How to choose between WordPress Multisite and multiple WordPress instances

It’s common to be managing many different WordPress instances at once. Whether it’s for different businesses or multiple websites for the same business. That’s why, WordPress made managing lots of different sites easier via its multi-site functionality. However, which use cases are a good fit for WordPress Multisite? And when should you use a unique WordPress instance instead?

WP Multisite can save you time and frustration but comes with several restricting factors. Let’s take a closer look at what WordPress Multisite is, and which scenarios benefit from it most.

WordPress Multisite – Quick Intro

WP introduced Multisite from version 3.0 of WordPress onwards. With WP Multisite, you can run a number of virtual sites using a single WordPress instance. To external users, these sites look like discreet websites. But in fact, they run using the same code and the same database.

Each virtual site in a WP Multisite setup can have its own domain too. But the sites are all administered from a single WordPress instance.

When WordPress Multisite beats single WordPress instances

WordPress MultiSite Benefits - Plesk

Multisite will hold plenty of advantages for many admins. Because you can save time, money and stress. All by using a single WP instance to service several different websites by means of the WordPress Multisite feature. Here are the advantages.

Reduced server load

With WordPress multiple installations, each WP instance consumes a lot of resources just to stay alive. You need enough disk space and RAM to run WordPress. And this increases with the more instances you put on a server. Multisite from WP reduces this load because it uses one instance and one code base.

The same goes for the plugins and themes you use on WordPress. Because with Multisite, you can use a single plugin and theme instance. So you don’t need to keep several copies of the same code on your machine just to run discreet websites. You can effectively run them using the same code.

Reduced management tasks

It’s quicker and easier to manage updates for plugins, themes and the entire WP CMS with just one code base. You only need to update and bug-fix once. Then, you can stick to a single backup for both WP and the SQL database. Optimizing WordPress is also a pain – but with WordPress Multisite’s single codebase, you only need to optimize once.

It also helps to have just one set of credentials when you administrate WP. You can manage all content from one console. Of course, you also save time because you don’t need to set up WordPress for every new website.

Sites appear discrete

Users see the websites in WP Multisite as discrete websites, and individual sites can use their own domains. And this is true for SEO too! Search crawlers simply see each domain as a separate site. So, using WordPress Multisite won’t affect your SEO results.

Where WordPress Multisite struggles

WordPress MultiSite drawbacks - Plesk

You can’t really use WP Multisite for discrete businesses. This is because of too much sharing in the visual styling process, thanks to shared themes and shared admin access. Here are the scenarios where WordPress Multisite won’t work that well.

Security problems

Every user with access to a specific site in WordPress Multisite has access to all sites in WP Multisite. You can’t wall sites off from a user permission perspective. This goes for site plugins too. Themes and plugins have reach across all the sites in a WordPress Multisite instance. So a rogue plugin can break all your sites.

Plugin and theme sharing

Furthermore, shared plugins and themes can be a problem. Because making a change to a plugin or theme will affect all sites simultaneously. This means that the sites in a WordPress Multisite setup should really overlap.

Performance issues can surface

Every site in the WP Multisite installation uses the same database. So, you may find that multiple page requests lead to performance problems. You can manage this, but without WordPress Multisite, it wouldn’t be an issue to begin with.

Choosing between Multisite and separate installations

Does the same business or support staff run the sites? Are these sites similar enough to share themes and plugins? If you work for a business that needs multiple similar sites, such as an event manager, WordPress Multisite is a good choice. But choose multiple WordPress sites ( WordPress installations ) when different businesses own the sites, and where sites use vastly different functional layers. We also suggest to read this article on how to manage WordPress multiple sites. You’ll find a review of solutions for both approaches.

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