Getting Started with Multisite - Part 1: Why Multisite?

Part 1: Why Multisite?
Part 2: Activation
Part 3: Configuration and Comparison

I was recently helping someone get their site moved from to a standalone WordPress install on Reclaim Hosting and one of the concerns was that she actually has multiple blogs and wanted a way to manage them all without too much overhead. WordPress Multisite seemed like the perfect way to go combined with some domain mapping, yet many folks have no idea Multisite even exists or how it all works. As chance would have it Jim must have been channeling my thoughts because he recently wrote about this very same thing setting up a subdomain multisite for faculty and how much better the process has gotten over the years. So I've decided to write some structured tutorials for Reclaim Hosting to help folks tap into the power of Multisite from the initial setup to the ongoing management of it and how it compares to standalone WordPress. To start off thought it seems like taking a step back and talking about why you would want to do this would be helpful.

One of the largest WordPress Multisite installations out there would be and if you've ever setup a site there you were a part of that install, albeit as a regular user and admin of your own site(s). WordPress Multisite is a setting that can be activated via a line in your wp-config.php file that allows you to use a single WordPress installation to host more than one site at different URLs. User accounts, plugins, and themes are shared across all sites in the network. But why would you want to do something like that as opposed to separate installs for each site and keeping everything segregated?

By far one of the largest advantages is when it comes to maintenance. With Multisite you have a single installation to keep up to date and one set of files for plugins and themes. Jetpack has a vulnerability? Update Jetpack once and you're done. Even if you have a ton of sites you still only have to update one set of code rather than logging into each site and doing it individually.

Another benefit comes from having a single user account to keep track of. With one login you have access to the dashboard of every site that you manage easily and can hop around when you're working on different projects without having to login multiple times or maintain multiple accounts and passwords. For shared sites such as with students or organizations they can also benefit from these shared accounts by utilizing their login on any site that they're a part of either as regular users or administrators. Users can even be added with different permissions to different sites (so for example you could give your students their own space to blog where they are admins but also make them authors on a shared space as well).

Multisite is also great for firing up quick sites to demonstrate a particular feature or perhaps to create a space for that conference session you're working on. It takes the overhead of creating a WordPress site out of the equation when the install is already done and you can fire up a new site within the same install at a moments notice for anything you might fancy (and delete them just as easily). And of course because every new site isn't bringing a bunch of files and folders with it your hosting account can stay lean and small.

More and more I find myself recommending Multisite as a great option for faculty and students alike who anticipate the possibility of running more than a single website now or in the future. It's a great option for folks who are looking to clean up and downsize the amount of installs they have out there as well and consolidate them to a platform that still keeps all the functionality without all the overhead. Perhaps what causes some amount of hesitation is the work to setup Multisite which is what these next few tutorials will cover in depth to show you that it's actually not hard at all with just a few steps beyond a regular install.