WordPress Multisite – Observations

Last week at my day gig, I had the opportunity to install a WordPress Multisite collection of blogs. WordPress Multisite (formerly called WordPress MU) is now a core feature of WordPress beginning with version 3.0. WP refers to a collection of sites as a ‘Network’.

WordPress Logo

Some of the benefits include:

  • All sites use the same database. This includes users.
  • Domain namespace sharing. You can use sub-domains or sub-directories for each site.
  • Shared access to plugins and themes.
  • Single back-end administrative interface for all sites.

Before rolling this out, I strongly encourage you to read and follow these instructions from the WordPress Codex. I didn’t run into any hitches with them.

Over the course of 2 days, I rolled out 6 separate blogs. The global users feature came in very handy. Some were authors on multiple blogs and it was quick and easy to assign privileges. Being able to switch between sites quickly in the back-end was also convenient.

I went with a handful of plugins and ‘network enabled’ them so they would be available to each blog. The nice thing here is, being able to install the plugin once, switch to each blog, and configure the plugin as required for each blog. They all have access to it, but they can retain their own settings.

Here are a couple things you’ll definitely want to consider when rolling this out…

  1. Give some serious thought on whether you want to turn your standalone installation into a network/multisite. If you do, absolutely backup your WP-CONTENT folder, database, and any other customized settings. You will have to hack wp-config.php, nothing too serious, but it’s not as simple as installing a plugin and enabling it.
  2. Decide whether you want to create separate sites as sub-domains or sub-directories. Each has their pros & cons, but there’s no switching after installation. Of the two, the sub-domains structure has a few extra requirements, like being able to add a DNS A wildcard record.
  3. Before you start creating your sites, install and configure the ‘Blog Defaults‘ plugin. This will save you an enormous amount of time.
  4. While WordPress is awesome and FREE, you may want to drop a few dollars on multisite. If you’re going to create a very large network, and require more than simple blogging features, you may want to get a subscription with WPMU Dev. They’ve been doing this stuff for years (hence the MU part of their name) and have developed a bunch of plugins, themes, and tutorials on making this stuff truly hum. It’s not cheap, but they are quite good, and they’ve got experience with large installations.

It would’ve been nice to have a single RSS feed of posts from across all the sites. There is a plugin that sorta does this indirectly, and you can find some websites that’ll generate an aggregated feed for you, but that’s a bit kludgey.

In the end, it was a positive experience and I didn’t run into many issues. If you’re looking to build a site full of blogs that is easy to maintain, WordPress Multisite is a great candidate for the job.

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Author:Craig Berry

Craig Berry is a Catholic web developer and musician.
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  • http://famvin.org/ Beth Nicol

    So — how would you hand this scenario: 4 blogs/sites, one set of users (multi-site features work great so far) – but each site is actually a different language site for the same info – english, spanish, french, italian or polish.

  • Craig Berry

    This might do the trick..

    [url]http://premium.wpmudev.org/project/languages-for-wordpress-mu[/url]

    The catch is that you need to have a membership to get their plugins. I’ve been a member in the past, and they are top notch. High quality plugins and great support. They probably know more about multi-site operations than WordPress does. :)

    I’ve never operated a multi-language site though…I’m interested to hear how it goes…report back if you can!