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How To Install & Setup WordPress Multisite Network

Understanding WordPress multisite

WordPress Multisite facility is one of the most distinguishing features of WordPress. This feature allows you to create more than one website in one WordPress installation. Therefore, you can create a set of websites without creating sub-domains and installing WordPress on each of them. Excellent feature, right?

Today, I will discuss how you can set up multisite on your WordPress installation. After reading this article, you will be able to create multisite networks quickly. If you haven’t heard of multisite before and wondering whether it will be useful for you or not, I have got you covered too.

Advantages of WordPress Multisite

Multisite is a very powerful feature of WordPress. A significant benefit of multisite is that you can administer all the sites in your network from a super administrator account. You don’t have to create separate admin accounts in each of those sites. However, you can still create separate admin accounts for these sites and assign them to others if required.

Another advantage of multisite is you will be able to install themes and plugins in all your multisites at once. They could be updated at once too.

Also, you can update the WordPress installation of all the websites of your network with a single click. When you use multisite, you don’t have to go through the updating process once for any of your websites.

Do You Need Multisite?

Just having a bunch of different WordPress websites does not necessarily qualifies you for using WordPress multisite. There are dedicated solutions available for managing multiple WordPress sites from one place. Some of the most used services include ManageWP, InfiniteWP etc.

So, What Could be the Ideal Scenario for Using Multisite?

WordPress multisite could be useful if you have a large company website with lots of sub-divisions scattered in different locations. It could also be useful if you run a blog platform, allowing the users to open their blogs. Or if you have magazine websites with many different sections, or you run a government website with lots of sub-divisions, offices and branches.

The possibilities are endless for making use of WordPress multisite. From the previous examples, I think you recognize that you need to have some similarity between the sites of a multisite network. They should share some common features and functions.

Moving forward, let’s get to the actual point – Installing WordPress Multisite.

How to Install Multisite in Your WordPress?

You will be glad to know that setting up Multisite in your existing WordPress installation is relatively easy.

A word of caution – If you have not changed the default permalink structure, please change it now. WordPress multisite does not work with the default permalink settings.

If this is your first time with multisite, I suggest you try this first in localhost or a test website. Then when you are confident enough, you can apply these in your real sites. And before you use multisite in your live websites, always make a backup of your database and files.

Okay, in order to install multisite in your current WordPress installation, you need to add this line in the wp-config.php file –

define( 'WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true );

Make sure that you have put the code before the “/* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */” line.

Save the file and go to your WordPress dashboard.

Hover over the Tools menu, you will see a new menu titled “Network Setup”.

This is the place where we will setup our WordPress multisite.

Next, Go to Tools -> Network Setup, you will see a notice like the following –

Create Network of WordPress sites

So, head over to the “Plugins” menu and deactivate all the plugins. Then, get back to Network Setup. This time, you will see a screen like this –

WordPress multisite network

If your WordPress is installed in a sub-directory, then you will receive a warning that you will need to install other websites into sub-directories. On the other hand, if your website is older than a month, you will be forced to use sub-domains. This is done to avoid any potential conflict with your existing pages or posts.

There are two fields for defining the “Network Title” and “Network Admin Email”.

After providing them correctly, click “Install”.

During the installation process, WordPress will automatically create necessary tables in the database and will provide you with this screen –

Install WordPress multisite network

Here, you are provided with some code that needs to be added to your wp-config.php and .htaccess files. The code will vary according to your WordPress installation and server directory structure.

You don’t have to worry about that; these will be automatically created for you.

While adding the code to wp-config.php file, make sure that you add them after

define( 'WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true );

and before “/* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */”.

And while adding the code to the .htaccess file, first delete your existing code  and paste the new code between these tags as shown –

# BEGIN WordPress

<-- Paste other code here -->

# END WordPress

At this point, you need to log in again. Once you log in, you will find a new menu item titled “My Sites” in the top menu of your WordPress dashboard.

Congratulations! You have just created a multisite network in your WordPress website.

Setting up Subdomains

The multisite setup process for subdomains and sub-directories are exactly the same. However, there are some post-processing works for the subdomains. First of all, make sure that your current hosting plan supports subdomains. If not, contact your hosting company.

Also, verify that WordPress is installed in the root directory. Otherwise, subdomains won’t work.

Now, we need to map the subdomains to the WordPress installation so that they can use the same wp-config.php file.

WordPress codex suggests a number of ways to do this by –

  1. Configuring wildcard subdomains.
  2. Configuring the virtual hosts.
  3. Creating add-on domains or subdomains in cPanel or a similar web hosting control panel.

If you have already created some subdomains for your website, then avoid those subdomains while creating new sites in your network.

Now, let’s get back to the place where all the action happens. Where is that? The WordPress dashboard obviously!

The New Dashboard

Okay, once you come back to the dashboard, you will find a new menu item titled “My Sites” on the top menu.

“My Sites” will provide access to the network websites and to your main website. Go to My Sites -> Network Admin -> Dashboard. It will look almost like this –

WordPress multisite dashboard

Besides Dashboard, there are several other menu items in My Sites -> Network Admin. “Sites” will provide you with a list of networked websites along with their path, last update time, when they were created and a list of the users.

“Users” will show a list of current users from all the networked sites. They will be shown along with their email address, date of registration and the sites they are attached to. You will also notice that there is a new group titled “Super Admin”.

Super admins have administrator access to all the sites of the network. Super admin status is automatically provided to the account from which multisite was created. However, you can assign that status to others too.

The “Themes” page of the network admin area is quite different from the usual themes section we are used to. It will look like this –

Add new Theme to WordPress multisite

I know what you are thinking. This is looking like our good old plugins page, right? Well, this page not only looks like the regular WordPress plugins page, it works almost the same way too. You can enable or disable any theme for the network. While regular admins can enable or disable themes, only super administrators can add new themes to the WordPress dashboard.

The “Plugins” section works as you think. Like the network themes, you have to activate plugins for the network. Again, admins can enable or disable the plugin while super administrators can add new plugins to the network.

If you hover over “Settings” from your multisite dashboard, you will find two sub-menus – Network Settings and Network Setup.

Network settings for multisite

“Network Settings” is the section where you will be able to configure various options for your multisite network. You can control the registration system, ban specific usernames, ban certain email domains, etc.

Below, you will find options for configuring a new site and upload settings. All of them are self-explanatory, therefore, I won’t linger this post by describing them. However, if you are not sure about any option, the comment box is waiting for you.

And the “Network Setup” sub-menu will show you the original configuration steps, just in case. You don’t have to do anything with them, at least not at this moment.

And lastly, the “Updates” menu allows you to update the WordPress version, themes and plugins from one place. “Upgrade Network” is used for upgrading the database of your WordPress installation.

Creating a New Site in the Multisite Network

Creating a new site in your multisite network is as easy as going to Sites -> Add new. Provide the site address, site title and the admin email and click “Add Site”. If the email address is new, then a new user will be created, and the username and password will be sent to the email address.

Add new site to multisite network

Once the site is created, it will be shown in the “Sites” list. It will also be added to the top menu as a sub-menu under “My Sites”. From there, you can go to the dashboard of your new site. You will find links to all the necessary options for managing the new site in the dashboard.

Wrapping It Up

Well, I am going to end this WordPress tutorial here. WordPress multisite is such a wide topic that I can write on and on about it. But I think the above information is enough for getting started as a beginner. If you have followed me through the steps described above, then you have got a playground to test things out.

Explore and try to find out how you can make WordPress multisite work for you. If you face any problem, or need more detailed explanation, please let me know. I am here to help you.

Editorial Staff at Web Loggerz is a team of Web Technology lovers led by Ansh Gupta.

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