What is WordPress Multisite?

WordPress(WP) Multisite is a feature that lets users create a “Network” of subsites from a single install of WP. This allows users to use subdomains (also known as subdirectories) of the exact same root domain (for example: site1.domain.com as a subsite of domain.com) inside the same Network. With assistance from native WordPress Domain Mapping, administrators are also able to map original domains to each one of their subsites.

When using a Multisite, you will also inherit a new level of user available known as the Super Admin. The Super Admin will have access to the primary site, including all the subsites, as well as the Network Admin area of the site where all sites are managed. Individual subsites can also have their own subsets of users, plugins, and/or themes enabled explicitly for them. Still, all the subsites are found within the same WP environment. This means that each site is joined to the same database with their own subset of tables. Multisites do not use the same set of plugin and themes within the wp-content folder. Each has their own opportunity to “Network Enable.”

Enabling WordPress Multisite

WordPress Multisite is not a plugin but WP Multisite is a feature that may be enabled for sites. A simple and easy method to enable WP Multisite is to use the wp-cli command ‘wp core multisite-convert‘. Then the system will automatically adapt your single site into a Multisite over a matter of a few seconds. This can be easily confirmed to whether or not it was a successful endeavor by looking for the “My Sites” option when logging in to the WordPress Admin at the very top left-hand side.

Using Multisite

Why even use Multisite you ask? A site manager may need to use this for a few reasons. A few benefits of using WP Multisite are:

  1. Since all websites contained within the Multisite network share the identical WordPress core files, theme, and plugins, updating only has to happen once each time. This is a timesaver since you don’t need to log into several individual sites for updates.
  2. Easy handling of subdomains within your root domain all in one central dashboard.
  3. Managing multiple sites which use the same theme and plugins becomes efficient.

Caveats to Multisite

While WP Multisite seems to be a beneficial configuration to use, there are a few reasons why a site manager may choose not to use this route in their database.

  1. Multisite managing is more complex. If you are hesitant of whether you need to use Multisite, it would be best to avoid using Multisite until a clear need occurs.
  2. If you manage multiple sites that are not related to each other (i.e. use different themes or plugins), then Multisite may not be an ideal solution for your site management.
  3. If you manage a single site.
  4. If you doubt whether Multisite would be a good fit for your management needs.
  5. If each of your sites require a high level of customization and you know it would be best to be managed separately.
  6. If your sites use the same theme but have diverse custom functions added. This would make extra trouble for you because Multisite would make changes to all sites under one theme.
  7. If you are not able to add Multisite as an add-on to your Startup, Growth, or Scale plan.
  8. If you are on a Personal level plan and do not have an interest in upgrading.

Enabling Multisite Network in WordPress

Now is the time to go over steps that explain how to enable Multisite in WordPress.

The first item of business is to install WordPress. After downloading, connect to your website by using an FTP client like FileZilla. Then edit the file wp-config.php, and add the following line just before:

1.) /* Multisite */

2.) define(‘WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE’, true);

Next, be sure to save your wp-config.php file and log in to your WP website. After logging in, go to Tools » Network Setup. Located here is where you will organize and set up your WP Multisite Network. On the network set up screen, you will choose if you want network sites to be on their own subdomains or sub-directories. This choice cannot be undone later; it is a final decision. Remember that if you choose subdomains, then you will have to change your DNS settings for domain mapping.

Then in the network details section, provide your network name and an admin address. Click on Install button. The following screen on WP will offer you with some code that you need to add to wp-config.php and .htaccess file. Both files are in your WP root directory. Then, connect to your website using an FTP client and open these files and paste in the code provided by WP.

Finally, when you have successfully updated the files you must login again to your WP administration area. Then after this  login you will see “WordPress Multisite Network” menu on top in the WP admin bar.

Managing Multisite Network

Sites in a Multisite WordPress are easily able to be managed from the Sites screen under the Multisite Dashboard. These settings allow you to do a variety of tasks such as adding, deleting, deactivate, or archiving sites.

Once a Multisite site is deactivated, it becomes unseen to the visitors and also to the site admin. Any user visiting a deactivated website will see this message:  “This user has elected to delete their account and the content is no longer available.”

The Super Admin is the only one who can see an archived site. Everyone else will see the message “This site has been archived or suspended.”

Deleting a site permanently eliminates the site from the network.