Managing Multiple WordPress Sites: The Ultimate Guide

Managing several WordPress sites can be very time consuming – especially when it comes to updating all of your plugins and themes.

It’s a problem many developers or owners of multiple sites face. Employing a tool to manage your various WordPress sites can save you a lot of time, and there’s a wide range of features to exploit in addition to updates and login details management.

This article will take a look at the most popular products on offer, and explore how suitable they are for varying needs. As there are a number of products with very similar features, we’ll also compare how each performs in a number of important areas.

Before we get started, a quick clarification ahead of time: the following products are for managing lots of separate WordPress installations – not to be confused with WordPress Multisite, which allows lots of different sites on the same installation.

Now, on with the show!

TL;DR: Scroll down to the bottom to see how we rated ManageWP, InfiniteWP, CMS Commander, WPRemote, iControlWP, Jetpack Manage, and iThemes Sync.

What to Expect: Common Features

Many the products available for managing multiple WordPress sites have almost identical features. In fact, some products have even been so “inspired” that the features use exactly the same code in entirely different commercial products.

To this end, you can expect some form of the following from most products:

  • Login detail management: either enabling you to access the dashboard from one centralized location, or just storing them in a handy place.
  • Update management: either automated or one-click across multiple sites.
  • Backup and security features.
  • Deployment options: enabling you to install, enable and disable plugins and themes across multiple sites with only a couple of clicks.
  • Uptime monitoring.
  • User management across multiple sites.
  • SEO tracking and insights.

Who Needs Tools to Manage Multiple Sites?

The most obvious candidates for using services to manage multiple WordPress sites are developers, many of whom will be responsible for updating their clients’ sites lest they have to perform disaster recovery due to outdated versions.

For those who aren’t developers but have multiple sites, such tools could also be useful if there are lots of similar plugins to update – although, again, the distinction should be drawn between these tools and Multisite, the latter potentially being suitable for those not developing for multiple clients.

Of course, with a number of products on the market, there are certain products more suited to different scenarios. Some may be more geared towards teams of developers rather than individuals, while price range is also worth consideration.

If you’re not using such a service but wondering if it has something you’re going to need, consider services like these as technically inessential, but very much time-saving and something that might become essential for your workflow in time.

A Run Down of the Best Options

  • 1. ManageWP

    ManageWP: The ultimate WordPress dashboard

    Imitated by many, surpassed by none!

    ManageWP is the original product of this kind, having been launched way back in the hazy days of 2011. That’s not to say that the product looks or feels old, although their upcoming modernizations won’t go amiss and seem very exciting.

    Nevertheless, the time that has gone into developing this product is something you can feel when using it; ManageWP is easy to use and packed with features.

    To highlight a few:

    • Update everything on every site in one click (or be more selective about it).
      • Ignore some updates (eg. if you know you’re going to face compatibility issues) and block regular site users from actioning them.
    • Access every installation’s dashboard from the one, central ManageWP dashboard.
    • Group websites (eg. by owner, type, etc.) and color code them.
    • Set up alerts for traffic and tasks like backups.
    • Google Analytics integration.
    • Clone websites.
    • Post to multiple installations.
    • Manage users and permissions across all installations.

    ManageWP also pioneered a “Worker” plugin, linking installations quickly to the central dashboard through a plugin, rather than being obliged to store login details on the system.

    Pricing for ManageWP is on four tiers, one of which is free. Additional features become available at each new level. You can have up to five sites on a Free account while paid packages enable you to pay for the number of sites you use. There aren’t any contracts, so plans can be increased and decreased in size, upgrading and downgrading packages, as needs be – although there are discounts available if you pay for annual or biennial subscription.

  • 2. InfiniteWP

    InfiniteWP is a free tool to manage multiple sites, making its money through the sale of add-ons that increase the functionality of the product. These include integration with Google Developer and Google Webmaster tools, and also a number of other features in the cores of some other products, such as backup scheduling, user management, uptime monitoring, bulk publishing and comment monitoring.

    Included in its free features:

    • Updates for plugins and themes.
    • The ability manually create and restore backups.
    • Install and manage plugins and themes.

    InfiniteWP is self-hosted, meaning that the control panel for each site must be downloaded and installed in a database, just like WordPress installations. Cron jobs must also be configured. A plugin then needs to be downloaded onto the WordPress installation and activation details copied across to link to the IWP dashboard. IWP points out that security is in the user’s hands when the solution is self-hosted although it does make installing a bit more of a faff, especially when linking to the sites doesn’t work.

    If going with a self-hosted solution like InfiniteWP, check that the server you’ll be using to run it is up to the task; some shared hosting solutions may find it overbearing.

    However, once the sites are up and running, the dashboard is pleasant enough to use. The add-ons are quite expensive on their own, but the bundle of extra features represents good value for money.

    Interested in 2. InfiniteWP?

  • 3. CMS Commander

    CMS Commander is a great hosted solution with some additional features that make it stand out from the crowd; its per-site pricing plans also represent excellent value for money. “Subusers” to share access with colleagues are also available, some included in larger packages and possible to purchase too.

    CMS Commander is another platform without contracts, allowing for package upgrades and downgrades per user needs, also offering discounts for annual payment rather than monthly.

    All its features are included in every package except its free option, with all the common features listed above implemented as well. In addition, CMS Commander has some less usual features, including:

    • Google Developer PageSpeed Insights.
    • Backlink monitoring.
    • Maintenance modes with customizable offline message.
    • “Automated content” for easy content creation from a number of providers.
    • “Management medals” that are awarded for completing small tasks to learn about the features provided. They don’t equate to anything in the long run, but it’s a fun way to do tutorials.
    • Advanced WordPress settings.

    Site grouping and mass comment moderation is also possible with CMS Commander.

    The dashboard is built around a normal WordPress dashboard, meaning it takes no time at all to settle into using it and there’s a feel of continuity between the dashboard and individual sites. Set up is easy and quick, utilizing a plugin that links very quickly to the central dashboard.

    The scale of support for the platform doesn’t amount to the same as some of the other products with larger workforces (rather than a single developer) but it’s adequate and for the very reasonable price you don’t necessarily expect 24/7 support.

    CMS Commander is also the way to go if you speak German, Spanish or Russian as the platform is currently available in these languages (in addition to English).

    Interested in 3. CMS Commander?

  • 4. WPRemote

    WPRemote used to be a paid-for service, but now all its features are available to any user free of charge. Those features aren’t especially numerous, but they are the essentials and probably most time-saving available. And WPRemote makes up for a scarcity of features not least because it’s very beautiful to use. Its dashboard is slick and fast, and the simplicity of the product makes it easy to use.

    Using WPRemote, users can:

    • Securely link sites using a plugin and API key (so no login details are stored).
    • Have core, plugins and themes automatically updated (unless they choose to “lock” them so it’s manual).
    • Add notes to sites.
    • Search sites.
    • Generate site backups.
    • View basic data about each site.

    Support is provided through a knowledgebase and email system, although the potential for anything to actually go wrong is minimal given the simple, well-executed nature of the features on the service.

  • 5. iControlWP

    iControlWP is one of the most full-featured and reasonably priced offerings on the market. Using their exclusive WorpDrive software, the developers set out to create an easy way to back up WordPress installations, and the full iControlWP multiple site management software has been the result.

    Features include:

    • Clear cross-site summaries.
    • Bulk and individual updates and controls.
    • WordPress site installation from the dashboard.
    • Sucuri site security options.
    • Database optimization.
    • Plugin and theme management, including automatic updates.
    • Login as any user.
    • Comprehensive, built-in support.
    • Multiple security options for the iControlWP dashboard.
    • Comment management.
    • Bulk content distribution.

    Although at times a little slow (even on a Superfast connections), the iControlWP dashboard looks good and is easy to navigate, despite the large number of features to navigate through.

    At only $0.95 per website per month and so many features iControlWP is an excellent offering.

    Interested in 5. iControlWP?

  • 6. Jetpack Manage

    One of the WordPress.org plugin repository’s most popular plugins, free Jetpack offers to supercharge self-hosted blogs with the features of WordPress.com.

    A module of the plugin, Manage, enables all sites on which it is installed to be managed from a single control panel on WordPress.com. From here, users can:

    • Manage plugins including updates and activation.
    • Post to self-hosted blogs from WordPress.com.
    • If enabled, view site statistics.

    Obviously not the greatest number of features, although they are free, well-implemented and chances are you may well be using Jetpack and visiting WordPress.com regularly anyway. Naturally, Automattic’s WordPress.com control panel is nice to use too.

    With a few more features, this would become a real contender in the multiple site management market, which would be very interesting to see given Automattic’s dominance pretty much anywhere it wants.

    Interested in 6. Jetpack Manage?

  • 7. iThemes Sync

    By all accounts, iThemes Sync is a solid choice for managing multiple WordPress sites, with all the normal features presented in a very aesthetically pleasing way. There’s also, conveniently enough, a feature to install iThemes’ own products alongside normal plugin and theme deployment options.

    Operating a labels system to group sites, updating is easy and shown in a clear way. Sync also has an iPhone app.

    Up to ten sites can be added to the free package and subsequent subscriptions are on the less expensive end of the spectrum, which is nice with such a good-looking product.

    Adding new sites is hypothetically easy, simply entering the URL and login credentials – and when that doesn’t work, there’s a plugin to download and install to the installation. Once they’re linked, managing plugins and themes is a joy, with a particularly good search, installation and activation layout.

    Overall, this is a very good option, particularly for someone with ten or fewer sites to manage (as with most, packages can be upgraded any time).

    Interested in 7. iThemes Sync?

Final Judgement

Ease of Setup

Especially if you’re planning on adding a lot of sites, making it easy to link sites to the product is important.

Ease of Setup

  • ManageWP:
  • InfiniteWP:
  • CMS Commander:
  • WPRemote:
  • iControlWP:
  • Jetpack Manage:
  • iThemes Sync:

Features

Simply, how much can each product do?

Features

  • ManageWP:
  • InfiniteWP:
  • CMS Commander:
  • WPRemote:
  • iControlWP:
  • Jetpack Manage:
  • iThemes Sync:

Value for Money

Price, but also what you’re getting for your money.

Value for Money

  • ManageWP:
  • InfiniteWP:
  • CMS Commander:
  • WPRemote:
  • iControlWP:
  • Jetpack Manage:
  • iThemes Sync:

Ease of Use

Ideally, products should be as intuitive as possible, with features easy to find.

Ease of Use

  • ManageWP:
  • InfiniteWP:
  • CMS Commander:
  • WPRemote:
  • iControlWP:
  • Jetpack Manage:
  • iThemes Sync:

Look and feel

Is the product aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable to use? After all, you could be spending quite a lot of time using it!

Look and Feel

  • ManageWP:
  • InfiniteWP:
  • CMS Commander:
  • WPRemote:
  • iControlWP:
  • Jetpack Manage:
  • iThemes Sync:

Efficiency

How much time can each product actually save you?

Efficiency

  • ManageWP:
  • InfiniteWP:
  • CMS Commander:
  • WPRemote:
  • iControlWP:
  • Jetpack Manage:
  • iThemes Sync:

Support

If you do ever run into problems, is there always someone on hand to help you, or are you stuck trying to figure it out on your own?

Support

  • ManageWP:
  • InfiniteWP:
  • CMS Commander:
  • WPRemote:
  • iControlWP:
  • Jetpack Manage:
  • iThemes Sync:

Overall

Combine all those scores and you get…

  • ManageWP:
  • InfiniteWP:
  • CMS Commander:
  • WPRemote:
  • iControlWP:
  • Jetpack Manage:
  • iThemes Sync:

Conclusion

So, if you’re a developer and you don’t use one of these tools, you can probably see that they have the potential to save you a lot of time.

Many of them have very similar features and there’s not really a clear winner, but what suits individuals best varies. In my humble opinion, ManageWP offers the best overall service, and I’m seriously excited about their upcoming “Orion” release, but it’s up to you to go out and explore your options.

If you have any experience of these – or other similar – products, what do you find to be the most time-saving feature? Let us know in the comments.

23 Responses

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    https://mainwp.com/

    Only the extensions are paid products.

    i think that is a good product but i use it on shared hosting so i had several problems due hosting restrictions (special for backup and clone functionaltities). The support are great, the reply after 10 minutes!!!

    I think that this kind of tools have to add module to manage also payment, bills and other stuff like a crm-erp for wordpress project!! i know is a complicated project:(

    • Author

      Hi,

      A lot of people use MainWP, so I wanted to show a few less-known (but still great) available alternatives.

      If you happen to like one of these plugins but feel that it’s missing one or more important features, you can (and should!) always contact its developers to let them know what you think. Any good developer enjoys receiving feedback and makes good use of it. If they receive enough requests, they’ll probably implement those features you need.

      Cheers,

      Tom

      • New Recruit

        ManageWP isn’t quite less-known solution, like others mentioned in this article, too. Among all well established and known managing multiple sites solutions only MainWP is missing in this very good article, which would be great if MainWP would be included in this comparison.
        Is it possible to include MainWP so we all have better visibility among all the main players, as article usefulness would be greatly enhanced?

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    I recently stopped using WPRemote because it was to unreliable. To many failed updates that would make that a plugin after update kept inactive or that files went missing and the plugin disappeared completely from the admin. A lack of feedback if an update was truly successful or not. So far these issues didn’t appeared in infiniteWP

  • The Incredible Code Injector

    Like @Ricahrd above, I also had a problem with WPRemote.

    I used it because it was free, and all I needed was something basic to update plugins, themes and WP itself. Like this review says, it’s beautiful to look at and easy to use. For a long while, I was quite happy with my early morning routine of checking the WPRemote dashboard and updating everything with one click. It was a dream!

    ….Which turned into a nightmare.

    One of my clients e-mailed me one day, wondering why I took away the ability to add Events to his site. When I investigated, I saw that — sure enough — the events plugin I had installed was suddenly gone, and ALL the events that hd been added over time had disappeared. After a brief panic, I ended up reinstalling it and thankfully it was one of those plugins where all the data remains even after deletion. But if it hadn’t had been…

    I traced the problem due to a WPRemote plugin update that I did the previous week. Yep — my client’s site had been without events for a whole week. Who knows what confusion or trouble that caused. After even more investigation, I noticed a handful of plugins on other sites that had been suddenly deactivated. But it was that one Events plugin that got completely deleted that haunted me the most. What other plugins may have been deleted entirely, and I just had no idea what was even missing??

    The disturbing thing is that there was never a warning that things were being deactivated or even deleted. There was simply “success” messages each time I used WPRemote.

    I immediately contacted WPRemote about the issue, but they took almost a week to respond. Their reply was basically something like “Yeah, it’s rare, but that’s been known to happen due to factors we can’t control.”

    Wonderful.

    Sadly, it made me no longer trust WPRemote. What’s the point of using a service like this if you have to go through all the trouble of double-checking if everything REALLY updated, or if something possibly deactivated, or worse deleted. (And many plugins do NOT save the data, so I’d be screwed if that happened again).

    It’s also made me worried about using ANY kind of service like this, frankly. Yes, I LOVE the concept of anything that makes my job way easier. But the not knowing if it’s really working or not is just too stressful…

    • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

      Exactly, a management plugin is useless if you have to manually check every updated site after you updated it. I noticed however that when re-installing from the dashboard I also got a notice like “can’t install because the plugin map already exists”.
      And indeed contact forms or WooCommerce that get deactivated is disastrous for some websites. Although during updates I don’t think the deactivate/delete hooks get fired so the data in the database should be completely safe.

      • Author

        Hi Anton and Richard.

        One thing life has taught me is that we don’t always need things to come out perfect, we just need to know what we can count on. Personally, I’ve never had problems with WPRemote — and I’m sure that it works just fine for many of its users, otherwise it wouldn’t be so popular. That said, if that ever happened to me, either with WPRemote or any other plugin, I’d do exactly as you did: uninstall it and try something else. This is one of the things I like most about WordPress: more often than not, there’s more than one plugin one can use for any given purpose, so we almost always have a choice.

        Thanks for your feedback guys.

        Cheers,

        Tom

  • ron
    New Recruit

    I note that some of the systems above have to install a client plugin to be able to connect. Does this leave a footprint for google to find? I do run a number of PBN sites for SEO and would love to be able to update everything almost at once but can’t find a footprint free system. There were some I found that advertised footprint free but contained that client plugin. I did not want to trust them.

    Is there any genuine footprint free plugs anywhere?

  • New Recruit

    I’m a big fan of InfiniteWP. Not THE biggest fan (some of their “premium” plugins leave a lot to be desired) but it definitely does the trick for me. As the review says it’s self-hosted, something I consider to be a feature not a bug. You do have to manually install it on a host but it’s no harder than installing WordPress.

    Once it’s set up and running it’s got a *LOT* going for it though. Like other managers with helper plugins you don’t need to share login credentials. That’s especially nice if, like me, you use the enterprise plugin to delegate certain tasks like routine updates, backups, and security scans to junior employees.

    I chose it a couple of years ago after comparing all main management consoles for features and price. I particularly appreciate that it doesn’t cost more to manage more sites. That makes it VERY easy for me to not only monitor sites I’m paid to manage but to protect, backup, and update sites in development, sites for friends and family, sites for local non-profits, and even to keep an eye on dozens of former client’s sites.

    I do have a couple of beefs (I really wish their client reporting plugin took advantage of the very detailed log files. There’s just no point in sending a client a giant PDF that says little more than “13 backups and 31 plugin updates.” (It can send the reports to clients automatically but again I don’t feel they’re impressive enough to bother.) The developers could be a little quicker to respond to trouble tickets as well. And finally I wish it was a little easier to specify files to exclude in backups too. But those are quibbles not show stoppers.

    Overall I’ve been very happy with my results — I can easily and relatively affordably keep 40+ WordPress sites monitored, updated, backed up offsite (to Amazon S3), security-scanned, and uptime monitored. To delegated employees with specified roles.

    Two quibbles with your review: if, as you suggest, you buy the plugin suite the feature set is more extensive than your chart suggests. Closer to 4.5 than the 2.5 you gave it. If not then 2.5 is fair. But if instead you use the free version then shouldn’t the value for money (free!) be closer to JetPack’s 5? (Same price as JetPack but more and more valuable features.)

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