Managing Multiple Sites with WordPress Network

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Here you are, a web developer currently working on several different WordPress sites at varying stages of development. They’re all in different directories on your domain so clients can have a look and see how they’re coming along. Out of nowhere, a major new WordPress version is released, and the Genesis framework you’re using to build all your sites needs to be updated.

Managing all your WordPress installations at a times like this can be a real hassle. This may not be your exact story, but I’m sure many of you can sympathize.

WordPress Network comes to the rescue in situations like this. Once you’ve set it up, you can put multiple sites in directories and subdomains with the click of a button. Since they all share the same WP installation you can update and edit them all in one fell swoop from your Network Admin dashboard.

Before you start, unless this is a brand new WordPress installation with nothing to lose, you’ll probably want to back up your database and files. You also need to disable any active plugins. You can start them back up after the network setup is complete.

Now for the nuts and bolts of creating a new WordPress Network.

First you’ll need to enable Multisite. Use your FTP client or web server’s file browser and download a file called wp-config.php and save it to your desktop or a folder. Open it with your text editor and add this line above where it says "/* That's all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */".

define('WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true);

Save the file and upload it back to the server. Since the original wp-config.php is still there, it will ask you which file you want to keep. Choose “replace” or “overwrite” to save the newer, edited version.

You’ll need to refresh your admin panel in your browser to let these changes take effect.

In your Tools menu in the left sidebar, you’ll now see the Network Setup item. Click on that and then go to Create a Network of WordPress Sites. Follow the directions and choose a few options such as the URL structure and network name.

You’ll then be prompted to make a blogs.dir directory in /wp-content and it will provide several more lines of code to add to the wp-config.php file.

It will also tell you to add some rules to .htaccess, a server text file used to work with permissions and configurations for each directory.

Use your FTP program of choice to download this file. You may need to tell your FTP program not to hide this file, which you should be able to specify in the program’s options or preferences.

Even when you have downloaded the file, you may find your operating system’s file manager hides the file from you, so here are some directions for how to show it.

Mac

Open Terminal, found in Applications/Utilities.

Type/paste in this and hit return/enter:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool true

Finder must be restarted to allow this to take effect. In Terminal paste in this and hit enter:

killall Finder

When you’re done, if you’d like to hide hidden files again, use the same line as used to hide it, but change “true” at the end to “false” and restart Finder.

Windows

Press the Start menu. Click on Control Panel, Appearance and Personalization, and then Folder Options. Go to the View tab. Under Advanced Settings, select “Show hidden files and folders” and hit “OK“.

Once you have shown hidden files, open .htaccess and add the code given by WordPress Network Setup, save the file and re-upload it.

It is possible that this file has not already been placed on your website. If, after setting your FTP program to display hidden files, you still don’t see the .htaccess file in your website’s root public directory, you’ll need to create a new one.

Create a new file in your text editor, paste in the code given by WordPress Network Setup, save that as .htaccess to your desktop or a folder, and upload it to the server, in the root public directory of your website.

When you log into the Network Admin, you’ll now see a “My Sites” item. Hover over that, and under “Network Admin”, there will be several administration items. When you click on “Sites”, you can add new sites with the click of a button!

Back under the main “My Sites” menu, you can manage all the network sites.

Setup is complete!

Now, with your WordPress network, updating and making changes to all your sites is simple and far less time-consuming.