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WordPress Multisite Hosting: What Is It?

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WordPress multisite is an incredibly useful tool for anyone who wants to run multiple personal websites, provide a community resource, or make money with WordPress.

But a WordPress multisite network is larger and more complex than a standard WordPress installation, so it will need suitable hosting.

If you want to learn how to set it up, check out our quick WordPress multisite explanation and setup guide.

In this article, we’ll look at WordPress multisite and what kind of hosting it needs, as well as exploring how Siteground’s hosting can help users running a WordPress multisite network.

What Is WordPress Multisite?

Wordpress multisite is a WordPress installation with a network added to it. This means you can use multisite to run anything from two sites to millions of sites, all on the same WordPress installation. If you’ve ever had a site with WordPress.com, you’ll have used multisite, as WordPress.com is a vast network of sites using a WordPress multisite installation (with a lot of customization to support so many sites).

wordpresscom

If you want to run a network on your WordPress installation, you can, and for free. All you need to do is activate multisite and then add some sites. You can also make it possible for other people to create sites on your network, like with WordPress.com. This way, you can prove a useful resource for a community, or you can monetize your WordPress installation and use it as the basis for a business.

Benefits of WordPress multisite include:

  • Host multiple websites in one place, if you own multiple websites yourself.
  • Only update your themes, plugins, and WordPress itself once for all your sites.
  • Manage everything from the one dashboard, saving you plenty of time.
  • Direct multiple domain names to your network so that each site in it has its own unique domain name—visitors will never know the difference.
  • Provide a place where site admins in your network can come together and communicate as a community.
  • Offer premium plans with extra themes, plugins, or support, and make money from your network.

WordPress multisite is incredibly useful if you need to have more than one WordPress site, whatever the reason. Because you only have one WordPress installation, you won’t be using as much server space and will only need one hosting plan.

But this doesn’t mean you can run a multisite network on just any hosting plan. Multisite isn’t the same as a standard WordPress site, and it does have some extra requirements when it comes to hosting.

What Hosting Requirements Does Multisite Have?

If you’re planning on running multisite on your WordPress installation, it pays to check with your hosting provider that this is supported before you start. This is because a multisite network has the capacity to grow much bigger than a standalone WordPress site, and it could put more strain on server resources.

To run an effective WordPress multisite network, you’ll need to ensure you have:

  • enough server space for all the extra files and database tables that will be created
  • enough capacity to serve all the sites in your network with no drop in performance, no matter how many visitors
  • excellent speed and performance
  • tools to help you register multiple domains to your network and configure your network to work effectively
  • an uptime guarantee so you can reassure people hosting sites on your network that they won’t experience drops in availability
  • the ability to register multiple domains and have them point at your network
  • free SSL for all of the sites in your network, including wildcard SSL if your network is running on subdomains
  • the ability to upgrade your hosting as your network expands, with options like cloud-based hosting and VPS
  • excellent support from people who understand not only WordPress, but also WordPress multisite

This is why you need a dedicated WordPress hosting provider for your multisite network. A generic hosting provider may be cheap, but if your network runs into problems, they won’t understand how to fix it. I’ve been running four multisite networks for some years now, and I know from experience that when something goes wrong (often with DNS), you need support from people who understand multisite and can identify what the problem is.

If you’re creating sites for other people on your network, or you’re allowing other people to create sites themselves, this becomes even more important. It’s one thing having your own site go down, but what if the sites you’re hosting for clients and users suddenly stop working? You need to know you can get the network up and running again quickly, and that your hosting provider can help you with this.

So when you’re looking for a hosting provider for your multisite network, make sure you find one that understands WordPress and understands WordPress multisite.

How to Find a WordPress Multisite Hosting Provider

So you’ve decided to set up a WordPress multisite network. Excellent choice! Now it’s time to find your hosting provider.

Don't just plump for a cheap hosting provider. This will cost you more in the long run, as you’ll have to spend more time fixing problems, trying to get support, and maybe even moving to another provider when you outgrow the current one.

Instead, find a provider who specializes in WordPress. You can find recommended WordPress hosting providers on the WordPress website. 

hosting recommendations on wordpressorg

These are providers who have a track record of providing high-quality hosting and who work with WordPress all the time. And our partner SiteGround is one of them. It comes with an easy installer, free support, and automatic updates. We're happy to be able to offer a huge discount of 70% off self-managed WordPress hosting, thanks to our partnership with SiteGround.

Managed WordPress Hosting From SiteGround

When looking for your hosting provider, ask these questions:

  • Do they allow me to activate WordPress multisite on my hosting plan?
  • Will they let me point multiple domain names at my network?
  • Can I upgrade to a higher plan as my network expands?
  • Do they provide tools for me to manage my hosting and my network setup?
  • Do they work with WordPress all the time and have a track record with WordPress multisite?
  • Do other WordPress multisite users recommend them?
  • Can they host my site in the location where my users will be based?
  • Do they have an uptime guarantee?
  • When I ask questions about multisite, do they provide answers that indicate they know what they’re talking about?

Ask all of these questions before choosing which hosting provider to go for. Once you’ve got a shortlist of providers who answer yes to all of these questions, only then should you compare the price. Your hosting is an investment in your business and your network—it doesn’t pay to scrimp.

Siteground Tools to Help You Run a Multisite Network

Siteground has a number of features that will help you run WordPress multisite:

  • one-click multisite activation when you install WordPress using their installer
  • multisite support built into their SG Optimizer plugin, which will optimize performance of your sites
  • free SSL for as many domains as you need with Let’s Encrypt, and the option to install wildcard SSL
  • the option to register multiple domain names to point at your network, or have domains pointing to your network from other domain registrars
  • WordPress expertise, meaning they will have encountered any problem you have with your network before
  • a range of plans, with the ability to upgrade as your needs grow

WordPress Multisite Hosting vs. Hosting Multiple Sites

It’s common to see hosting providers talking about "multisite" or "multiple sites" as if the two are interchangeable. Some will even use the word "multisite" to refer to their own hosting plans and not to a WordPress multisite network.

So in case you’re not sure which of these it is that your hosting provider supports, here’s the difference.

WordPress Multisite Defined

A WordPress multisite network is something you activate inside WordPress itself. It requires one WordPress installation and one database. 

That WordPress installation will have more files over time as more sites are added, and the database will include extra tables compared to a standard installation. But it’s still one installation and one database. You only need to install WordPress itself once.

Once you’ve activated WordPress multisite, you’ll have a slightly different interface, with more options as a network administrator that you did as a site administrator. But that will all be in your WordPress admin, not in your hosting control panel.

WordPress network admin dashboard

Hosting Multiple Sites Defined

Hosting multiple sites means that your hosting plan allows you to host more than one website. If you use WordPress for these, that means multiple WordPress installations, with multiple databases.

An entry-level hosting plan will only let you host one website, while a higher plan will let you host more, sometimes as many as you like. Some hosting providers have an interface for managing these sites that they call "multisite", but it’s not WordPress multisite. 

Below is a screenshot of a SiteGround account with multiple WordPress installations running—some of these are multisite networks, some are not.

running multiple sites in Siteground

Why You Need a Quality Hosting Plan for WordPress Multisite

You might be thinking that as a WordPress multisite network runs on just one WordPress installation, you could buy a cheap hosting plan that only allows one site, and use it to host your network.

While in theory you could do that, you’ll find that in practice it won’t work well. This is because of a few factors:

  • You may need to direct multiple domains at the network, and some cheaper hosting plans won’t let you do that.
  • You’ll need more server space than one basic WordPress installation would require. This is because all the sites in your network will be uploading files, and you may need more themes and plugins—the amount of server space will be greater.
  • You’ll need faster performance and greater reliability, because of having multiple sites hosted on your network, and more visitors.

So resist the temptation to use a cheap hosting plan for your network—you could come to regret it.

Summary

WordPress multisite is an incredibly useful tool for anyone who wants to run more than one WordPress site with just one installation. It can save you time and hassle and help you make money.

But if you’re going to make it work, you’ll need suitable hosting. Follow the tips above and find a hosting provider who can help you make the most of your multisite network.

Special Discount for WordPress Hosting

If you are looking for a provider for WordPress multisite hosting, take a look at SiteGround. Thanks to our partnership with SiteGround, we're happy to be able to offer a huge discount of 70% off self-managed WordPress hosting. They have plans for all price points and requirements, as well as tools like an easy installer, free support, and automatic updates.

Managed WordPress Hosting From SiteGround
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