.

Select Network Admin from the My Sites menu at the top of the screen.

From your Network Dashboard, you can add new sites and users and manage existing sites and users.

If you give them administrative privileges for their own sites, new users will be able to control their own plugins and themes.

As the network administrator, you can give yourself administrative control to easily manage all plugins and themes across your entire network of sites from Multisite's central hub.

After you have finished setting up your Multisite, make sure to add all of your domains to your Website in JungleWP.

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