Hosting Multiple Blogs with One WordPress Installation

The self-hosted WordPress.org software lets you run an unlimited number of blogs on one installation of its software platform, on one domain. When you configure the options within WordPress to enable a multisite interface, you become administrator of a network of blogs. You can then add additional blogs and domains, and allow registered users of your website to host their own blog within your network.

The following types of sites use the Network options within WordPress:

  • Blog networks, which can have more than 150 blogs: The popular electronics retail store, Best Buy, uses WordPress to power 1,050 local store blogs.

  • Newspapers and magazines: For example, The New York Times, and universities, such as Harvard Law School, use WordPress to manage the blog sections of their websites.

  • Niche-specific blog networks: Edublogs.org uses WordPress to manage their full networks of free blogs for teachers, educators, lecturers, librarians, and other education professionals.

Anyone using a WordPress platform prior to version 3.0 may recognize WordPress MU, the separate piece of software you needed in order to run multiple sites with WordPress. The multisite feature that replaced WordPress MU was introduced into WordPress version 3.0. All you old dogs out there need to forget WordPress MU and embrace the multisite feature in version 3.0+ because WordPress MU no longer exists.

With the multisite features enabled, users of your network can run their own sites within your installation of WordPress. They also have access to their own Dashboard.

If you plan to run just a few of your own sites with the WordPress multisite feature, then your current hosting situation is probably well suited. However, if you plan to host a large network with hundreds of blogs and multiple users, you should consider contacting your host and increasing your bandwidth and the disk space limitations on your account.

The best example of a large blog network with hundreds of blogs and users (actually, more like millions) would be the hosted service at WordPress.com. At WordPress.com, people are invited to sign up for an account and start a blog by using the multisite feature within the WordPress platform on the WordPress server. When you enable this feature on your own domain and enable the user registration feature, you invite users to:

  • Create an account

  • Create a blog on your WordPress installation (on your domain)

  • Create content by publishing blog posts

  • Upload media files, such as photos, audio, and video

  • Invite their friends to view their blog or sign up for their own account

In addition to the necessary security measures, time, and administrative tasks that go into running a community of blogs, you have a few things to worry about. Creating a community increases the resource use, bandwidth, and disk space on your web server. In many cases, if you go over the allotted limits given to you by your web host, you will incur great cost. Make sure that you anticipate your bandwidth and disk space needs before running a large network on your website! (Don’t say that nobody warned you.)

Many WordPress network communities start with grand dreams of being a large and active community — be realistic on how your community will operate in order to make the right hosting choice for yourself and your community.

Small blogging communities are handled easily with a shared-server solution; larger, more active communities should really consider a dedicated server solution for operation. The difference between the two lies in their names:

  • Shared-server solution: You have one account on one server that has several other accounts on it. Think of this as apartment living. One building has several apartments under one roof.

  • Dedicated server: You have one account on one server. The server is dedicated to your account and your account is dedicated to the server. Think of this as owning a home where you don’t share your living space with anyone else.

A dedicated-server solution is a more expensive investment for your blog community; a shared-server solution is the most economical. Base your decision regarding which solution to go with for your WordPress network on how big and how active you estimate your community will be. You can move from a shared-server solution to a dedicated-server solution if your community becomes larger than you expect; however, starting with the right solution for your community from day one is best.

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