How to Build a Hosting Business with WordPress Multisite

Here at WPMU DEV, we’re huge fans of WordPress Multisite. It powers our vast Edublogs network of educational blogs and our CampusPress business designing and hosting sites for schools and universities.

And if you’ve read any of my posts on this site, you’ll know that I’m personally more than a bit of a fan too. I use Multisite to host personal projects, demo sites to accompany online tutorials, and my clients’ sites too.

Multisite has the potential to support a successful WordPress business because it lets you or your clients add as many sites as needed to one WordPress installation, which makes managing all those sites incredibly easy – and much cheaper than creating multiple installations.

Editor’s note: This post was first published in 2013 but we’ve updated the content so it’s now current for 2017. Enjoy!

edublogs home page
Edublogs hosts millions of sites on one WordPress Multisite installation

But if you’re thinking of launching a business powered by Multisite, you might be wondering what the options are. In this post, I’ll outline the three models you can use to build a business on WordPress Multisite, and help you identify which is for you, or whether you’ll be better with a combination of two or three of them. I’ll also give you some tips for making it work and point you in the direction of some plugins that you’ll need to help you do it.

So let’s get started!

Building a Multisite Business: The Options

I’ve worked with three different models for running a WordPress Multisite business, with varying degrees of success. You may find that there are elements of each that work for you, or that you want to combine all of these options. But understanding them better will help you make the right decision for you, your market and your business.

The three options are:

Option #1: Hosting client sites you build

This is what I do with my agency, Compass Design. It means developing client websites and then hosting those sites on your own Multisite installation. You create the sites and develop or customize bespoke themes and/or plugins for them, maybe using a theme framework.

Option #2: Letting users create and tweak their site

This means providing a page from which users can set up their own site and then giving them some options for amending their site’s content and appearance. Using the Customizer is key to this – and it helps if you can add your own customization options to your theme(s). My Edupress business works like this – there’s one theme which users can tweak via the Customizer, and a three-tier range of site plans with different content types.

Option #3: Letting users create their site and activate any of a range of themes and/or plugins

Our Edublogs network works like this. Users have a choice of themes and plugins they can activate on their site, with additional ones available for a fee. It gives users more control but is less suitable for users who don’t know what they’re doing and prefer to leave it to you.

You’ll notice that the three options give your clients or users different levels of control – the first gives them no control over the site configuration, just letting them add content, the second gives them more control and the third gives them almost as much control as if they created their own WordPress installation from scratch. The fees you charge for each will, therefore, be different for each, with the first option being the most expensive and the third the cheapest, reflecting the development work you’ll have to put into your network and your clients’ sites. If you go with the cheapest option, you’ll need more clients, while if you go for the most expensive you’ll need to invest more time in each of them.

Let’s take a look at each of the options in more detail.

Option #1: Hosting client sites you build

I’ve been building WordPress sites for clients for seven years now. When I started, each client had their own WordPress installation using reseller hosting. As time passed I noticed a few things that were (or weren’t) happening:

  • My clients never accessed their hosting admin screens, preferring me to do it instead.
  • Most clients never made any changes to their site configuration and many didn’t update their content either, hiring me to do it instead.
  • I tended to install a core set of plugins on every site, meaning I had to keep them updated on every site.
  • I developed my own theme framework and used a child theme for each site. This meant keeping the framework updated on every site.
  • Every time WordPress was updated, I had to update every site, which became more time-consuming as I grew my client base.
  • After a hosting problem, I switched all of my client’s email accounts to Gmail, meaning I didn’t need the email functionality on the reseller hosting.

I decided that my business model wasn’t very efficient and that it could be improved if I switched to using Multisite to host client sites. I spent a (laborious) weekend moving all of my client sites across to one Multisite installation. Only a small number stayed on their own installation, either because the client needed separate access or the site wasn’t compatible.

Compass Design website
My Compass Design agency is built on Multisite

This made life easier for me (only one set of themes and plugin to maintain) and my clients (no hosting provider to deal with) and freed up more of my time for working with clients, developing sites and writing. Managing updates is the main area where I’ve found efficiencies – this takes a fraction of the time that it did in the past.

If you decide to go down this route, then it helps if your sites have at least some of their code in common – maybe a shared parent theme or theme framework and a bunch of shared plugins. This will limit the number of themes and plugins you’ll need to maintain.

Option #2: Letting users create and tweak their site

This option gives your users more control over their site but still limits the number of themes and plugins you need to host on your network.

You can let your users tweak their sites in two different ways:

  • Via the Customizer. This is my favorite way to do this. By adding advanced Customizer integration you can let your users upload logos, add content to their header and footer, and amend the colors and/or layout on their site. All without having to install a new theme. You can either add the Customizer integration in your theme or via a plugin, which is what I do, to keep things separate. You can learn how to add this by following our tutorial on the Customizer.
  • Via child themes. Install a parent theme on your network that controls most aspects of the site design, with child themes that add custom colors, fonts or layouts. This is an alternative to using the Customizer and can be used to achieve the same thing. This would give your users a “menu” of themes they could select from, instead of the ability to make their own tweaks via the Customizer. It gives users less control but helps to ensure the design consistency of the sites on your network. It’s also a bit simpler for clients.

Alternatively, you could use a combination of these – maybe giving users a few child themes to select from, with different layouts, and then using the Customizer to let them tweak colors and fonts.

The benefit of this is that it gives your users an incredibly easy way to create and configure their site if they’ve never done it before. By using the Customizer they can see exactly what changes they’re making, and the limited number of options means that you can ensure design quality for all the sites in your network. The downside is that clients might not like to have an identikit site, especially if you’re marketing to a small niche who don’t want their site to look like those of their competitors.

Your clients can use the Customizer to tweak their sites

This can work well if your users aren’t too worried about having a distinctive brand. Some years ago I built a network of sites for politicians, (unfortunately it flopped), many of whom wanted a very similar design to other users from the same political party. This approach could also work well in markets where customers have limited budgets and technical skills, such as freelance writers.

Option #3: Letting users create their site and activate any of a range of themes and/or plugins

This final option is the one we use for Edublogs. With a free Edublogs site you have a choice of hundreds of themes and plugins, and this expands for premium users.

edibles plugins page
Edublogs includes hundreds of plugins

As Edublogs has over three million users, this sort of flexibility is crucial. I’m an Edublogs user and I’m pretty sure my blog looks different from the millions of other blogs out there – in fact, I know there are lots that look way better than mine!

This third option gives users an experience which is similar to what they would get if they were to install WordPress with their own hosting provider, but without the hassle of arranging hosting and doing the installation. You can choose how many themes and plugins your users have access to, and where you get them from, and you can offer some themes and plugins for free and others as premium, with extra ones available on higher priced plans.

Deciding This Option is Best For You

So these are the three options available to you. But, having decided you want to build a business hosting WordPress sites, how do you go about choosing which one is right for you?

Here are some of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself.

How Much Contact Do You Want With Clients?

You might see yourself working closely with clients and helping them build their online presence, or you may see yourself as purely a service provider with minimal interaction with clients. The first option is better for those who want close links with clients, while the third and second options are better for those who don’t.

Beware though – even if you go for the third or second options, you can’t hide from your clients. They will have questions and problems that they’ll need your help fixing. Which means you’ll need some sort of system for them to contact you for support. This could be via a support system on the site or via email or phone – personally I’d recommend a support system on your site (either in the front end, back end or both) as this keeps everything in one place and lets you track support tickets. Our Support System plugin does that job for you – more of which shortly.

Do You Have a Well-Defined Market?

If you’re working with a small number of clients and hosting their sites that you’ve developed, then it doesn’t really matter what market you’re working in. Some agencies choose to focus on one market or sector, but others (like my own) have a range of different clients.

But if you’re adopting a more hands-off approach that requires clients to find your site and set things up themselves, then your offering will need to be really well defined. And it will need to be squarely aimed at a market that you know well.

Forget about being the next WordPress.com. That opportunity is already taken. A niche similar to the one we’ve carved out for Edublogs is much more realistic. Find a market you’re familiar with and understand, and develop something that meets its needs. Then you can focus your marketing efforts.

How Big Is Your Market?

Be realistic with yourself here. If there’s potentially a significant market, and your research shows you that you’re filling a niche for that market, then a more hands-off option will enable you to take on more clients. If you’re not sure about the size of your market, you could try adopting more than one option at once. For example, my Edupress business offers both Option 1 and Option 2, meaning that clients can have a branded site using the Customizer, or if they pay for development time they can have a completely bespoke site.

WPMU DEV marketing course
Our marketing course will help you make a success of your hosting business

Follow our course on marketing your WordPress business.

Edublogs and CampusPress work a bit like this – they both work off the same Multisite installation. Edublogs customers choose and customize themes and plugins themselves, doing the heavy lifting when it comes to creating their site. CampusPress clients have a bespoke site developed for them, which they can then manage and update using the same admin system.

Do You Have Development Skills?

If you have experience developing bespoke sites, then you’re more likely to make a success of Option 1 than someone with no coding skills. If all you’ll be offering is third party themes and plugins, even if these are premium themes and plugins, then you won’t be adding much value for your clients if you charge them for installing those and setting up their site. Not that there isn’t a market for this – but my feeling from talking to developers and agency owners is that this market is shrinking in favor of developers who can build bespoke sites themselves.

So if your business offers people access to code you’ll be buying from another provider, the main benefit you’ll provide is in ease of use – in which case Options 2 and 3 are more likely to be appropriate.

How About Your Selling Skills?

The more hands-off your approach, the less you’ll be able to charge. And the less you charge, the more clients you’ll need. Which means selling to more people.

I’m someone who is happy selling a bespoke service to clients I can build a relationship with. I don’t have to go out and find clients as I get enough of them through word of mouth, which means I don’t have to engage in sales or marketing, something I don’t particularly enjoy. This is why my agency (on Option 1) has been much more successful than my website hosting business (Options 2 and 3). I simply don’t have the skills or inclination to spend lots of time chasing new clients and closing deals.

If you do have these skills, or can hire someone with them, then your efforts will be put into getting as many clients as possible rather than into servicing those clients, in which case a more hands-off model would work. This belies the myth that if you set up a hosting business you’ll never need to talk to a client again!

Do You Enjoy Working With Clients?

If you don’t enjoy working closely with clients and helping them to grow their online brand over a period of time (as opposed to simply building a website and walking away), then Option 1 probably isn’t for you.

If, on the other hand, you like to watch your clients’ businesses grow, to see how your work contributes to that, and to develop ongoing relationships with your clients, then a hands-on approach working with a small number of clients will be right up your alley.

Whichever option or options you go for, it’ll be more successful if you enjoy it, as you’ll be better at it and more motivated.

Making it Work: Top Plugins

So you’ve decided which option or options are for you, you’ve considered the fit with your skills and preferences, and you know what your market is.

There are a number of plugins that, in addition to a Multisite installation itself, will make it much easier for you to establish a successful hosting business. Some of them are free, others aren’t, and most of them are ours. There’s a reason for that – we’ve developed these plugins to support Multisite-based hosting and are experts in the field.

Here are the plugins I’d recommend for a hosting business built on Multisite.

Domain Mapping

Domain Mapping plugin page on WPMU DEV

If your clients need to have their own domains, then the Domain Mapping plugin makes this easy. You can either map your clients’ domains yourself (which you’re more likely to do if you’re building the sites) or you can provide instructions to help them do it (relevant if you’re letting them create their own sites).

You can make this free of charge or you can charge for it – it’s up to you. The premium version of your plugin lets you enable domain registration and payment right from your site, helping you make money from this option, while the free version doesn’t include that but still lets you or your clients map domains.

Read our guide to using Domain Mapping with Multisite.

Pro Sites

Pro Sites plugin on WMPU DEV site

If you’re running a network that lets your clients tweak or create their own sites, then Pro Sites will make this much easier.

The plugin lets you set different charging levels, charging for tiered plans that incorporate different plugins and themes, or it lets you charge for individual themes and plugins. You can also define things like memory use and uploading certain file types as premium offerings. Set this alongside a free option for your basic features and you’ve got a great business model.

Read our guide to using Pro Sites with Multisite.

Ultimate Branding

Ultimate Branding plugin on WPMU DEV site

You want your hosting provision to look slick and professional, don’t you? Ultimate Branding makes it easy. The plugin lets you brand your login screens and as many aspects of your admin screens as you want, as well as adding branding to some aspects of the front end.

With this plugin, your Multisite installation will stand apart from other ‘vanilla’ installations and make your clients feel that they are getting something unique for their money, something with added value.

Read our guide to using Ultimate Branding with Multisite.

Support System

Support System plugin on WPMU DEV site

Whichever of the above options you choose, you’ll need a way of communicating with your clients and users. Our Support System plugin provides you with an interface to receive, manage and respond to support tickets. Logged in users can raise tickets from the admin area of their site or from a page you create in your main site on the network.

You can also use the plugin to add FAQs to your site, answering commonly asked questions so that people don’t have to wait to raise a ticket. I use this system with my clients for everything from answering their questions to receiving content that I add to managed sites for them, and find it far easier to manage than the humble email.

Read our guide to using Support System with Multisite.

Plugins for Performance and Robustness

The Hub from WPMU DEV

The plugins above are my favorites for creating a Multisite-based hosting solution. But don’t forget to compliment them with our plugins for performance and security – Snapshot Pro for backups, Hummingbird for performance, SmartCrawl for SEO and Defender for security. Make sure you install these so that your client’s sites will be found by search engines, will perform well and won’t have the risk of security attacks or downtime.

Even better, The Hub brings all this together, letting you monitor all your networks from one place.

Read our guide to optimizing your Multisite network’s performance and robustness.

WordPress Multisite is the Perfect Solution for a Web Hosting Business

If you want to make money from hosting websites, whether that’s sites you’ve developed for clients or ones that they create or customize themselves, then WordPress Multisite will help you to do this smoothly and with the minimum hassle.

By offering a streamlined approach to managing your hosting it will make you more efficient, maximizing your profit. It will make life easier for your clients, ensuring they stay loyal and tell their friends about you. And with the right plugins added, it will provide your clients with everything they need to own a robust, effective website.

Editor’s note: This post was first published in 2013 but we’ve updated the content so it’s now current for 2017. Enjoy!

Rachel McCollin
Do you run a Multisite network or have ambitions to build a business with it? What obstacles have you encountered along the way? If you have any questions after reading this post, ask away in the comments below.

138 Responses

  • The Incredible Code Injector

    Great tutorial! I have one question regarding: “As you might set up some templates to work with certain themes, however, this may cause some mismatching here and there if another theme is used. Users will need to be aware of that.”

    Is there a way to disable the users from being able to change themes to avoid this?

  • Recruit

    AWESOME post. I’ve got most of those plugins running on my multi-site at http://www.OrgSpring.org, which is setup exactly like you mention in this post and it works great. You guys make it easy to setup a mini-hosting company, and even easier to let clients get exactly what they want on the web, and do it in just a few minutes.

    Prosites makes the premium sites functionality really easy to use, but more importantly, easy for my clients to add functionality to their sites with very little hassle.

    WHMCS is not easy to use, and there is a bit of a learning curve, but once you get used to it, it is a very powerful system – one of the best I’ve used for provisioning sites quickly. The best part is, it takes complete control of recurring billing.

    I wish this post existed before I got my setup running. It would’ve saved me hours.

      • Recruit

        We have WHMCS installed as a subdirectory on the site, with the WHMCS integration and provisioning plugins under the wordpress installation.

        We used the integration plugin to make the WHMCS templates play nice under WordPress. It displays the member account info, invoices, payments, etc.

        The knowledge base and ticketing system of WHMCS is weak, at best. We use desk.com, and are able to map a domain for that to the site as well. We lose the login/support control, but we only give out the address to registered users that come through the prosites process, so it’s a wash mostly.

        hands down, the best features of WHMCS are billing and invoicing system, and ability to provision the server with the new site info.

  • New Recruit

    Great article, I’m currently running a web host combined with a design. I target my local market. I’m currently all over the place I use WordPress but not multi site, I use client exec for billing and domain registration. My question is how to I build a template from theme? Also would I set up multi site on my domain.

  • The Bug Hunter

    OK stop it right now, you are telling everyone how to do it!

    It took me a year to work that all out!

    Although I slightly disagree with the Video Tutorials, as they are all recorded in American :)

    At http://llocally.com we position ourselves some where between web host & web designer. Its difficult to explain, so we call it website building.

    What we did was write an awesomely flexible theme for ourselves, that makes it very easy to build a site within parameters very quickly. Of course there is a bit of design, but not mock ups / wireframes / reviews etc.

    There are also quite a few ‘custom’ plugins I had to write to get everything just the way it should be. But the plugins listed are the core.

    I published my initial list of plugins on my protype here 10 months ago
    https://premium.wpmudev.org/forums/topic/showcase-of-a-simple-network :)

    • New Recruit

      True, sites can go down. However, there are a number of people running successful sites built on Multisite. WP.com and Edublogs.org are but two. They have millions of users. You may say they are big companies and tech guys on hand all the time, but I know of single individuals running Multisite installs (Craig Grella, who commented above, is one).

      Also, this is only one option. There are others out there if this one doesn’t suit you.

    • The Bug Hunter

      All sites will only go down if there is a techinical problem with the server, or you release some bad code.

      If you release bad code, you should have a process where you can back it out in seconds.

      By default, multi-site shares on database, but guess what there is a plugin that allows you to distribute blogs across multiple databases.

      If the server goes down, thats really the same level of issue if you have multiple sites on one server, or one multi-site on one server.

      By the way, what do you do with your sites? I can’t recall having a site crash in WordPress ever, things has not worked after a bad software release but thats the worst I have had.

  • New Recruit

    I’ve set up multi site, and installed needed plugins for designer type of business. Several questions I have are…

    1. Are the any examples of what the front end might look like?

    2. I’m thinking on the front end for a designer there wouldn’t really need to be options to purchase packages… How do you feel about this?

    3. As far as payment processing how would this be accomplished, for me I deal with mostly local clients. However if by chance I get an online purchase what’s the best way to process payments? Would you recommend Just to to use Client Exec as it provisions the hosting accounts automatically?

    • New Recruit

      Taylor,

      You can make your front end look like anything you want it to. It’s just a regular WP site when you get down to it (with the power of the network behind it). I would just search around for other designer businesses and see what you like. Then take ideas from the best.

      In terms of purchasing, you could use the Pro Sites plugin if you wanted to, but you could also just set things up manually with PayPal if you wanted to go the simple route.

      PayPal seems to be the easiest route, and you can easily set up recurring payments, but you could get other solutions involved, like Client Exec, if you felt that was better for you. But PayPal is super simple — whether you’re sending the client a link through email or you have a pricing table linked up to PP.

  • WPMU DEV Initiate

    Hi Joe,

    What would you recommend for pursuing two or more niches? (For example florists and mechanics.) I was planning on using the Networks for WordPress plugin to allow me to support different niches with different templates but still have a single codebase.

    The main idea was that I could hopefully continue to expand into more niches as things progressed.

    Thoughts?

    Korak

      • The Bug Hunter

        “If you’re using domain mapping, then no one except you will ever know that you’re using Multisite in the backend.”

        This is not accurate.

        I think what was meant is closer to:

        If you’re using domain mapping, then very few of your visitors will ever know that you’re using Multisite in the backend.

        Even just running a webpagetest . org test on a website which is mapped to a site on a Multisite can reveal the link between the two sites through the resource location/transfer info… I’m sure that there’s a plethora of other ways that any interested and knowledgeable party can detect that you’re using a WordPress Multisite setup, or at least to reasonably deduce such.

        Anyways… Multisite sure is great, huh?

        So is this article. Cheers ;)

  • New Recruit

    Great article! What are your experiences when it comes to email? Many clients will want to use [email protected] but this is not possible if im right?

    I considered Google Apps and that is my backup but I was wondering if there was another option (saving me £33 per year per client).

    Also, does SEO get impacted at all? This article has largely resolved my dilema as to whether I should use WPMS for clients – I now believe I should!

    • New Recruit

      Hi – Thanks for the feedback.

      About the SEO, that shouldn’t matter (as long as you aren’t trying to gain SEO juice from other sites in the network, I guess I should say).

      About the email question — I asked our developers and support team here about that. Aaron (https://premium.wpmudev.org/profile/prayhumbly/public/) and Joe (https://premium.wpmudev.org/profile/aecnu/public/) answered. I’ll copy and paste what they said:

      As they are only changing their A record, their MX mail records can still point to any email service. Most registrars like godaddy will have that setup by default to point to theirs.

      (And then this …)

      This is totally dependent on how they choose to implement the mapped domain.

      Normally if the domain is mapped the end user is sending a “A” record to the IP of the MultiSite install which WordPress/Domain Mapping resolves ~or~ a CName record pointed at the sub site URL and the email stays right where it is already, if any or perhaps setup at GMail with their MX records etc.

      Optionally, one could set the name servers of the domain to the host with the MultiSite and the host then “parks” the domain which indeed creates MX records and the mail account can be served from that very host.

      So now they are hosting both the MultiSite sub site which has the domain resolving to it and the email.

      The disadvantage to this is the fact that the host will indeed need to, in most cases, manually add the email address to the server and manage said email addresses as applicable i.e. add/remove.

      ************

      Also, remember, you can get help in the Support Community when you need to deal with this issue. Good luck with it.

      • Recruit

        If i can chime in here on Joe’s reply…

        I thought alot about how I wanted this to work before I setup my site. Using WHMCS you can get alot of automation, and with some custom scripts you can even have customers order domains through you and auto-provision them to work with mapping – which I’ve done on my multisite.

        But, if you’re offering sites to people who might already have a TLD that they’d need to switch over, there is no automation for this. That means it will likely one of the options joe mentions…

        Option 1 – where you have the client messing with A and C records,
        Option 2 – where you just have them set custom DNS and you maintain the email.

        For me, I knew my customers were not going to be super tech savvy, which meant I needed to make it as easy as possible. I offered to go into their registrar and change the DNS for them and then I park the subdomain on my multisite, and make the appropriate changes with mapping.

        I knew there was no way they were going to mess with all those other records themselves. If they need email at that TLD I take care of that too. That way worked for me, because I turned it into a monthly service and charged for it.

        In the beginning, it was extra work and I thought many times of just making it more simple and letting people sign up for free and forget mapping altogether, but once you have a few paying customers it makes it worthwhile.

  • New Recruit

    I have got my installation set up and thanks to your advice in our discussion above, am directing my clients’ emails elsewhere to a hosted inbox provided by Go Daddy.

    New question:

    Lets say client A, (whilst being logged in to wordpress) somehow manages to visit client B’s website (a mapped domain on the same WordPress MS installation).

    Is there a way to stop Client A being logged in as a User and seeing the top WP bar on Client B’s website?

    All the best,

    Ben

    • New Recruit

      Ben – Are you sure you aren’t logged in as the Super Admin when you visit those other sites? Or do you have more than one site assigned to that same user?

      When I log into a site as one user, and then I go to a different user’s site, I am not logged in on that second site — i.e. I don’t see the WordPress bar at the top.

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    This is about the eighth time I’ve contemplated and reread this thread.

    I do promotion, I design, I market, I watch ad performance, website statistics, I’ve made several dozen sites w/ WordPress, and it’s past time for me to ‘Go Big’. So…

    I’ve got a $420 investment to WPMU – ok, sounds decent, I would need to buy the extended license for a couple of themes which might set me back a few grand – that will hurt a bit, but it’s the ‘cost of doing business’, and I’ll need a decent amount of time – ok, no problem; Let’s do this. Wait…

    How do I know if my current hosting – WestHost – will work with this?

    How easy is this to ‘automate’? In other words, I’m a bit leery of getting a few hundred people signed up…. Will I have to log into the hosting account and make changes for each account? ….or as mentioned above, when someone wants email?

    From what I understand, someone can make a ‘demo’ account – let’s say at the subdomain:
    mydemo.inspirethemes.com
    Now, once they get all their pages, images, and site looking the way they want, then they are ready to put this site on their own url. Ok, now is that automated as well, or will I have to manually do something to ‘move’ their site? (I’m not too swift with the whole ‘moving sites’, or doing anything deeper than changing MX records)

    Lastly, “For the love of all that’s good and Holy”, who wants to submit a bid to actually get this D-O-N-E and help me with set up? (speaking “Texan” is a plus)

  • Recruit

    Brad,
    If the client / blog creator uses a subdomain on your account there is no need to move anything.

    If he or she wants to use a custom top level domain that points to the blog they created on your site mapping would need to be involved, which means that person will have to point their domain to your server/IP address. Unfortunately, there is no practical way to automate that.

    The easiest way I’ve found to handle that process is in using email templates within WHMCS. When a new user creates a blog they are sent a welcome email from wordpress, but I set WHMCS to also send a welcome email that says if you’re using a custom domain the last step in the process is to change your dns. I then give them directions on how to do that, and mention that if they do not know how to do it I will do it for them if they log a support ticket.

    That has worked out ok.

    • Design Lord, Child of Thor

      Well… “Hola Craig” I hugely appreciate the feedback! Ok, so when you say “That has worked out ok” can I assume that means it hasn’t bogged down your time-vs-margin too much?

      Dang Craig, after checking out the site… I really, Really, REALLY appreciate the feedback even more now that I see what you’ve got going on!
      UDesign+NPO’s+WordPress = Instant Admiration!!

      Ok, so let’s run down a typical scenario real quick using “Awesome Church” as an example. They already have a site up (and just to make this a REALLY pragmatic example, let’s say that they’re using Cloversites.com) They don’t quite like it, it’s expensive, and still doesn’t really look too good, BUT…. They don’t want to take it down while they learn a ‘new’ system. They sign up, pick one of the NPO themes that I’ve bought the extended license from Themeforest. Following all the video tutorials from WPMU, and some custom tutorials made for each theme they make their new site, copy paste some of their content, follow all the pop-up help bubbles, learn how to upload / embed sermons, and things like that….

      Now, all this has been done on the hypothetical subdomain awesomechurch.inspirethems.com and now they are ready to take down the other [blatant cough – CloverSites.com] website and put up their new one that they just finished.

      A.) All the links, all the images, all of the ‘everything’ can simply be moved over to their new domain? …and it can be automated? …and still function correctly?

      B.) And if I charge some insanely low price like $25/month, does the support-vs-margin become null b/c I’ve priced myself too low? I seriously want to make this platform available for everyone, but I’m trying to iron out the costs ahead of time.

      Basically, what this comes down to is that a lot of folks are sick of cloversites, they call me, I get paid to redo their site, and another pastor or business owner sees it, and I get another call. Great right? Eh… it’s ok, but their has got to be a way to automate as much as possible, and make it affordable for both my family and the NPO as well.

  • Recruit

    I’ve never used cloversites, so can’t talk to that system, but the general idea would be to create a site on your network at somesite.yournetwork.com. All the while, the existing site http://www.awesomechurch.org stays put.

    THat person would use your templates or customize his or her new site until it looked the way they wanted, including all the posts, text, content, imagery, etc. he or she currently uses or has on their existing site exported out and imported into the new site.

    When the customizing of the new site on your network is done, that person changes their dns to your ip address and as soon as dns propagates, anyone who types in awesomechurch.org comes to the new site on your network.

    You remind the person to get rid of their old site, or back it up, and then cancel their account so they’re not paying double. If they used paypal on a subscription, remind them to cancel the subscription in paypal too, since not every processor will do that automatically.

    As far as time and energy, I can’t put a value on it for you, but as you do a few of them it gets much easier to repeat the process. As you do a bunch, you’ll probably start creating tutorial videos that help people with their own dns.

    In my experience, the people who care about their sites and are willing to pay $25-150 a month to make them look nice aren’t going to be dissuaded by a little domain work.

  • New Recruit

    Hello everyone!

    Thanks for a great article Joe.

    My biggest questions come from determining the costs involved with setting up the “hosting” type of business.

    I believe I read somewhere that edublogs pays around $10k/month for hosting their network.

    When I see hosting options (like edublogs) that give away free sites/blogs I wonder how much each site ultimately costs them.

    I alos wonder about the best hosting service to use when you start your “hosting” business.

    Someone above mentioned using a Hostgator reseller account.

    Is this the best option when you start?

    If so how you determine your costs for hosting, especially if/when the business scales up.

    Thanks in advance for any input!

  • Recruit

    Drew, I started with hostgator reseller. That will run you about $ 25 a month to start. If you use enom for domain names they require a deposit of something like $100 to an account from which domain name purchases are charged. Dedicated Ip address for running ssl costs $2 per month per site that needs it and the ssl costs $50 per year per site that needs it. White labeling whmcs runs $5 per month.

    The problem is that at some point your database will get big enough that hoatgator reseller accounts can’t really handle the computing power you’re going to need for things like backups, and they limit your bandwidth to the point where it is no longer cost efficient. The first site on my network that went over 50 k hits a month started giving my server issues.

    Ive used every backup program out there and there are issues with all of them, but most do a decent job. The only one I would stay away from is xmarkpro. Littered with bugs, support is non existent. Its a flaming terd of a program.

    From there youx can move up to a vps or dedicated server, which is what I use now and its fully managed, and I love it. You have so much more granular control of your server. You can expect to pay at least $50 per month for a good vps, and dedicated server will be twice that.

    In general, the idea is to work out your incremental site cost, then add in a margin f profit you can live with and make sure your site cost to your client is bigger than that number.

    Unfortunately, its hard to pin down that number until you get rolling and see what your audience is doing.

    Good luck.

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    Ok, earlier I mentioned that I had read this article about 8 times… The number of times I’ve read this has since WAY surpassed 8!!
    So…
    Where do I go for ‘pre-sale’ questions? I don’t mind dropping some money to outright buy a full on membership to WPMU, but…

    Is anyone else using Westhost? For testing purposes, I installed multisite on http://bradgriffin.me Ok, so far so good. Then I used the domain mapping plugin (not the one from WPMU, the ‘other one’ mentioned in the article that is on WordPress.org) Now, I’ve got a few test subdomains up and running http://smart.bradgriffin.me Looks good so far… WAIT:

    In order for me to have that subdomain, I had to
    1.) Log into Westhost’s cPanel and manually create / add the subdomain “smart” to my original url. Additionally, I had to manually point the folder to /public_html/bradgriffin.me So, am I to understand that the paid plugin from WPMU does this automatically? It’s kinda hard for me to really understand how the plugin will log into my hosting account and “automate” those steps that – from what I can tell – have to be done manually.
    …. Please help me understand this. Or is there another hosting that does this automatically?

    2.) Quoted from Craig “When the customizing of the new site on your network is done, that person changes their dns to your ip address and as soon as dns propagates, anyone who types in awesomechurch.org comes to the new site on your network.” Ok, so (forgive me here, but I’m more into landing pages, Google Analytics, and marketing) when someone goes to share a url – let’s say http://myawesomechurch.org/my-cool-community-event – will the url display correctly or will it display the subdomain http://awesomechurch.echosites.com/my-cool-community-event ?

    Ugh… Anyone want to give me a bid on doing this for me? I’m a bit worried that I’m about to make an investment on something that either a.) I can’t figure out; or b.) doesn’t work correctly for the ‘end-user’; or c.) requires much more time per account than I can handle.

    If done correctly, I know that within a few emails, I’d get a few dozen folks on board. Now if I ramp up the ads, SEO, and promotions, let’s say I get around 100 folks within a month or two.

    How much “automation” will these plugins actually do? And (while I really do love the comments section) who can I ask to get some solid answers about these plugins and what I need to do from the word ‘Go’ to make all this work without any major issues?

    Thanks for ready what has got to be my longest comment in my life :-) !!

  • Recruit

    Once you map that domain, it will link up perfectly to the pretty url with the custom TLD, not your subdomain. so yes, it will do what you’re asking.

    If you use WHMCS, it does, in fact, run scripts that log into your server and create domains and accounts on your server under those domains, then, combined with the other plugins, it will provision those domains to work with your WP mutlisite.

    The only area where you will need to do any manual work is for people who have existing domains that want to either transfer a domain to you as a host, or who want to use that existing TLD under your multisite banner. That will involve that person (or you doing it for them) logging into their registrar and changing DNS.

  • New Recruit

    Brad,

    You can go here to access the support community: https://premium.wpmudev.org/forums/

    1. Your question about subdomain — the domain-mapping plugin from WPMU DEV works a little differently that the other domain-mapping plugin. Once you get it set up, you will enter your IP address (remember it MUST be a dedicated IP) in the admin settings. That address will then show up for your users. It’s then your user’s responsibility to put that into their A Record. (This is where some users may get lost, and each registrar has a different menu system, of course. So you’ll just want to be prepared for that. Do it yourself a number of time, and they try to give users instructions. (Again, you can’t give them all exact instructions because many will have different registrars. But tell them to search for their A Records settings.) … Once they put your IP into their A Records, it will do everything automatically. (Again, this is the WPMU DEV plugin we’re talking about, not the one on wordpress.org.)

    2. About URLs. As long as you have everything set up, their URL will look like their URL no matter where they are. In fact, when they log in to do admin stuff, even their admin stuff will be on their URL (theirsite.com/wp-admin). If everything is set up, no one will know that their site is actually a subsite of your main site.

    How much automation it does depends on exactly what you’re looking for. If you’ve read the post — and you seemed to have :) — I tried to give an idea about what it will actually do. As I mentioned, if you set it up with pre-made templates, it can automate A LOT. Essentially, it can automatically create an entire site for somebody. (It just clones what you’ve done.) Most people will want to put their own touches on it, of course. And when they start doing that, they will have a lot of questions.

    But that’s a different story really. You can’t know exactly what they’ll want. You can, however, set up a system that will allow people to join, pay, and get a site up and running in a matter of minutes “while you sleep,” as they say. Expect a number of questions after that, however.

    If you want to give this a go, you can join WPMU DEV for a month and see how it all goes. The support team is excellent, and they take a lot of pride in helping people get their issues solved. I’m not going to lie to you, if you’re aren’t super familiar with WP, you probably have some work ahead of you, but that work will also make you more familiar with WP. And as I mentioned, you’re probably going to have questions from your users, so the more you know, the better.

    Good luck with it. Let us know how it goes.

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    Ok folks. I did it! Check out my site: http://inspirethemes.com
    It points to… Nothing! :-(
    But it only took me 4 bottles of tylenol to set up! :-)
    Ok, so I’m about to take the $210 plunge. But first….

    Do I need to go ahead and set up at least one instance of WP MultiSite to get started, or should I leave this [insert Naval terminology] thing alone?

    … and if I do, where the fooey do I set it up at? public_html folder? www folder?

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    Ok, I’m not even remotely sure I set up WHMCS correctly. But I bought the license from a reseller who does hosting so WHMCS is “installed” but…. There’s a lot of configurations that I’m pretty sure are not even close to set up right.

    I understand there are forums over on the paid portion, but from what I’ve read, each one is kinda specific to that plugin or theme. Let’s back up a few steps though. I still don’t think WHMCS is set up correctly.

    I can make WordPress dance a jig, make me toast, capture leads, bust out multisite, and I even made a WordPress site that picks up my 3 year olds crayolas and french fries out of the Suburban.

    I guess I’m looking for a forum, getting started guide, or something else that helps me understand in plain english (preferably TEXAN) what needs to be done between the initial WHMCS installation and this article.

    Any thoughts would be great! Thanks -Brad

    • Recruit

      Brad, WHMCS is notoriously tough to work with. You can submit support requests via email. If you can get them on the phone, I’d be surprised. The best documentation you’ll find is in their support/doc forums, but if you’re going to address auto setup and linking with your host/server, it might help to have a developer work with you on that.

      Second to that, WPMUDevs docs on WHMCS integration and Domain Mapping are very good. The support forum questions on Dev also dive into specific snags that a few clients hit when doing this implementation. Follow the instruction there and it will bring you home.

      Craig

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    I’ve been reading some of the comments and I not sure if it’s because I’m too green to know this is complicated or what. I started really using WordPress in February after giving up few attempts at blogging with “.com” over the past couple of years. I found WPMU Dev while looking for a membership plugin in February and I never left.

    So, when I saw this post in my email I got uber excited because I wanted everybody to love WP like I do now. I followed along as written and had my multisite/pro site setup in a matter of days (as green as I am). Any “issues” I had after that would be expected with any WP install.

    I signed up for a reseller account but dealing with that was complex, mostly because of the service provider. I didn’t spend anymore than $30, if that, on this whole project. When I am ready for WHMCS and have the revenue to justify it, I will hire someone to help. For now, I am focusing on getting users to sign up on my awesome new website.

    My advice to anyone who was fascinated by this post…Keep calm and follow the instructions exactly. In time, it will pay for anything else you think you need. :-)

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    Joe, Craig, and everyone else deserves my utmost thanks! That little detail of where to put the initial WP MultiSite install might seem obvious to the professionals, but now, I’m only one or two bottles of asprin away from getting this up and running!

    Now that WHMCS is up and running, initial install of WP MultiSite points to http://inspirethemes.com, it’s time to head over to the Big Boys forum and get this business setup! (…and get the wife off my -eh nevermind!)

    MUCH THANKS AGAIN!!!

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    Craig, Joe, anyone….

    How, in the name of all that’s good and Holy, am I supposed to figure out all these settings and what each setting needs to be in order for all these to work correctly cooperate with each other?

    The support forums are… well, first off, it seems like they are almost all WAY beyond the initial setup, and a bit too cumbersome to filter so that I can find a simple and straightforward answer to a simple and straightforward question.

    Feel free to chime in on my fun over at http://wpmu.bradgriffin.me

    I swear, the second I get all this set up, I’m going to submit a simple ‘if/then’ user manual like I get everytime I download something over at that other place.

    This is about as crazy as trying to baptize a cat!

    • The Bug Hunter

      Unlimited bandwidth on shared hosting isn’t actually unlimited, it is un-metered. There is a limit to the bandwidth coming in and out off server, both at burst & average rates and this bandwidth is shared across hundreds of site per user.

      Shared hosting is OK to get up and tested, but as soon as your business model permits you really need to get on your own (VPS) server or you will never be happy with end user site performance.

  • Recruit

    I started a with a shared hosting account, which worked fine. But after you get 10 or so sites it starts getting harder to backup without being able to raise your memory and execution times. Shred hosting usually doesn’t allow that.

    Searching a large database can get server intensive too.

    You can move up to a vps or dedicated server for better performance.

  • New Recruit

    Hello everyone.

    I am wondering if you can offer some clarification.

    Using the web hosting model where would you get themes to offer your users?

    I know we have some here at WPMU (single themes and the farms 133 pack) but what are some other options?

    Can you get a developers license for some of the other popular themes (Woo, Elegant, Etc) and offer those to your users?

    Any help or other ideas are appreciated!

    • The Bug Hunter

      You have hit an important point. Not all themes are licensed for unlimited site usage.

      You need to check the licenses of the themes you want to use carefully. You will find that some themes are published unlimited (like all the free wordpress themes & the farms pack) , others have ‘developer’ options.

      You can of course write your own themes (or commission them to be written) too, that way you own the license so you know you are safe.

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    Is there any way to tweak, configure, or modify one of these plugins so that email creation (and / or deletion) can be automated for the clients?

    In other words, between all the functions and moving parts of WHMCS, these plugins, and all that they do… Let’s say the client wants to add an email for a new person, or delete an email for someone who’s no longer there; can’t this be automated?

  • New Recruit

    Great article! I have a quick question. In the note below in the new blogs section you indicate that the template cant be changed after the fact.

    To clarify does this mean a user of a new site would not be able to swap out their theme (regular theme or other created template) using the normal wordpress backend?

    *** IMPORTANT NOTES:
    1. It should be noted that with this plugin you can only choose a template for NEW blogs – i.e. as the blog is being set up. (Hence the name: New Blog Templates.) Also, you cannot change templates once you’ve set the site up. In order to get a new/different template in place, you would need to create a new site on your network.

    Mark

    • New Recruit

      Mark – You can change the theme at any time, but not the template. So that’s only really an issue if you have different content in different templates. Or it might be an issue if some content goes well with one theme that’s you’ve set up as part of a template, and then you switch to a different theme and that original content then looks a little bit off.

      Of course it might not be an issue at all.

  • fox
    Design Lord, Child of Thor

    For those who have done this, what are you using for DNS settings?

    If you start with one webhost and move up to a server, you’re going to have to change your DNS/IP Address settings. How are your customers effected by these changes?
    Is there a way to prevent this so you can have 1 set of IP addresses to point to and keep whatever host you’re with?

    Joe, in one of the above comments you mentioned it requires a dedicated IP address. From my experience, the IP address is issued by the hosting company. Can we buy an IP address somewhere that’s always pointed where we want? Like an EasyDNS or Cloudflare type option?

  • Flash Drive

    I stumbled upon this article while looking for a way to manage the dozen or so clients I have set-up hosting & website design & management for.
    I have a WHM reseller account, and create new cPanel accounts for each new site. I like the power of cPanel for backing-up, because I can back-up the entire site with one click, including databases, email accounts and forwarders.

    The prospect of multisite scares me, though I am not an expert at all on the subject. I just have an intuition that keeping the accounts separate with their own FTP accounts gives me slightly more security. If one site happens to go down, it won’t affect the others. I don’t know if this is correct, it’s just a hunch as I learn more about web dev.

    It could be I have unfounded fears and could benefit from more time-saving practices, I would like to learn more.

    • New Recruit

      Hi – I guess there’s a possibility that there might be slightly more security, but it would depend on how they were able to get into the site in the first place. If they can get into one individual site, they may be able to get into all of them. But by the same token, if they get into one network site, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can get into the other sites on the network. Again, it all depends on how they’re able to get in.

      Also, if you have a good backup system in place, that could alleviate some of your worries. If you get hacked, you can patch things up and rolls back. Another thing to look into is a security monitoring/fixing service like Sucuri. I’m not sure where they stand on this now, but I have personally asked them in the past if a Multisite install counted as “one” site in the plans they offered, and they said it did.

  • New Recruit

    I’m about to embark on this very topic and make it my business model as well. I’ve built about 300 WordPress sites since 2010 and had to dive into hosting and the “techy” side of it all so I’m comfortable doing this. My question is what is the best way to offer both the Multisite/WordPress feauture using ProSites and even a mix of WHMC with the other scenario where a customer wants a site that isn’t a WordPress site and maybe something like Drupal with cpanel access. Is it possible to offer everything this post talks about but also combine other services like Fantastico which does cpanel automation? Thanks for this post by the way. Amazing and full of great advice. It was the final reason i just bought a membership. That and Craig’s feedback above also. Thanks Craig.

    • New Recruit

      Sorry had to double post this to get email notices since I forgot to check the boxes.

      I’m about to embark on this very topic and make it my business model as well. I’ve built about 300 WordPress sites since 2010 and had to dive into hosting and the “techy” side of it all so I’m comfortable doing this. My question is what is the best way to offer both the Multisite/WordPress feauture using ProSites and even a mix of WHMC with the other scenario where a customer wants a site that isn’t a WordPress site and maybe something like Drupal with cpanel access. Is it possible to offer everything this post talks about but also combine other services like Fantastico which does cpanel automation? Thanks for this post by the way. Amazing and full of great advice. It was the final reason i just bought a membership. That and Craig’s feedback above also. Thanks Craig.

    • Recruit

      Thanks. I’m not a Drupal user so I can’t really comment there, but I can say that whmcs is powerful, even if it’s ux is a little outdated. I obtuse recommend partnering up with a smart developer who can write some server scripts. If you can do that, whmcs can really be harnessed to do just about anything you need in relation to domain creation item creations, etc.

  • WPMU DEV Initiate

    Hey there,
    great post Joe! Helped me a lot. Thanks.

    I have two questions concerning automated emails and theme frameworks.

    1.) Automated eMail provisioning:
    I am using WHMCS MU Provisioning and would like to give users the ability to manage their own email accounts.
    My current domain registrar (hexonet) doesn´t support email inboxes. Any ideas of how I could let the user automatically set up their own email? My Webhost is KnownHost and I am using cPanel. Would I need to create a cPanel account for each new user and then manage eMails myself? Maybe there is a mail service that does exactly what I need? (Something like google apps for agencies)

    2.) Which theme club/frameworks are you all using regarding usability for the end users? I am fairly good in WP, but not all my clients will be. Can anyone recommend a premium theme club that also offers good usability for the end user in terms of customizing their sites?

    Regards,
    Andy

  • Flash Drive

    Extremely helpful and useful post – thanks, Joe!

    The ‘missing piece’ remains a tutorial that explains how to create and configure an “automated” user (client) registration-payment-access setup and workflow.

    I’ve read many, many posts with this request, yet much information is either old, unclear or contradictory. I understand that there are a variety of business models that have distinct goals, but I have been struggling to find a way to set up a user-friendly sales flow. (Strange: Pro Sites doesn’t include an integrated/automated -that is, in a fluid sales process- for a new user to register, pay, and begin on a new Site.)

    I’m still experimenting, but I’m confident I’ll figure it out! ;-) It’s posts like this hat give me/us confidence.

    • Flash Drive

      I would agree, usjhk! I am busy at a ‘day job’ while also keeping my eye on 2 elements (previously mentioned, above): an “automated” user (client) registration-payment-access setup and workflow, and a plan-based payment setup. But this article provides an excellent, viable plan for a multi-site web business!

  • New Recruit

    Hi Joe

    Wow, firstly I’d like to say what a brilliant article this is. Just shows with how much time and care it must have been drafted and secondly Joe, congratulations that it is still going strong after almost a year.

    I must say I should come across this article earlier, would have helped me so much. but luckily I found a solution which was so simple to implement. My hosting WPOven offers a white label solution and its as simple as logging in and a couple of clicks later I had it setup, but the only downside was that they offer it with there higher end plans. So if someone is willing to put in some money it is a very good solution I feel.

    Mary

  • The Exporter

    1. Will it work to create a main/general host and design HUB multisite Pro Site (marketed to basically anyone) and then create separate niche subdomain sites on it to cater/market to select or targeted niche markets one may want go after specifically (in terms of marketing with a separate look and feel, message, marketing etc)? It would do the exact same think (host or offer design consulting etc) but speak to that segment of people (i.e. the real estate closing attorney, pie shops, tofu restaurants etc). Could this be done with the same WHMCS and all other backend plugins, reseller account, etc. as the main multisite referred to above as the “HUB”? Or, should the niches just be their own totally different multsite installations?

    2. Should one just startout upfront with the plugin that creates a separate database for each sub-site on the multisite so you do not have to worry about it moving forward? I believe it is https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/multi-db/ I understand that having separate databases actually does help with performance anyway overall (especially on reseller or shared account…even more so on vps or dedicated). Also, more importantly, if one wants to peel off a site from the network with much less of a headache if it had its own database for whatever reason (sell a site, make it a standalone, move it to a different host, it takes off and needs to be on a dedicated server, etc etc etc).

    Thanks so much…

    • The Bug Hunter

      As far as I understand, using the multi-db plugin won’t help ‘peeling off’ sites that want to migrate away.

      As someone that runs a successful web design & hosting business which is primarily based around multi-site, I would say that ‘peeling’ off websites is the biggest flaw in the model.

      Whilst it is only a small %, every now and then someone wants to move ‘their website’. (they think they can get cheaper hosting or their SEO ‘demands’ admin access ) And as it is WordPress their ‘new web designer / seo / host’ always gives them the impression that the site can just be moved. In fact some hosting companies offer to migrate WordPress websites for free – that is until they discover its on a multi-site.

      Todate I have found no successful automated strategy for ‘peeling off’ a website. Rather a fairly complex process of manually creating a new standalone site, loading up themes / plugins as required, exporting XML / importing / running a database search and replace to tidy up paths etc.

      I have tried using wpmudev’s snapshot into a standalone site but that created issues with the target users.

      If any one has a great solution to ‘peeling off’, do let me know.

      • The Exporter

        @locally

        Thanks for taking the time to post your input on this item. I will circle back if I find anything and let you know. Hopefully others will as well. I have not really thought through the mechanics of if this would help some, but I did take note of this feature in the usage notes:

        ———
        DECIDE IF YOU NEED VIP DATABASES

        This plugin has a cool feature that allows for VIP databases. It enables you to place specific blog(s) in specific database(s).

        Unless you have a blog/site that gets a ton of traffic and you want to put it on another physical server for performance reasons, then it’s not really worth it to bother with this feature.
        The vast majority of installs do not need to use VIP blogs, so skip it unless you are sure you need to use this feature.
        Each VIP blog/site will have its own database, and they will be identified as vip1, vip2, etc.
        If you do decide you need this, you’ll be using the add_vip_blog() function in db-config.php to move specific blogs to these databases (more on that below).
        ———

        Perhaps if one felt like there may be a good chance that a particular client would want to peel off someday for whatever reason, then you could make them a VIP in the above sense. I think, maybe, most of the issues are in the database transfer. If the above is true, then that client would have his/her own dedicated database. Then, replicating the content may be easier. Of course, any plugins or theme licenses would have to probably be purchased by them (in addition to having any network activated plugins they may use made known to them as well so they could install). I am sure there is a lot more issues to think through to make the site function correctly (as you pointed out as well).

        I just wanted to mention the VIP database feature (if you have not played looked at that before etc).

        Overall, I think it is still a somewhat harry task to make it seamless for sure still!

        I hope someone comes up with a great solution for it as some point that is seamless.

        :)

        Best,

        Greg

        • The Bug Hunter

          Thanks, I wasn’t aware of the VIP database feature, and for a performance point of view it makes a lot of sense.

          In all cases I believe the table names will remain with the blog id e.g. wp__options, wp__posts

          so you still would need to merge these into a standalone site’s database, and unscripted database operations are best avoided in my experience.

          One of the main issues are serialized ‘options’ data and the fact that multi-site has different variants on where media files are stored etc e.g. site/files/2014
          versus domain/wp-content/upload/2014 etc

          Perhaps some clever rewriting might be a solution, but til now I have resorted to using the excellent search-and-replace-for-wordpress-databases to handle that sort of thing.

        • WPMU DEV Initiate

          I think you may be conceptualizing the database issue incorrectly. The challenge isn’t in separating the subsite data for extraction. The challenge is that there are differences in how wordpress stores the data of a subsite vs. a standalone that make migration less straightforward.

          Each subsite already has segmented data (mostly) and it is already in separate tables. Even if those tables live in another database nothing really changes. It’s the move from being a part of a multisite config to stand alone which is different.

          The differences aren’t huge and you can do it, but there isn’t a simple dump the tables -> import the tables operation that works. You have to modify some of the stored information directly first.

  • WPMU DEV Initiate

    1. It should work but your configuration might get pretty messy. From what I’ve seen in ProSites it doesn’t subdivide options by subdomain or anything like that. So, if your naming for plans is always Gold, Silver, Platinum or whatever and priced the same in every niche, etc it should be fine but anything custom will clutter it up. There is an alternate approach you could take using something like the “networks” plugin to run multiple multisites off of a single core code base and single database. It will really be a personal preference on your part.

    2. I wouldn’t. Probably the vast majority of your subsites that are created will be small, underutilized and abandoned by their creators. Unless the subsites are updated really frequently and/or have a lot of comment activity your caching configuration will mitigate most of your database worries in terms of load since they’ll turn into static pages most of the time. It is more likely that you’ll need to optimize your server way before your database is the bottleneck.

    Those are my thoughts at least. Anyone else?

  • The Exporter

    @korak

    I wonder if WPMUDEV is working on a Multi Network plugin? I am not sure if I trust those on the WP site direct as most of them appear to have issues and/or have not been updated to work right (it seems) on the current versions of WP.

    What do you think? Can we get that request in the hopper if it is not already?

    Greg

    • The Bug Hunter

      Trent, that will depend if you are doing the technical work yourself or you are paying someone to set it up. Cost will also depend on your marketing plan, i.e. how you are going to promote it.

      Your minimum costs are hosting, a mid range VPS will do for up to 100 sites with light traffic, say $50 / month and your WPMUdev membership $24.50/month (if you pay for a year).

      If I charged myself for my own time at a commercial rate I should have charged myself about £25k ($40k) for setting it all up and getting it the way I wanted it. But a lot of that time was ‘learning curve’.

      Marketing costs, I spent about £600/month ($1,000 / month) mainly on AdWords.

  • The Incredible Code Injector

    Hi and thanks for posting this.
    I deliver a WordPress based solution to my customers. With this solution, they can build their own secured learning portals. By secure, I mean that every user needs to login first, and then they can access the resources within these learning portals.
    Each customer needs a site totally independant from others, especially for the users base.
    For instance, customer A may use internal user Id as login, and customer B may do the same.
    The problem I have with multisite is that users are shared by all sites.
    So if there is a user with id “johndoe” in customer A, and another user, not the same person, but with same id “johndoe” in customer B, I cannot differentiate these two people in WP multisite.
    Thats why for now, I setup a single WP site install for each customer, and I manage all my WP instances with ManageWP, and maybe one day with WPMU solution.
    It works but is not as simple as if I was able to manage it through WP multisite.
    Do you know of a solution I could use to manage different users with same ids but each one registered in a single site of a WP multisite install ? Would appreciate that, could not find one by myselkf.

      • The Incredible Code Injector

        Hi Dimitris, thanks for suggestion.
        However, I cannot force my customers to use email as login, since most of them use their internal employee id system. Also, I have some customers where some employees have no email, such as people working in gas stations.
        Motivated by this post, I am reworking on the subject and I got a new idea.
        I think about a plugin which would use the authenticate filter:
        I get username and password in the filter.
        I query an external database which holds the user base for the specific site the user wants to log in. For this, I can manage a one to one relationship between the site and the database, using for instance the site name in the database name.
        If the database query fails, I send an error message.
        If the database query succeeds, then I try to login to WP but with userid set to sitename_userid, thus enabling same userid to be used on different sites.
        If WP login fails, then I create the user with id set to sitename_userid, and password as it is entered by the user, and display name set to first name last name I can get from the database used to check if user id exists.
        I have not coded yet but I think it should work.
        What do you think about this? Any point I should care about?

  • Jos
    Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    Nice article! One question about Option #3. What I expect with option #3 is that people (new clients) can put in their preferred site name, the admin username/password and click ‘install’ to create their own site. Then, in the background, my system would create the site for them, based on one or more site templates (theme, plugins, etc).
    How can I achieve this?

  • Chief Learner Wrangler

    Hi there

    I really like the idea of using Multisite to host client sites. One question I have though is what kind of hosting you have in place to manage this?

    I’m currently using Cloudways (virtual server) and I can see how this would work with multisite as you can upscale performance at the click of a mouse. Any suggestions as to how to host this?

    Thanks,

    David

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