WordPress Multisite, previously known as Multi-User (MU) refers to a network of WordPress sites (WordPress MS). It is a core feature, which enables you create and run more than one site, from a single installation of WordPress. As for example, you can look for the site – WordPress.com – which has been based on this. Once you are there, you and anyone else can sign up and have their ‘individual’ site or blog. And all becomes possible because that WordPress installation is Multisite enabled.
Prior to WordPress 3.0, one had to download the MU – as a separate software package, for enabling this feature! And now it’s a part of the WordPress core, which has made implementation of multi-site easier. Unlike running a single site from a single WordPress install, Multisite allows you to run unlimited number of WordPress sites right from the same install! And while doing so, to keep one site distinguished from another on a network, it assigns a unique Blog ID to each newly created site. Also, everything that is common to a normal WordPress site, say, themes, plugins, and so on, gets shared among all sites on a Multisite network.
Pros of WordPress Multisite
Now, as you have understood what WordPress Multisite is, it is time to know its pros and reasons you should opt for it. Let’s have a look at them below.
Since Multisite allows you to set multiple sites up, from just a single WordPress install, administering these sites becomes automatically easy and efficient. Then, you will have only one main dashboard to hang around with instead of, say, fifty for fifty different sites of yours! Suppose you are required to update one plugin or so, which is in use by those sites. What would you do in a general scenario? Obviously, you will (have to) enter each site, and update the plugin in question manually, which is definitely a cumbersome process! But, if those sites are on a Multisite network, you will need to run plugin update only once, from your main dashboard, and it will affect all sites across your network!
Aggregating Content or Syndication:
Another important advantage that you can get from using the Multisite feature is ‘content syndication’. That is, you can simply take posts from all sites on your network, and can output them to another site! And this ability will be particularly beneficial to those who need to syndicate notifications or significant news across members’ sites, and so on.
On a Multisite network, you can create and launch new sites in no time! Typically, sites that enable this feature ask people to sign up on the main one (e.g. WordPress.com), first. Once done you are only a few clicks away from creating your personal site or blog.
Cons of WordPress MS
Although the idea of running a Multisite network sounds nice, this may not be the case for everyone! There are some disadvantages as well you need to think about.
Restrictions for Local Administrators:
Multisite has a two-way administration – Super Admin and Local Admin. The first one is a key to handle whatever functions and features are there with WordPress. The second one is, on the other hand, meant to be for individuals who have created sites on a Multisite network, and it lacks most of the privileges of the former type. As for instance, being a Local Admin, you cannot install themes or plugins of your choice; you are limited to make a selection from among the ones the Super Admin made available on his network. This particular feature could be seen as advantage too, as you can assign local Admins to manage group of WordPress sites in your Multisite WordPress setup.
Setting up is not so simple:
Yes, literally speaking, it is easy to setup a Multisite network. However, this may not be always the case either! Although it has been integrated with WordPress core, it still needs to be manually enabled. And there is no such a button or an option you can make use for this purpose! The only way left is to add blocks of PHP codes to your wp-config and .htaccess files, respectively. To Enable WordPress multisite, open your WP-config file, and add following line of codes:
/* Multisite */
define( 'WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true );
This will enable Multisite functionality on your WordPress blog, and now you can go to tools> Network setup to configure your settings. I will skip this part for now, as this is out of scope of this article. You can refer to official WordPress help page over here.
Limitation on Themes and Plugins :
Another poor thing about using Multisite is the likely limitation on themes and plugins you can use on your site and network. Because Multisite functions and requirements differ from that of generic WordPress sites, whichever theme or plugin you choose must be compatible with it.
When you enable WordPress multi-site, you usually add new blogs at sub-domain or subdirectory level. You can use Domain-mapping plugin to use a new domain name. On cPanel hosting like Bluehost, you can enable Multi-site by adding ‘*’ as sub-domain. Here is a tutorial to do that. If you are planning to run a full-fledge MU, WpEngine is one recommended managed hosting for WordPress multi-site.
Well depending upon your requirement you should select between Stand alone WordPress blog or multi-site enabled blog. I have list down the most prominent advantages and disadvantages of using WordPress multisite. If you have some additional information to share related to Multi-site, feel free to let me know via comments.