One Source: A Network of Sites
One of the coolest features of WordPress is the built-in ability to create a network of individual websites from a single install of the software. While not necessary for every site, it is perfect for things like blog networks (WordPress.com is a multisite), companies with multiple divisions that need greater control of their content, or even companies that maintain multiple websites.
Since everything is based off of one install, maintenance is very easy. The sites in the network can share themes, plugins, and users, but are still completely separate sites. All from a single source.
There are a few things to determine prior to installing WordPress (or changing an existing single site install to a Multisite). The first thing you’ll want to do is determine the structure of the sites, and what you want to do with them now and in the future.
Sites can have one of two structures: Subdomain or Subfolder.
Subdomain installs utilize a structure such as this:
Subfolder install utilize a structure such as this:
There are some differences and technical limitations around each of these, so check the resources below for more information.
Another thing you’ll want to determine is whether your hosting will allow for multisites. Shared hosting is typically not good (for anything really, but specifically Multisites), so if you need to, change hosts.
Also, for subdomain installs, you’ll need a wildcard domain set up in your DNS, and you many need to set specific configurations for your web server.
For more information on getting started:
Since we’re dealing with a network of sites, themes play a vital role. One of the strengths of a multisite installation is that you can use the same theme on multiple sites. You can also allow for site owners to choose from multiple theme options, or even let them use any theme they want.
When it comes to things like corporate sites, you can use themes to maintain consistency for the exact same look, or use theme elements to maintain branding in areas such as headers or footers. If a theme is used across multiple sites and gets updated, all of the sites will automatically display the changes, so it’s easy to make modifications across a network.
WordPress Mutlisite adds a new level of user, called a Super Administrator, who has access to everything in the network. This allows for each individual site to have a typical Administrator account for that site, just like a single install. The powerful part here is that the users are centralized to the network and can be assigned to different sites.
A user in the network may be an administrator for three different sites and, for example, not have any access to the other sites. In a corporate site, this means that a manager might have access to just their department site’s content, and none of the others. Or they can run a specific website in a group of companies, but can’t access any of the rest.
One thing to note is that not all plugins support multisite — though many well-known ones do — so you’ll need to check the support for the ones you want to use.
There are many excellent plugins out there for multisite installations. These plugins allow you to do things such as domain mapping (which allows you to setup your network so that domain2.com is mapped to site1.domain.com), sharing posts across the network, allowing for site duplication or content duplication from existing sites, allowing for the creation of a preset template for creating sites with set options, and so much more.
There are many excellent resources out there. WPMU is an extremely good source for multisite information, and they have a number of paid plugins for increasing the functionality and ease-of-maintenance of your network.
Check them out: