What is WordPress Multisite and How to Manage it Effectively

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WordPress is a simple and versatile tool suitable for a wide variety of projects. One of its defining features is multisite – a solution that allows controlling extensive networks of websites from a single dashboard. While its management is largely similar to core WordPress functionality, there are several tricks that will help you turn it into an effortless and intuitive process.

What Is WordPress Multisite?

A multisite is a feature of WordPress that allows managing multiple websites using a single installation. Such a network of websites (or subsites, if you want to get technical) can be built on top of existing sites or made entirely of newly created ones. The entire arrangement can be managed from a single dashboard and offers granular control over updates, access permissions, user roles, and themes.

Initially a fork intended for blog networks, the concept was eventually merged into the 3.0 release. Nowadays, numerous businesses and non-profit organizations use this feature to manage multisite networks. Because of their unifying approach to configuration and maintenance, multisite networks work best for large groups of websites united by a common idea, which is why this solution is often used by universities.

Why Use WordPress Multisite?

Multisite is certainly not a universal solution. For a network that includes sites with different purposes and requirements, it would definitely feel lacking in functionality. On the other hand, in situations where sites share a common theme, it actually offers several advantages:

1. Creates a consistent look and feel across the network
2. Unifies user experience
3. Simplifies the installation of plugins on different websites
4. Streamlines the updating process
5. Provides access to all sites from a single dashboard

From a business perspective, the multisite network also makes economic sense. A single dashboard means less code, which converts to less server space as well as reduced expenses on development and maintenance.

Making the Most Out of Your Multisite

By default, multisite in WordPress offers a variety of ways to manage all aspects of the network, such as user permissions, themes, and updates. On top of that, many of the functions can be simplified and automated via plugins. This is particularly convenient since plugins can be installed on all sites in essentially one action. Here are the processes that can be optimized thanks to WP multisite:

User Management

One aspect that can be improved and expanded through plugins is user management. For example, by installing additional plugins, administrators can authorize other users to switch accounts on their own in a quick and simple manner. This provides everyone an easy way to check the appearance of the page as seen by other users.
Another advantage introduced by plugins is the granular configuration of user permissions. These permissions cover a variety of capabilities, including:

– Editing and deleting pages
– Publishing, editing, and removing posts
– Managing users
– Moderating comments
– Gaining access to private pages

Of course, such granularity may be an overkill for smaller networks with few contributors. However, for more complex environments with multi-level user hierarchies, such as university networks, it will save a lot of time.

Posting

Another process that can be optimized in a multisite environment is posting. The core functionality of WordPress allows scheduled post publishing. However, it scales poorly and may become cumbersome to use for networks with an extensive content strategy, as each item has to be managed separately. Fortunately, this limitation can also be lifted with an auto-post plugin. Most of these allow you to manage multiple websites, work well with multisite networks, and support both WordPress and a variety of social networks.

System Stability and Maintenance

The third crucial aspect of efficient management is the stability of the network. This is especially important for websites with frequently updated content where a single server failure can cost you months of work. Fortunately, a variety of backup solutions support multisite functionality. For a smooth uninterrupted experience, it is advised to configure the automated backups based on the activity of the network to ensure that nothing is lost.

Keeping the sites up to date is another challenge that can be resolved through multisite functionality. There are actually several reasons you would want to have timely updates. Not only do they contain bug fixes that improve performance, but they also deliver security updates. Vulnerabilities are found on a weekly basis, and once they become known, site owners have little time left before facing consequences of a cyberattack. In this light, propagating the updates across the network in a couple of actions is a valuable addition for the administrators.

Infrastructural considerations also deserve a mention. While creating and setting up individual websites in a multisite environment is easy, each of them will still generate a separate load on system servers. So it is important to estimate the expected traffic requirements as well as the need to scale the network in the future.

Final Words

The multisite functionality offers many advantages, especially for large networks of similar websites with diverse user bases. On top of that, many aspects of this feature-rich environment can be further expanded via plugins that can be installed on all sites simultaneously. As long as administrators do not overdo it by overwhelming the system with redundant elements, this arrangement can result in a tightly integrated network controlled through a single dashboard.

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