Multisite WordPress or Standalone for Community Site?

  • Posted December 11, 2014

I intend to have various WordPress applications (main site/blog, shop, directory, classifieds etc;) on a LEMP stack.

Would prefer to run as a single community site with a shared user database and singular login. (The site will run under one domain) … However I do need different permission for different users on the various applications. (e.g. User A can manage blog, shop but not directory etc;)

I was wondering if a multisite setup would still be ideal? Or should I keep separate standalone installations in various subfolders linked to the same user database(?) I was initially looking at using EasyEngine for a multisite setup.


@sierracircle I run an online travel magazine where the main site/blog is managed by a team of editors. It requires a specific theme & plugin customisation that will look different from the rest of the site. There will be a different blog section where users can post their own articles.

The other sections of the site are more user-generated such as the contents in the directory and classifieds. This may not be limited to the different functions we may run such as a kickstarter or premium membership section where users can purchase content. A forum or some-sort would definitely be great for a community-driven site.

We might run an actual e-commerce site in the future but I think I’d likely take your recommendation and have it on its own individual installation. (It can still derive from the same userbase?)

In what case did you need to branch off a particular site on its own?

@ryanpq If I remained with one installation on nginx, would it still be easy to spin-off other individual WordPress installations? Or would I have to tinker around to install in subdirectories in nginx? I have considered using EasyEngine but I’m not sure how well they play with standalone installation in subdirectories.

It depends. Can you describe a little more about what you will be doing?

WordPress Multisite will do just what you describe out of the box, once you get it running: users will have access only to the things you (the Super User) give them access to.

The downside to WP Multisites is that if you ever do need to branch off a particular site on its own it is not an easy task (although it is possible, I have done a few in the last month…it takes me about an hour, but I know what I am doing)

The upside to WP Multisites is the shared user database…so you can manage all users easily. It also makes updating your sites much easier, since you just have to run the updates and then it asks you to update the “Network of Sites”…you click a button and Done!

I have a few WordPress multisites running. I keep them specifically for low-traffic sites that have shared users. Works great and makes maintenance easier.

For heavier traffic sites, or sites that security is an issue (e-commerce sites) or sites that might use a lot more resources (e-commerce sites), I keep them on their own individual WordPress install…actually I keep them on their own droplet as well.

A multi-site setup for this may be overkill. There are a ton of plugins for wordpress available that allow you to manage user permissions or add new features. I would recommend finding a set of plugins that meets your needs and then assigning different users to different roles or groups.

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It sounds like WordPress Multisites would be a good fit, at least to start out with, for the different sections of your site.

I am not sure about using the same user database for a different install of WordPress…I have never pulled something like that off, but I imagine it could be done. I used to do some real unconventional hacking to WordPress to get it to do things that it was not meant for, but then an upgrade to the next version would break all of my work… Nowadays I leave all core WordPress files alone, and only do my “hacking” on themes and plugins.

The scenarios where I had to move some sites out of a WordPress multisite happened just recently. For many years I hosted some different friends and family on a WordPress Multisite. This year I told everyone I was going to start charging, and some people did not want to pay.

It was not too difficult to pull their sites out, but I would have been sweating if I was not already familiar with how Wordpress structures its database.

Another scenario is where one site (section) on a multisite might be getting tons of traffic, while the rest are only moderate traffic. In this case you might want to move the heavy-traffic site to its own droplet…so you would need to pull the site out and put it in its own WordPress install.