Are you tired of managing multiple WordPress sites individually? Then say ‘goodbye’ to the hassle and ‘hello’ to efficiency with WordPress Multisite Network!

Discover how you can manage all your sites from one dashboard with ease using this game-changing feature. 

In this guide, we’ll walk through what a WordPress multisite network is and discuss whether you should use one. We will also cover the benefits of using a multisite network and then explain how to set up a WordPress multisite network correctly.

Let’s get started!

What Is WordPress Multisite Network?

WordPress multisite is a feature in WordPress that allows you to run multiple websites on just one WordPress installation. This is different from running multiple WordPress engines on the same server. In a multisite network, the network admin has access to all of the sites in the network. 

The WordPress multisite feature is often used by large organizations that need multiple websites for different units, departments, or entities within their overall structure.

For example, if a university wants to give all its professors their own blog column on the university website, they can do so using WordPress’s multisite feature. Similarly, a large newspaper agency might have one common site for all articles, but have different WordPress sites for each of its categories, such as sports, finance, politics, etc – with each of these websites being operated and maintained by the respective departments.

Benefits Of Using A Multisite Network

  • Instead of managing multiple sites separately, you can access and control everything from one dashboard, which simplifies management.
  • When running multiple WordPress sites, you might need to maintain multiple servers. In addition to the hosting cost, it will also cost you more to maintain and upgrade these servers. Having one bigger server with multiple sites reduces server cost to some extent.
  • Launching a new site is quick and easy. You can simply go to the dashboard and with the click of a few buttons, your site will be up and running in less than ten seconds. 
  • Running a multisite network makes it easier to enforce security policies and manage everything. The network admin can manage plugins, themes, and users for all sites from one dashboard.
  • Multisite networks make it easier to maintain a consistent brand identity across multiple sites.
  • If you use different servers for each of your sites, then you’ll need to monitor the traffic on them separately. This means you’ll need to upscale and downscale each server if traffic spikes or dips momentarily. On a multisite network, if you are using a bigger server to handle all your traffic, it will provide you better resilience to unforeseen traffic spikes.

Domain-based vs. Path-based Multisite Networks

WordPress provides two types of multisite network installations, so you can pick the one that suits your needs best.

Domain-Based Multisite Network

This option provides a separate domain name for each of your websites. This is especially useful for large organizations which might want to move one of the websites to a different server in the future. Having a separate domain gives you the freedom to manage each site independently in the future.

While this option does provide some flexibility, it comes with a few caveats. Most notably, you will need to manage a lot of domain names if you have a number of sub-sites. Domain names are infamous for being difficult to manage, and having multiple subdomains will only make the job harder. Moreover, unless you are using a wildcard SSL, you will need separate SSL certificates for each of your domains.

Path-Based Multisite Network

If you are happy with all of your sites running on the same domain, then this is the right option for you. It is ideal for bloggers and small businesses that need the additional functionality of multisite networks without all the hassle of managing DNS records.

Installing A WordPress Multisite Network

RunCloud makes it really easy to set up and install a multisite network. If you aren’t already using RunCloud for managing your servers, sign up to RunCloud today and follow along.

  1. Log in to your RunCloud dashboard and select the server that you want to use. If you already have a server with some spare capacity connected to your RunCloud account, you can use that. If not, you can connect to a new server. Once connected, click “Deploy New Web App”.
  1. On the “One-Click” installation tab, select “WordPress” and give a descriptive name to your application. This name will not be displayed to your visitors.
  1. In the ‘Domain’ section, add the domain that you want to use – this will generate the DNS records for your site. RunCloud’s Cloudflare integration makes it easy to set up DNS records – just select the API key and everything works magically. However, if you are not using RunCloud’s Cloudflare integration you can manually add the DNS records to your nameserver. Usually, the nameserver is managed by your domain registrar. 
  1. Next, you will need to configure the SSL/TLS settings for your site. We recommend enabling AutoSSL.
  1. Set the name and other details of your WordPress site. Be sure to use a strong password, and check everything carefully.
  1. From the dropdown menu, select the type of multisite network that best suits your needs.
  1. Once you have configured your WordPress settings, continue setting up your application. Enable backup to automatically backup your website at set intervals, and choose the latest version of PHP to take advantage of up-to-date security upgrades. 
  1. Once you have configured all of the settings, click the “Deploy My Site” button at the bottom right of your screen to launch the application.

Adding Sites to the Network

  1. Once you have deployed your main site from the RunCloud dashboard, you no longer need to open RunCloud to deploy additional sites. Log in to WordPress and open the Network Admin dashboard.
  1. Navigate to the “Sites” tab and click on “Add New” to create a new site.
  1. Add the site address, title, and the admin email in the respective text boxes, and then click “Add Site”. If you are using a subdirectory based network, the URL of the site will be different, but the process is essentially the same.
  1. Once you have added the site it should be visible in the Network Admin dashboard. Repeat the last step to create additional sites. 
  1. This step is only applicable to domain-based site networks; if you are using the path-based multisite network, you can skip this step.

After you have created a site on a new domain, you need to add DNS records so people on the internet will know where the site is hosted.

You can add “A records” for each individual subdomain if you like. However, a simpler option would be to just use CNAME records that point to your root domain. This way, if you switch servers in the future, you will only need to update one value.

The exact steps needed to add a DNS record will vary from one provider to another, but the record values remain the same. Simply look for the CNAME record option, and enter the subdomain prefix that you created in the WordPress dashboard (in the “name” field). Next, add “@” in the value/target field to point this record to your root domain and then save it.

  1. In the dashboard, hover on the site name to reveal additional options for the site. You can click on the “Dashboard” link to open the dashboard of the new site. If you are not able to view your site immediately, wait for a few minutes for the DNS setting to propagate through the internet.

Managing the Network

Managing Users

  1. In the Network Admin dashboard, open the Users tab to manage users. Click on “Add New” to add a new user, and then add any necessary details to create the new user.
  1. Once the user has been added, you can go to the Users submenu to view all active user accounts, edit account privileges, or delete user accounts.

Managing Plugins

You can also add plugins to your WordPress multisite network from the plugins panel in the admin dashboard.

  1. Click on “Add New” to open the WordPress plugins directory. From there, you can search for new plugins, and add them just as you normally would.
  2. Once the plugin is installed, you can enable it across the network, i.e., install it for all the sites on the network. Similarly, you can also either upgrade or delete it for all sites.

Managing Themes

  1. On your WordPress multisite installation, open the Network Admin dashboard. There you can find the “Installed Themes” submenu.
  1. In the Theme menu, you can add, remove, or upgrade themes for all sites across the network. Many people find this option very useful, as having a consistent theme across all sites provides a better user experience.

After Action Report

Managing a multisite network can be challenging, but with the right tools and knowledge, it can be very useful for your organization.

Maintaining a multisite network has several advantages over running individual sites. The most prominent advantage is the ability to manage all the sites, users, plugins, and themes from a single dashboard, thereby saving both time and server resources.

For a seamless experience, sign up for RunCloud, the leading server management platform. We’ve made it easy to manage WordPress multisite networks. Learn more about WordPress Multisite in the context of WaaS platforms in our blog post here.