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WordPress Multisite: Who is It For?

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As the most widely used content management system, WordPress can boast a wide range of features and plugins. With such a great arsenal of tools, you can turn what originally was a means of blogging into virtually any website regardless of purpose and functions needed. One of these features is WordPress Multisite. What is it and how can it help you scale your business?

What is it?

WP Multisite was introduced in 2010, when WordPress 3.0 was rolled out. Basically, it gives you an opportunity to manage an unlimited number of interconnected websites with a single WP installation. With this feature, you can create a network of websites and manage them in a centralized manner. Not only that – you can change settings for each particular website of yours, so running a network of websites does not mean they will all be the same.

How many websites does it support?

The number of websites of which your network can be comprised is not limited. It takes at least two websites to form a network, but it may well be two million. It is up to you to decide how many branches your project will have. The way your network ramifies depends on your project needs, not on the feature’s limitations.

How independent are websites in a network?

With Multisite, you install plugins for all of your websites, but you can turn them on and off, so if you need some plugin on one subsite but not on another one, it is not a problem.

The same applies to themes: you can use separate themes for your subsites. However, many people use subsites to represent different branches of their main project (say, various outlets or departments), which means they often share key design elements. It is just an observation, though, and if you want to use different themes, you can do it easily.

As to domain names, you can use as many of these as you like, although, as it has already been said about themes, many site networks use domains based on the main one. If you opt for it, there are two ways it can be used: either as subdomains (one.website.com, two.website.com, etc.) or as categories (website.com/one/, website.com/two/, etc.).

Keep in mind that in order to use themes and plugins that they share, subsites must also share the same server.

How are subsites managed?

One of the key advantages of Multisite is that registered users can have different roles for different subsites. The one who is merely a subscriber on one subsite may well be an administrator on another one. For example, if you run a franchise business, your staff is supposed to include a variety of departments and those responsible for their outlets. All of these will have access to the corresponding websites and their content, but will act only as subscribers on the other subsites in the network. This gives you flexibility to scale your business without building separate websites for numerous sub-projects. Not only can you manage your subsites in a convenient way, but you can also work with their content efficiently, as some parts of it should be shared, while others are unique.

After you have installed WordPress, you can centrally control the network of subsites you have created, and choose themes for each of them, as well as adjust their functions.

Multisite Admin Dashboard

The system uses two types of administrators: the Network Administrator supervising the work of all the subsites, and Subsite Administrators. The former have access to the Network control panel, can switch plugins on and off, and change other settings; the latter, since they are responsible only for a particular subsite, can manage content of only one subsite (or several ones, if one person is in charge of several subsites), so they cannot make any changes in the other parts of the system.

There are other roles, including Author, Contributor, Editor, and Subscriber.

What else to keep in mind?

Since scaling your network implies using a lot of websites, and they are supposed to share the same server, make sure that your hosting provider is capable of serving as a good basis for such a system. More subsites means more traffic, more content and possibly more features. That is why you should analyze statistics on server performance before signing up with a hosting provider. Since reviews cannot be considered a reliable source of information (unless it is some reputable IT magazine), it is best to take a look at how well a hosting company’s performance has been changing over the course of the past 6 to 12 months. If the speed and uptime are decent, the chances are this particular option is worth giving a try. Keep in mind that scaling your business with the help of a network of subsites requires having an opportunity to also scale your hosting services. Check if the company you are interested in can provide that.

So who is it for?

WordPress Multisite is often used by companies with many branches, outlets or departments, which should share some part of the content on their websites but still have something different on them. Originally, the purpose is blogging, so it could also be used by various communities which would like to run centrally controlled and locally managed websites.

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