Due to the rapid growth of WordPress, a number of websites are launched across the Internet each day. If you have a large business with multiple WordPress websites, then it can become a bit of a hefty task when it comes to managing all of them at the same instance. Life is too short to log in to your WordPress dashboards separately on different tabs.
To overcome such a hassle, WordPress launched the WordPress Multisite feature back in 2010. It helps WordPress users to create an entire network of WordPress sites, which can be controlled by a single instance of WordPress dashboard. The only limitation in order to manage multiple WordPress sites from one dashboard is that all sites should be on the same server.
In this tutorial, I will launch multiple WordPress sites on one server using Cloudways. By using a WordPress plugin, I will demonstrate how to manage multiple WordPress sites from a single dashboard. Let’s begin.
Launching Multiple WordPress Installations On One Server
Multiple WordPress sites can easily be launched in managed WordPress hosting platform. From the dashboard, I am going to launch two WordPress sites. To do so, I simply go to the Applications tab and click on Add Application button. From the drop-down menu select any WordPress option for your choice, give it a name and select your project in which you want to launch this site.
I launched two WordPress sites: Website 1 and Website 2 which I will be using in this tutorial to show how you can manage multiple WordPress sites efficiently.
Let’s see how we can manage these sites using a single dashboard.
How to Manage Multiple WordPress Sites
There are a few WordPress plugins that can help you manage multiple WordPress sites from one dashboard. In my opinion, managing WordPress sites with MainWP can be the best option. In this tutorial, we will explore the features of MainWP and how one can easily utilize them.
Features of MainWP
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
– Install and Activate the Plugin
Before we dig into the MainWP features, let’s install the MainWP plugin first. 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 MainWP is a step-by-step process. You can just set the plugin as per your requirements. The steps are all mentioned below:
Since our website is hosted on a cloud hosting provider (Cloudways). We will choose the “Web Host” option here.
– System Checkup
Before installing the MainWP plugin on your WordPress website, you need to perform a system checkup. System checkup detects the server criteria required by MainWP to work properly with your WordPress site. You can see, all the tests are passed without going through any manual configuration. If any of the below-mentioned tests fail, you can ask your hosting provider to fix it.
Note: If your server/site is hosted on Cloudways, then you don’t have to worry about the criteria as mentioned earlier. It will automatically set up correctly.
– Hosting Setup
In this section, it will ask the environment of your hosted server. In our scenario, it is dedicated.
Are you seeking which plugins your competitors are using? You can easily find many tools on the Internet. So, if you are not fond of revealing that you are using MainWP plugin, then you can simply hide it by enabling the hide option.
There is one more tab titled as “Add MainWP Child or Trusted Updates”. This tab asks you permission to allow auto-update to your MainWP Child plugins. Child plugins are necessary for your WordPress website which requires being connected to the network.
MainWP checks for available updates collects other maintenance-related messages, and email them to you. Enter as many email addresses you want to receive updates.
Backups are an essential part of a WordPress website. There are many WordPress Backup Plugins available in the WordPress Plugin Repository. MainWP integrated most popular free extensions to provide maximum backup facilities.
Note: We have written a complete guide on how to Backup WordPress site using UpdraftPlus.
On the next screen, it will ask for a MainWP account to receive updates and support. Skip this step, if you already have an account, otherwise, create an account.
The next step is to log in to your MainWP account. Once logged in successfully, MainWP will automatically install the above selected Backup plugin. In our case, it’s the UpdraftPlus.
– WP-Cron Trigger
MainWP depends on WordPress built-in file “wp-cron.php” to trigger scheduled events. For that, it requires an account on Uptime Robot that will visit the dashboard and ensure that the cron jobs are regularly triggered.
The next part is to clean up your centralized dashboard. There are a few areas whose visibility is not required within the dashboard. You can hide them to make your dashboard a bit cleaner.
And there you go, you are all done with configuring the MainWP plugin.
Add a New Site
To add a new site, first of all, you need to install the MainWP Child plugin on all the websites that you want to be controlled from a centralized dashboard. It allows MainWP plugin to communicate with your child site. Login to your child site, install and activate the plugin.
In my case, I am installing this on my Website 2 WordPress site.
Now get back to the centralized dashboard.
It’s time to add sites (child sites) to be controlled by our centralized dashboard. To add a new site, navigate to Sites -> Add New under MainWP label from the left pane of the WordPress admin panel.
Fill up all the required fields like the image below.
- Site URL: If your site has installed SSL certificate, select HTTPS from the drop-down and enter the URL of your child site.
- Administrator Username: Enter the admin email address or username.
- Friendly Site Name: This name is just to differentiate your child site among others.
- Groups: MainWP allows you to group similar child websites.
Click on the Add New Site at the bottom of the screen, and it will take just a few moments to sync the complete website to be controlled.
Let’s have a look at the added site. Navigate to Sites -> Manage Sites. Following the steps mentioned above, here is how my connected websites will look like.
Note: You can add an unlimited number of sites by using the above method.
Managing The Added Site
As we discussed earlier, MainWP allows you to manage multiple WordPress sites using a single dashboard. Here are some of the more options that can help you control added websites.
This is the control room of your connected sites. You can specify, what and what not to update and also choose few other options such as SSL detection and if your website is protected by .htaccess password, this is the area where you can provide .htaccess password credentials.
If there is an update, it will be listed here. You have the control, whether to update the WordPress core, specific plugin or theme as per the image below.
– Security Scan
Besides these following tips on securing a WordPress site, it is also recommended to scan your websites regularly. MainWP provides an excellent scanning facility, which scans your site for vulnerabilities, short fixes, etc. Not only that, but it also suggests improvements for the site and allows to fix them in just a single click.
– UpdraftPlus Backups
As mentioned earlier, we have selected UpdraftPlus for our WordPress site backups. The last tab is to configure UpdraftPlus settings for any specific WordPress site.
– Manage Posts
MainWP can also be used to manage posts of all of the connected websites. Navigate to Posts tab under MainWP label from the left panel of your WordPress admin dashboard. Under 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, MainWP can also be used to manage pages of all connected sites. Navigate to Pages under MainWP label. Select a site, then Show Pages, all pages will be listed at selected sites. You can manage all pages from the MainWP dashboard. You can also publish a page from here by navigating to the Add New tab.
– Manage Themes
MainWP allows you to install, update and manage themes of a particular site as well as across the entire network of all connected site. To manage themes, navigate to Themes tab under MainWP label.
– Manage Plugins
Just like themes, MainWP 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.
– Manage Users
How about you manage all WordPress users of any particular site or a number of connected sites from a single instance? MainWP allows you to add, update, delete any user of any of the connected site.
Then, we have the settings tab, that consists of all of the configurations that we have set up while installing the plugin. There are a few more advanced settings that are not recommended to be altered. If you are confident with the changes, go ahead and make the most out of MainWP advanced configuration.
– Server Information
Last, but not the least, we have server information tab that fetches all of your server information and also shows, either the server is correctly configured or not. If settings are corrected as required by MainWP, you will see a green button labeled as Pass, if there is anything that needs to be fixed. It will highlight, search for the relevant guide on MainWP help center, and try to 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 hosted on a different hosting provider.
In the tutorial above we learned how easy it is to manage multiple WordPress sites on one domain.
What if we have multiple domains? Well, with Cloudways it is extremely easy to configure multiple domains for WordPress site.
WordPress Multiple Domains
In your Cloudways application dashboard; go to Domain Management tab. Select your primary domain and add the additional domain as shown below:
Here I kept the primary domain as www.example.com and two secondary domains as www.example-sub.com and www.example-category.com. That’s it! You have successfully configured multiple domains for your WordPress site.
Indeed, WordPress is the fastest growing CMS in the world. It is quite a renown for its flexibility and the number of solutions it presents on the market in the form of Themes and Plugins. WordPress can be used to develop any website; you just need to identify your actual requirements. There are a few must-have plugins for WordPress that can help you to identify tools that can fulfill your requirements.
If you have a number of sites and it’s difficult to handle all of them separately. I would suggest giving MainWP a try! If you have any query, feel free to leave a comment below. I would love to answer.
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Mustaasam is the WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed WordPress Hosting Platform, where he actively works and loves sharing his knowledge with the WordPress Community. When he is not working, you can find him playing squash with his friends, or defending in Football, and listening to music. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org