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Why You Should Not Use WordPress Multisite

WordPress Multisite allows you to create a network of similar or related WordPress websites and blogs with just one WordPress Installation; however, Multisite is not for everyone.

It is ideal for companies that need to spin up hundreds of micro or niche sites quickly.

These include

  • a university for each of its departments,
  • the owner of a string of boutique eateries,
  • or a realtor who needs to control the branding of multiple agents with their own domains.

Advantages of Multisite

WordPress Multisite is a "sharer."

  • It shares one installation of the core code.
  • Its common user base is shared across the network; one login profile grants access to all sites on the network.
  • The superadmin controls the plugins and themes that are shared across the network for the other sites to use, and the superadmin can update those themes and plugins for all sites at once from the master dashboard.

Disadvantages of Multisite

The things that make Multisite a great sharer also contribute to its flaws.

  • Migrations are exceedingly complex as each site shares one database. Migrating one site off your network is very difficult.
  • You cannot truly separate users; each one will still have access to the entire network. You cannot create separate system users for SFTP uploads.
  • A plugin cannot be installed on only a single site in the network. Once the network administrator installs the plugin, it will be available for all sites on the network. If you delete a plugin, any site using that plugin will be affected. Some plugins do not work with Multisite.

Reasons Not to Use Multisite

Because Multisite can be extremely complex, it would be best to use a standard WordPress installation or multiple installations on a single server if your goal is any of the following:

  • Don't use Multisite to manage a small number of different sites. Multisite works best when you want to create a large network of 50, 500, or 5,000 (or more) similar sites. Along with the those listed previously, WordPress.com is a prime example of the proper way to use Multisite; each blog on WordPress.com is a branch of the main site with access to a controlled library of themes and plugins.
  • Don't use Multisite to organize your content by categories. WordPress is already built to organize your posts and pages. If you don't want the category to appear in the slug (the part of the URL after the domain), plugins are available to remove the slug or to put the category in a subdomain.
  • Don't use Multisite to make all of your sites look 100% the same. This can be accomplished with custom post types, which are more lightweight and use less resources than Multisite. Custom post types also let you restrict users to a specific type of post.
  • Don't use Multisite to prevent admins from making changes. While Multisite does share resources, it creates multiple separate sites, each with its own admin who can do what he or she wants (activating/deactivating shared plugins, changing the theme to another from the network's shared library, controlling all content for the site including posts and comments, etc.).
  • Don't use Multisite to create special sections of a site or to give each section a different appearance. Again, custom post types allow you to do this.
  • Don't use Multisite to give a user a different profile on each site or to keep a user of one site from knowing about the other sites. Multisite creates a network of sites that are branches of the parent site; a user has the same profile across the network and can see the other sites on the network when logged in. The only way to truly separate users is with separate WordPress installations.
  • Don't use Multisite to do development work before pushing the site into production. Migrating one site from a Multisite network is extremely complicated.
  • Don't use Multisite if you want to ensure the security of each of your sites. If one site on your network becomes compromised because of a poorly coded plugin, then all of the sites on your network can become compromised.

Considerations

Multisite is a powerful tool; however, it is not for most developers.

If you are a developer thinking about creating a Multisite network to easily manage the sites of multiple clients, consider these questions before setting it up:

  • Who are your clients?
  • How do they currently use WordPress? Do you want them to be able to see your other clients' sites when they log in?
  • Will you always want them to be on your network? What will you do when they are no longer a client?

If you want to use Multisite simply because you can update all of your sites' themes and plugins from a single dashboard, you might want to consider using a service like ManageWP or CMS Commander.

If you know that Multisite is the best solution for you, follow our instructions to set it up correctly.