If you have a large business with multiple WordPress websites, it can be a hefty task to manage all of them at the same instance. But life is too short to log in to your WordPress dashboards separately on different tabs, isn’t it?
To overcome the hassle, WordPress launched the WordPress Multisite feature back in 2010. The feature helps WordPress users create an entire network of WordPress sites that you can control from a single WordPress dashboard. The only limitation to managing multiple WordPress sites from one dashboard is that all websites should be on the same server.
But what if you want to connect several WordPress sites hosted on different hosting providers? Well, this guide is for you!
In this tutorial, I will launch multiple WordPress sites on one server using Cloudways. I’ll demonstrate using one of the best WordPress plugins to manage multiple WordPress sites from a single dashboard. So, let’s begin.
What is the MainWP Plugin?
MainWP is ideal for agencies that are responsible for managing several client’s WordPress sites. It eliminates the hassle of logging into each dashboard separately.
Let’s review the plugin in detail.
MainWP Plugin Review
Installation and Configuration
Below are some of the most prominent features that MainWP offers:
- Connect Unlimited WordPress Sites
- 1-click Admin Access
- Multiple Backup Solutions
- Plugin, Theme, and Users Management from a single instance
- Effortless Updates
- Uptime Monitoring
- Security and Vulnerability Checks and Fixes
- Self-hosted and Open Source
- And a lot more.
– Install and Activate the Plugin
There are two types of MainWP plugins.
- MainWP Dashboard: Install the MainWP Dashboard plugin to a website that you want to be the control room for all the connected WordPress sites.
- MainWP Child: To connect a WordPress site to the main dashboard website, you need to install the MainWP Child plugin on it.
Before we dig into the MainWP features, let’s install the MainWP Dashboard plugin first. I would suggest installing it on a WordPress website, which you will not use for any other purpose. Keep it separate! In my case, I will install it on Website 1.
Log in to your WordPress admin dashboard, navigate to Plugins -> Add New, search for MainWP Dashboard, install and activate it. Once done, it will ask you to configure the plugin to manage multiple WordPress sites.
The configuration of the MainWP Dashboard plugin is a step-by-step process. You can just set the plugin as per your requirements by following the steps below.
Before installing the MainWP Dashboard plugin on your WordPress website, you need to perform a system checkup. System checkup detects the server criteria required by MainWP Dashboard to work correctly with your WordPress site.
Since I’m using a cloud server that is fully compatible with the MainWP Dashboard, all the tests passed without going through any manual configuration. If any of the below-mentioned tests fail, you can ask your hosting provider to fix them.
Note: If you are using Cloudways to host your WordPress websites, you don’t have to worry about the criteria mentioned above; it will automatically set up correctly.
– Install MainWP Child
As mentioned previously, you need to install the MainWP Child plugin to a WordPress website that you want to connect to your MainWP Dashboard.
I logged into my Website 2 and installed the MainWP Child plugin, and here is the message I got.
The MainWP Child plugin has been installed successfully. Let’s get back to the MainWP Dashboard and click on MainWP Child Plugin Installed.
– Connect First Site
Now, it’s time to connect my Website 2 with this MainWP Dashboard. Enter the required details and click Connect Site.
If the required details are correct, you will get a success message like below.
Now click the Continue button to move to the next step.
MainWP Dashboard can update the MainWP Child plugins automatically. Enable this option if you want to do so and click the Continue button.
With MainWP, you can also opt-in for site uptime monitoring and site health check. This option helps you monitor the overall health of your child website as per the set frequency.
MainWP checks for available updates and collects other maintenance-related messages, and emails them to you. Enter as many email addresses as you want to receive updates.
And there you go, you are all done with configuring the MainWP Dashboard plugin. Click Start Managing Your Sites.
The MainWP dashboard is packed with valuable features that come in handy while managing multiple WordPress sites. The main objective MainWP serves is the convenience of managing multiple individual WordPress installations from a single dashboard.
All the details are pretty straight-forward. However, I have highlighted the essential areas and marked them.
- Overview: The current screen is an overview of all the connected websites. Whenever you want to see a summary, click on the Overview tab from the left pane.
- New Site: You can add new sites from here. It will take you to the panel to enter the required details to add a new website.
- Sync Dashboard with Child Sites: This will fetch the latest updates from all the child websites.
- Go to WP Admin: This will take you to the WordPress Dashboard.
MainWP Dashboard Within The WP Dashboard
You can use MainWP Dashboard directly from the WordPress Dashboard. Look for the MainWP in the left-pane and hover on it. You can see, all the items are the same as we saw in the MainWP Dashboard before. The first item, “Overview,” will take you to the MainWP Dashboard.
Let’s have a closer look at the features MainWP offers to its users.
Site management is the key feature of MainWP, and with this feature, you can control multiple WordPress dashboards without logging into each one of them individually.
Add a New Site
To add a new site, you need to install the MainWP Child plugin on all the websites you want to control from here. It allows the MainWP Dashboard plugin to communicate with your child site(s). Login to your child site, install and activate the plugin as I did before.
Now get back to the centralized Dashboard (MainWP Dashboard).
It’s time to add sites (child sites) to be controlled by our centralized Dashboard. To add a new website, navigate to Sites -> Add New under the MainWP label from the WordPress admin panel’s left pane.
Fill up all the required fields and click on Test Connection to check if everything is correct. Then, click on Add Site on the bottom right, and it will take just a few moments to sync the complete website to manage.
Let’s have a look at the added site. Navigate to Sites -> Manage Sites. Following the steps mentioned above, here is how the connected websites will look like:
Note: You can add an unlimited number of sites by using the method above.
Managing The Added Site
As we discussed earlier, the MainWP Dashboard allows you to manage multiple WordPress sites using a single dashboard.
Click on a URL of a website in the above screenshot to get into its settings. Here are some of the more options that can help you control added websites. You will get a screen like below. The Red Arrow shows the connected website you are currently managing.
The Edit tab is the control room of your connected site. You can specify what and what not to update and choose few other options such as SSL detection, and if your website is using htaccess for protection, this is the area where you can provide .htaccess password credentials.
If there is an update, it will be listed here. You can control whether to update the WordPress core, specific plugin, or a theme.
– Security Scan
Besides these following tips on securing a WordPress site, we suggest scanning your websites regularly. The MainWP Dashboard plugin provides an excellent scanning facility, which scans your site for vulnerabilities, short fixes, etc. Not only this, but it also suggests improvements for the website and allows us to fix them in just a single click.
– Manage Posts
The MainWP Dashboard plugin can also manage posts of all of the connected websites. Navigate to the Posts tab under the MainWP label from the left panel. Under the Managed Posts tab, look at the right side, select a site, and click on Show Posts. It will fetch all the posts on that particular site. You can edit, trash, view, and even unpublish the post.
The next tab, Add New, can create an entire post and publish it to the relevant site.
– Manage Pages
Just like posts, the MainWP Dashboard plugin can also manage pages of all connected sites. Navigate to Pages under the MainWP label. Select a website, then Show Pages; all pages will list here on selected websites. You can manage all pages from the MainWP Dashboard. You can also publish a page from here by navigating to the Add New tab.
Themes and Plugins Management
The MainWP Dashboard plugin also allows you to install, update, and manage themes of a particular site across the entire network of all connected sites. Navigate to the Themes tab under the MainWP label to manage.
This option can install a new theme for the desired child site or update the existing themes.
Just like themes, the MainWP Dashboard plugin allows you to manage plugins also. You can install, update, and manage plugins on a particular site as well as across the network of all child sites.
Other Useful Features
– Manage Users
How about managing all the WordPress users of a specific website or several connected sites from a single instance? The MainWP Dashboard plugin allows you to add, update, delete any user of any of the linked sites.
The settings tab consists of all of the configurations that we have set up while installing the plugin. There are a few more advanced settings that we do not recommend altering. If you are confident with the changes, go ahead and make the most out of the MainWP advanced configuration.
– Server Information
Finally, we have a server information tab that fetches all of your server information and shows that either the server is correctly configured or not. If settings are corrected as required by the MainWP Dashboard plugin, you will see a green button labeled as Pass if anything needs to be fixed. It will highlight, search for the relevant guide on the MainWP help center, and fix it. The other option is to ask your hosting provider about the related issue.
Not only server information of our centralized Dashboard, but MainWP can also detect the server settings for a particular site if your child site is on a different hosting provider.
The MainWP is free to use, and the default bundle comes with sufficient features to manage multiple WordPress dashboards. However, if you need more advanced features, you can subscribe to their pro plans. Each plan comes with a complete extensions bundle (that are also sold separately), updates, and support.
WordPress is quite renowned for its flexibility and the number of solutions it presents with Themes and Plugins. One can create multiple WordPress sites on one server using the WordPress Multisite feature or manage multiple WordPress sites from one dashboard using the MainWP Dashboard and MainWP Child plugins.
If you have any queries, feel free to leave a comment below. I would love to answer.
Note: This article was published in collaboration with MainWP.
Ibad Ur Rehman is a WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways. He likes to explore the latest open-source technologies and to interact with different communities. In his free time, he likes to read, watch a series or fly his favorite Cessna 172SP in X Plane 11 flight simulator.