trying to understand multisite and if it's right for me

Hello all:

I am not new to Wordpress, but am very new to the concept of multisite. My initial thought is that it is perfect for my business. We create and manage websites for various clients in a niche market. We had a custom Wordpress theme created that we then customize for our users. Each new user means a new install of wordpress, uploading the theme, adding the plugins, etc.

It seems that with Wordpress multisite, we could quickly add the new site and using the "New Blog Template" plugin quickly get the basic pages, the theme, etc. up and going. We currently have the 'demo' site we use to copy pages over from. We are looking to streamline the creation of these sites as more and more people are wanting them.

I like the idea of one installation for the ease of installation, the speed of set-up, and the ease of maintenance. Not knowing about the details though, I have some reservations about jumping into it. I have done some research, but needed some advice from someone looking directly at my set-up. These are the things I need:

1) they sites need their own domain like (not a subdomain like or
2) the custom theme we have gives them a custom admin page (a tab that shows below the other tabs in the admin section). this allows them to adjust portions of the theme (e.g. colors, fonts, some text, etc.). This was made specifically for us, so I don't know if it will have problem in how this is structured. Would my client's admin page look and act identical to how they have it now?

These are my main concerns. Any other advice on the downsides to multisite would be much appreciated.


  • tbennett04

    Hey infodontics,

    I would recommend setting up a script that allows you to install, rsync your files to the new server, and install a database specified for the project. If you run a SED over the DB you can easily swap out your options from one domain to the next when you launch a new project.

    You can use multisite for this but you run the risk of everything being in one DB amongst other issues. It is my understanding that multisite uses a new DB prefix_ when creating the new project. In this case, you can use multiple themes, as each will have its own option.

    Also, you can use multiple domains when using multisite. You might just want to test DB connection plugins like WP PHPMYADMIN or Portable PMA to make sure users cannot access other's info. You could correct this with permissions either way, as these plugins are not really smart to use.

    Hope that helps.

  • Arun Basil Lal

    Hello infodontics,

    Welcome to WPMU Dev! Thanks for being a member :slight_smile:

    First, as a sound of warning, Multisites are not as enhanced as the single WordPress install, its relatively new. Am not saying it wont work for you, but since each client is paying, my advise is not to go for multisites. Go for individual WordPress installs. Reasons?

    - Having individual sites means you can customize the theme any way you want, even the code. The multisite draws the code from one single location.
    - Database related issues. What if the database goes corrupted? all your users are down in one go. Thats scary.
    - Each client could have individual set of plugins, which your clients would ask for, no?

    What you could do, now that you have a demo site set-up with all the themes, plugins and pages is to use something like or use what @tbennett04 mentioned to clone the entire setup and then work on it.

    I have dealt with multisites many number of times, and its always trouble. Many plugins that work so comfortably with single WP installation wont work with Multisites.

    I hope I have made your decision easier.

    Arun Basil Lal

  • infodontics

    Thank you both for your comments. They have been very helpful. I like the idea of taking care of this myself since the only "good" solution I have trusted was the wpmudev plugin (too bad it won't work on individual installations).

    The suggestion to write a script is intriguing, but I don't have that level of understanding. I can get around wordpress and am most comfortable tweaking this and that. I know very little about the way it is set-up or how it communicates with the database. My concern with your suggestion is that I wouldn't know what parts of the database are unique to each installation. If I then place my copy of the demo database over the new installation, will it break those connections.

    I then looked at the wp-clone software and their site is lacking in support. I am worried I would pay $100 only to find it is not working the way I need and I am out. It's like their site is only 75% done and it's the 25% they haven't finished that should have answers to my questions.

    If anyone else has a suggestion/opinion, knows another similar plugin, or knows how to guide someone through copying the database from one installation to another, I would love to chat more about this!


  • ThePath

    Hi infodontics

    Its a tricky one. So basically you have a number of single WP installs, you want to (possibly) transfer over to Multisite. Well I can tell you it aint just as easy as 1 2 3.

    I recently transferred a single WP install into the main site on a Mulitiste install. Phew it was kinda tough going. I noticed some slight DB variations and I ended up having real probs transferring comments over. In the end I just left it as I didnt have a huge amount anyway. So its a tricky thing to do.

    On the other hand it does seem like multisite would be perfect for your needs allowing far easier management etc.

    The domain mapping plugin here at WMPU DEV would allow for each sub domained site to have its own domain. You need a dedicated IP for this plugin to work however. If you are on shared hosting then this may not be possible.

    With regards to your custom theme, the best thing to do is set up a test domain and try the theme on multisite and see how it all looks/works.

    The way I see it you really only have on option if you want to change to multisite:

    Get a expert to transfer all the single WP installs over to Multisite.

    If you setup a test site to test your theme on a MUltisite install then I will help anyway I can if there is issues. I could even setup a test Multisite install for you on one of unused domains. Let us know anyway dude.

  • Arnold


    If you are going to allow customers access to your site I would say that Multisite is a neccessity. The reason? One malicious customer can upload a plugin or theme that could get them access to all your sites. Multisite requires that all plugins and themes be upload and made available by the network super admin. This will save you a lot of grief.

    But Multisite is a different animal and needs different strategy for management. In the database the site specific db tables are prefixed with a blog id number, wp_1_options, wp_2_options etc. So it's fairly easy to determine which table belongs to which site/blog. Some tables are common like Users though each user is attached to one or more sites. Some are site global for storing overal settings.

    But themes and plugins are common. As long as option settings are stored in one of the site specific tables you'll have no problem, WP picks that up automatically. But if you have varying code thet you want for the same theme you'l have problems because there is only one copy for the entire multisite.

    Some themes are Multisite aware. Most aren't but if they follow best practices they should work fine. Things like header images and other graphics are stored in site specific upload directories, Example /wp-content/blog.dir/1/files, /wp-content/blog.dir/2/files So those are automatically separated.

    Child theme style customizations can work if like Thematic you put the child theme directory in /wp-content/themes so it looks like another theme and the the network admin can assign it to the appropriate blog.

    I use Thesis which with a little modification can setup custom code and css directories for each blog.

    Plugin are common across.sites as well. But Multisite disables editing them which you have in single site. Don't want customers hacking a plugin.

    As far as backup and cloning. I use BackWPup which is free and works just fine. Good backup is beyond essential. With good frequent backups a corrupted database is a matter of restoring the last good back up. Multisite is nice because it's one backup. Imagine a friend of mine's problems as he has 198 Wordpress sites as singles on one host. Works fine until he got hacked by the Tim Thumb vulnerability because he didn't want to take the time to upgrade 198 sites everytime security fixes in a new version came out. With multisite it's one update.

    So if you're going to be hosting users on your own sites Multisite or a full blown cPanel shared environment if you want single installs is the only secure way to go.

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