Managing multiple websites, whether as a freelancer or as part of an agency, comes with its own challenges. Back in 2010, WordPress introduced their multisite feature, giving developers and designers the ability to create networks of sites on a single WordPress installation.
We have written before about using multisite as a part of a management strategy for those that have a plethora of clients utilizing WordPress. In general, multisite is a great tool for developers and designers.
But is it an absolute must-have if you run or manage more than one site for your clients? Not necessarily.
There are many pros to using WP Multisite, but there are certain situations where other multisite tools may be more beneficial, or other management approaches more efficient. Here are a few things to know if you’re considering using it.
WordPress Multisite Pros and Cons
The benefits of using WP Multisite are fairly straightforward. You get:
- Multiple site management from a single dashboard (for WP sites)
- Quick updates and plugin installation across multiple sites
- Shared users and login access across multiple sites
- User-created multisite networks
In general, it’s a great choice if you build WP sites for multiple clients and you want to update and manage them with less effort. When doesn’t it work out so well? Some cons include:
- Shared resources across sites (if one goes down, they all go down)
- Less security across multiple sites (if one gets hacked, they all get hacked)
- Some plugins may not work well across multiple sites
- Creating sub-sites with different domains can be a challenge
- Finding servers that can handle multisite installation can be difficult (and expensive)
- HTTPS sites do not always work well on multisite (HTTPS is also an SEO ranking factor)
While Multisite is a good tool, there are some downsides that may affect your choice to use it to manage your WP accounts.
When to Use Multisite and When to Skip It
As a rule of thumb, WP Multisite can work if you find yourself in any of the following situations:
- You need to run sites in multiple languages (WP Multisite lets you easily create different sites for each language)
- You need multiple sites for the same client with different product or service offerings
- You have sites that need to be managed by different teams (as part of an agency, for example)
- You have other designers that need to create different sites on your behalf
- You have all WP sites that are fairly simple, using the same or similar plugins, layouts and themes
WP multisite doesn’t make sense for every kind of site. If you’re managing multiple websites that have completely different designs, goals, and purposes, for example, then you may just want to manage these separately.
You also may want to think twice about using Multisite if you find yourself in these scenarios:
- You need separate user profiles for all your sites
- You want users to have access to install themes and plugins
- You need to restrict plugin usage to certain sites
- You are having trouble with widgets and plugin installation across sites
- You need to extract sites from the network (this can be difficult once connected)
- You have other, non-WP sites that you want to manage
If you decide that you don’t want to use WP Multisite, there are other options, of course. Services like ManageWP allow you to manage multiple (single) sites from one location, similar to what WP Multisite does.
What If You Have Non-WordPress Sites?
But what if you have non-WP sites that you want to include into your multisite management? You do have multisite alternatives that may serve your purpose better.
You can always create a headless or decoupled CMS. This option is good for multisite installations because you can easily manage multiple domains from a single one, and you can manage sites from different platforms at the same time. The only issues are that the choices in terms of CMSs are limited and they do require more developer knowledge.
Another option is to use a service like ServerPilot, which is a server management platform that hosts PHP apps like WordPress on the cloud. You can add and manage sites from WP, Magento, Laravel, Drupal and more from a single cloud provider.
If you want to manage sites separately but still have some shared hosting power, you can also move your sites to a single VPS (Virtual Private Server). Many developers use a VPS in place of shared hosting, since you can typically find a VPS for the same price as a WordPress site.
The main difference between shared hosting and VPS (and the main benefit) is that a VPS gives you a certain amount of CPU and RAM to run your sites, whereas a shared hosting plan will give you a limited amount (since you’re sharing with others on the server).
Sharing a hosting platform can bring continuity to multiple sites, even if it doesn’t give you access to design or install plugins (etc.) to those accounts from a single dashboard. At least you have the ability to upload and change files from a single hosting account.
Keep in mind that you can always combine all of your WP sites into Multisite, and then manage other, smaller accounts separately, or use another service like ServerPilot to handle non-WP sites or more complicated ones.
So do you actually need WP Multisite? Maybe. If you have several single WP sites that run with similar plugins, themes and designs, then yes. WP Multisite (or even ManageWP) is a great tool for combining resources and saving you time.
If you find yourself in a more complex situation, where you need multiple accounts, access, and so on, and you’re worried about security and logins, then you may want to keep and manage sites separately.
Even if you have separate sites, you can always use Multisite in a smaller capacity, or simply use a VPS to connect sites together so at least part of your job is easier. But ultimately it will depend on what your sites need and how complex your role will be.