WordPress Multisite vs. Multiple Sites

As an online business owner who owns several WordPress websites, I know how important it is to try to work as efficiently as possible. This not only saves you time but also helps you scale your business and generate more revenue, without all the unnecessary headaches.

The problem is, many business owners don’t know how to make their websites more efficient, especially in the beginning.

The foundation to running a solid business, improving the user experience, and making more money is to have high-quality websites that provide value to the user, perform at high speeds, and of course, encourage site visitors to take action.

But with all the hype surrounding WordPress Multisite, it can be tough to decide whether it’s more efficient to run separate websites, or combine everything and run it from one single WordPress install.

Luckily, we’re here to give you the low down on what WordPress Multisite is and whether you should consider using it, as opposed to running multiple websites individually.

What is WordPress Multisite?

WordPress Multisite is a feature that allows you to run multiple WordPress blogs from one single codebase. In other words, if you have five separate WordPress websites, you can operate all five using one single WordPress installation, rather than installing WordPress five times and managing them separately.

This feature allows you to host as many WordPress blogs as you want and is designed to help you manage multiple domains from one WordPress installation so you don’t have to deal with the hassle of logging in and out of many websites over and over.

If you find yourself running multiple business websites, it’s easy to see why using WordPress Multisite would be appealing. And the truth is, it’s a great feature and works really well — until it doesn’t, and you find yourself wishing you had kept your websites separate.

The Pros of Using WordPress Multisite

There are many reasons why using WordPress Multisite is beneficial to business owners that have multiple websites:

As you might imagine, managing multiple websites individually can be a pain if you have to perform each individual action (such as site updates) manually. But with WordPress Multisite, all of this admin hassle disappears, leaving you more room to grow your business.

However, that’s not to say WordPress Multisite doesn’t come with its fair share of disadvantages.

Before you decide WordPress Multisite is the solution for you, take a look at some of the issues that come up when managing all of your sites from a single WordPress install.

The Cons of Using WordPress Multisite

Because WordPress Multisite lets you manage multiple websites from one place, it should come as no surprise that this can be a disadvantage at times.

Take a look:
NOTE: List is updated with the correct information due to your feedback and corrections in the comments below.

That seems like a lot right?

Well, for some business owners, yes, the cons of using WordPress Multisite are enough to scare them away from using it.

That said, there are some website owners that will benefit from using WordPress Multisite, despite its disadvantages. Let’s see if your business sites fall into the category that Multisite is best suitable for.

Who Should Use WordPress Multisite?

If you run multiple WordPress websites that are in the same industry, have the same focus/purpose/goals, and have the same design principles, WordPress Multisite is the perfect solution for you.

In addition, if you feel your business sites are only going to scale, and management of them all is going to become too overwhelming, looking into WordPress Multisite is a good idea.

For instance, think about WordPress.com. It hosts millions of blogs and billions of web pages each and every month, all on one WordPress installation, which attests to Multisite’s scalability. And, since WordPress.com doesn’t have the features a WordPress.org website does (such as plugins), the risk of needing different functionality and design on each individual site just doesn’t exist. That’s why using WordPress Multisite works.

In addition, there are major websites that are taking advantage of the benefits of WordPress Multisite right now.

The Wall Street Journal uses WordPress because it’s easy to set up and get running in a cinch. But, it also uses WordPress Multisite as a way to host news portals, such as the China Real Time Report:

WordPress Multisite Example - China Real Time Report

Notice that the domain name references the Wall Street Journal, and that linking back to the main page of the Wall Street Journal is easy to do from this web page. In addition, the general design, page layout, and functionality are the same, making Multisite the perfect option for managing their many websites.

Another exceptional example of a website using WordPress Multisite is Edublogs.

WordPress Multisite Example - Edublogs

Edublogs is an educational blogging network that uses a WordPress Multisite to host additional websites, such as What Else, on it:

WordPress Multisite Example - What Else

Again, notice that you can easily jump back to Edublogs by clicking the small bar at the top of the screen, and the domain name reflects the main site Edublogs. However, it’s also good to note that this is a separate website that functions independently of Edublogs as well, making it a great example of Multisite in practice.

Final Thoughts

In the end, WordPress Multisite is a complex solution for those looking for a way to manage multiple websites from one location. However, the niche of business sites that can truly benefit from it, disadvantages and all, is actually very small.

In fact, if you find yourself with multiple business sites, and need a way to manage them all, without combining them into one WordPress install, you might want to consider investing in a management tool like ManageWP instead.

As the most first, and most well-known WordPress management system available today, ManageWP gives you all the benefits of using WordPress Multisite, without all the drawbacks.

For example, manage as many WordPress websites as you want from one convenient dashboard, but keep them separate so you can define user roles, change the design and functionality independently, and even clone and migrate sites as you see fit, without affecting all of your websites every time.

However, ManageWP makes the management of your sites easy when it comes to things like core/plugin/theme updates, site backups, SEO optimization, and traffic monitoring. Simply apply the changes you want to the sites you want with one-click.

In other words, using a management tool like ManageWP, that helps you manage your multiple business sites from one place, makes the admin part of running multiple sites easy, without adding in restrictions when it comes to moving, designing, and operating your sites.

So, if you are an online business owner looking for a way to make your life much easier, while still growing your business to generate more revenue than ever using multiple WordPress websites, get in touch with ManageWP today and see how we can help you with your site management needs today.

Lindsay Liedke

Lindsay is a freelance writer who loves all things WordPress. When she is not writing she can be found spending family time with her son and two silly nephews.

6 Comments

  1. ThisHosting.Rocks

    I’ve been using both multisite and multiple WP sites. This comparison is great, came in handy.

  2. Marko Tanaskovic

    Thank you everyone for you comments. We’ll make sure to correct all the misrepresentations in the article.

  3. Tom

    In the list of “cons,” bullet point 3 is wrong. In fact you *must* define roles for users on each individual site which they have access to. If you don’t specify a role for a user on a site, that user has no access to the back end at all.

    Also, point 5, the best practice is to use the wp-config.php to disallow editing of themes and plugins. Obviously use child themes if one of your sites needs something customized from the out-of-the-box version; and if a plugin has to be customized, make a copy (because your changes would be erased on the next update anyway). And mucking with core is certainly a mistake anyway.

  4. Denny Cave

    For many people, separate WP installs are going to serve their needs much better than some kind of a Frankenstein’s monster mashup of plugins, themes, etc in a multisite setup. And for those managing multiple individual WP installs, ManageWP is certainly the go-to solution. On that much we agree.

    However, I feel like a few of the cons in your list are misrepresented and just wanted to add some clarity for anyone considering WPMU. Specifically:

    1) “Access controls/user permissions cannot be defined for individual websites (e.g. an editor on one site will be an editor on all sites).”

    Not sure if this was intended to mean that a USER who is defined as an editor will automatically have editor permissions on all sites, or if you meant that an editor ROLE on one site will have the same privileges on all sites, but both are untrue.

    Straight from https://codex.wordpress.org/WPMU_FAQs#Can_blogs_have_multiple_authors.3F : ” Users can have different roles (editor, admin, author) on different blogs.”

    And as for assigning different privileges to the same role on different sites – this is easily handled by https://wordpress.org/plugins/user-role-editor/ or one of the other various role management plugins.

    2) “There is no way to restrict plugins, and thus functionality, on individual sites.”

    This is also completely untrue. You can activate plugins on a per-site basis or activate them network wide.

    3) “Downtime that affects one site will affect all sites on the WordPress Multisite install.”

    I think I understand what you’re going for, but this is not entirely accurate IMO. A single site on the platform could have any number of reasons for downtime (ranging from configuration issues on WPMU install to misconfigured DNS entries to the DNS servers themselves) that don’t impact any other sites on the network. Downtime as a result of a problem with the core WP installation itself (bad plugin updates/incompatibilities, hacks, DDOS attacks, etc) is the single point of failure that could bring the network down.

    It’s admittedly a minor point of difference and I don’t think that was intended to be misleading, but my point is that downtime is more likely going to be caused by bad network management or hacking than it would be by any particular site being a bad actor of some kind.

    At any rate – WPMU is still definitely suited for niche use by people who really know what they’re doing. It’s much more trouble than it’s worth if you’re not experienced in server admin, network management, and the many quirks of WP.

  5. Corcules

    Most of the « cons » are false. User permission can be set site by site, plugins and themes can be different on each site….
    I don’t understand the goal of this post obviously without real experience or any little depth about pro/con reflexion.

  6. Surbma

    Lindsey, it seems you don’t know WordPress multisite at all. There are a lot of points in your”cons”, that are simply not true. It’s a shame writing such an article about multisite.

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Add as many websites as you want for free, no credit card required. Sign up and start saving time!

Have questions? Get in touch!

Over 27,000 WordPress professionals are already using ManageWP

Add as many websites as you want for free, no credit card required. Sign up and start saving time!

Have questions? Get in touch!

Over 27,000 WordPress professionals are already using ManageWP

Add as many websites as you want for free, no credit card required. Sign up and start saving time!

Have questions? Get in touch!