Use multi-tenant WordPress instead of Multisite for your WaaS or WordPress-based SaaS.
For those who don’t know, WordPress Multisite enables you to manage multiple subsites from a single WordPress dashboard. Very convenient in some cases. But there are a few pitfalls.
Companies that offer websites as a service (WaaS) or try to build a WordPress-based SaaS have wrestled with multisite’s limitations for many years.
A Website as a Service (WaaS) is a website distribution model in which a service provider offers websites to customers, who subscribe to it as a service. This means that monitoring, maintenance, and technical updates are managed by someone else as part of a monthly plan.
Basically, it’s a business model and development style that mimics the success of SaaS and implements that to web development. The reason for that is simple: SaaS companies are generally highly scalable, lend themselves for focus and automation, and are very valuable.
In this article, we’ll explain how multi-tenant WordPress is the innovation that solves the limitations of Multisite and is the first to introduce the dominant cloud infrastructure of SaaS to the world’s largest open-source ecosystem, WordPress.
Before we do that, we’ll first go over the different use cases that make multisite a great tool to use. Then, we’ll highlight its limitations. Finally, we’ll introduce the multi-tenant WordPress cloud platform that makes frustrations over multisite and its application for WaaS and SaaS a thing of the past.
Already too familiar with multisite’s limitations?
Skip through to the end to read about WPCS using the menu bar.
When to use WordPress multisite
The best way to visualize a multisite and the possible benefits are to think of it as a network of connected websites. As the owner of the multisite, you can set up and manage all websites under a single WordPress installation.
This means that all websites will share, among other things, the same theme and plugins. As stated, this can be very convenient. For instance, if you’re building a network of websites for an international corporation, a community, or a branded platform.
WordPress Multisite is a great option if you’re creating a network of sites sharing not only similar functionality but also the same audience. This is because all sites share the same database. This means they share the same plugins, custom applications, or specific server configurations, but also the same database, filesystem, and users.
If your network consists of widely different WordPress sites (different in terms of plugins, themes, and customizations) and/or if you want to separate the users, then multisite is not a good fit for you.
Multisite networks are used by corporations, schools, universities, news outlets, online department stores, and more. The best example of WordPress Multisite is WordPress.com, one of the largest WordPress networks on the Internet.
As mentioned, there are a few wildly frustrating pitfalls to multisite that generally disqualify them to use outside of the mentioned use cases.
Below, we’ll list the ones that we specifically thought to be the most limiting (and frustrating) when using it for a Website as a Service or a SaaS solution.
The main reason people have tried to use multisite to sell websites as a service or build a SaaS is that it was the closest thing available without a suitable alternative.
After discussing the pitfalls of WordPress multisite, we’ll dive into the multi-tenant WordPress innovation that makes you want to migrate your WaaS or SaaS
Downsides of WordPress multisite
- All websites share the same database
A potential data breach will involve all the data of all the sites. Furthermore, eCommerce websites are a no-go on a multisite network as it means that a single purchase on one website immediately creates a user for all websites in the network. This is not just a major problem in terms of CRM management and general customer confusion, a shared database for several different webshops will infringe on data privacy laws.
- All users who are added to your network will be users on all sites on your network.
This is mentioned above, but deserves special emphasis: all sites share the same user profiles. You cannot create the same user two times for two different sites on the network. Also, logged-in users are logged in for all sites.
- To allocate a different default role for users on individual sites, you must use a plugin.
If you need to keep users on separated sites, Multisite can lead to a security risk, due also to eventual leaks in plugins/themes.
- There is no way to restrict or impede updates on individual sites.
If a theme or a plugin is updated, it is updated for all sites of the network that use it with immediate effect. This means that updates, new plugins, or changes to your custom theme might break websites. As there’s no versioning system or any form of DevOps for Multisite, there’s no way to find out beforehand. Sit back and enjoy the mortal fear for a flood of support questions anytime you change something about the network.
- All themes are installed for the entire network. If you edit the code of one theme, you edit it for all sites using that theme.
You can however install plugins in order to allow each site to tweak its own CSS without affecting anyone else. But as stated above, you’re basically pushing changes to your product to all subsites at once. If your network is large enough, restoring backups every time an error occurs can result in significant downtime.
- There are many plugins that aren’t WordPress Multisite compatible.
Not all plugins work on multisite. Usually, most plugins are created for a single site and this can lead to conflicts.
- Changing hosts, or removing a single site from Multisite is very difficult. Moving back to the multisite is a pipe dream.
If for some reason you want to change a multisite to different single sites installations: for example if one site becomes too big, or just the number of sites increases too much making the whole system slow. To switch from multisite installation back to a single site is hard to achieve. But if you do, chances are likely that this site will never return to the network. Changes will be made, resulting in breaking the uniformity of the network. You end up with different clusters of multisite and single-site networks that originate from overcrowding your initial WaaS or SaaS.
- A multisite network requires higher technical knowledge, especially in the areas of server administration and network management.
If the number of sites increases, managing it within a multisite installation could be critical. The maker’s focus shifts from building the company towards managing the server stack, organising the file system, and managing the database.
- Despite being on one WordPress install, hosting costs will reflect the need to host many websites.
Because it’s a single WordPress install, all sites share the same IP address and web hosting account. Also, not all hosting plans support multisite.
- Issues that affect one site can (potentially) bring the entire WordPress Multisite network down.
A hacker attack or just downtime on your server will affect all the sites.
- Noisy neighbor problem: if one website has a lot of traffic, it will affect the performance of the other websites because all websites run on the same server
Big traffic on one site may affect the speed of all the other sites of the network, for bandwith reasons but also because all sites share the same database.
- Backups and customizations are a problem in general
With individual WordPress installations you can easily make self-contained backups of all the customizations you have created. This can be quite handy for future use, or to distribute easily-launched “clone” sites. With Multisite, you lose this ability, as the db structure (of course) contains all sites.
- You can’t improve your “prototype”: improve on your core website and safely ship this upgrade to all your existing customers.
We kind of snuck this one in, as it’s a feature of WPCS: you cannot treat your WaaS as an actual SaaS. The reason this pitfall comes last is that up until recently, this feature wasn’t available. With WPCS, discussed below, you finally can.
To explain, with any type of cloud-based, SaaS-like product, you expect regular updates that upon becoming available improve the product of all existing customers. Doing that with Multisite has its risks. You cannot treat your website as a real SaaS, because you can’t update your “prototype” separately from the rest of the sites (your customers). Once you update, everyone’s involved.
There’s a better alternative: multi-tenant WordPress
Multisite is an old system to internet standards. It’s strange that it took so long to innovate on this concept, given its obvious downsides.
There’s been an advent of website builders such as Wix and Squarespace that offer some solutions to the aforementioned problems, but they all work in a proprietary CMS.
WordPress still powers about 60% of all websites on the internet, so how come there hasn’t been a platform launched that offers a general solution that’s fitted for WordPress?
Finally, it seems there’s been an innovation in the market: WPCS.io.
WPCS is a platform that enables website creators to standardize and duplicate any WordPress website to any degree and automate the entire process from sale to launch.
When you’re done, you’ve got an automated selling system that makes sales and deploys your websites without you hardly lifting a finger. Plus, you never have to worry about your server stack again. With WPCS, you can create multi-tenant WordPress websites that are unified in management, updates, monitoring, and infinitely scalable.
How WPCS works:
Using WPCS you can create a prototype for any type of niche, we call that a “version”. When you’re done, you send over the “blueprint” of the prototype to the factory. Everytime you have a customer, you produce a new website based on this blueprint. We call this blueprint a “snapshot”.
All tenants (your customers’ websites) are unified in management, updates, and monitoring. Whenever you want to update or upgrade your product, you make a new version. You can test this new version thoroughly, as it’s completely isolated from your snapshot and tenants. Once you’re ready, you move all existing tenants to the new version. It’s that simple.
Watch the video to learn more about how WPCS is the first to solve all scaling challenges of WordPress simultaneously.
Benefits to multi-tenant WordPress with WPCS
WPCS natively scales any WordPress application to multi-tenant cloud architecture, orchestrated by Kubernetes on AWS.
WPCS is built by senior cloud engineers and full-stack developers that have spent more than a decade implementing DevOps best practices into building enterprise-level hosted SaaS solutions. Based on their years of experience and a growing irritation by a lack of DevOps in WordPress, they decided to bring you multi-tenant WordPress with our unique Versioning System.
Our multi-tenant cloud platform enables you to create multiple versions of any WordPress product that spin up highly-available tenants (websites) with shared functionality but separate content. This enables you to develop and distribute changes like a SaaS.
You can create multi-tenant WordPress products right in the platform and manage all websites as one product. If you use our CLI, you can even develop locally and implement a CI/CD process.
Your entire Website as a Service and all tenants are hosted in the cloud, which means you can build any WordPress website and multiply as many as you wish. WPCS guarantees uncapped performance for all websites.
Our container-based infrastructure provides quick scalability, availability, and resilience. All your WP installations come with uncapped performance & bandwidth.
Moreover, the system enables you to automate the entire process from sale to launch. You can create different templates for different products or plans to sell, that are still managed in one Version.
Our API and other integrations allow your business to scale infinitely. We provide a free course and hands-on advice to teach you which plugins, automation, and recipes to use to fully automate your business and sell products while you’re asleep.
Our mission is to deliver the most efficient development process with the world’s first WordPress multi-tenant cloud platform (as far as we can tell, it’s the first. Open to suggestions).
Have a look at the video for an in-depth overview of the platform.
Eliminate all multisite frustration by migrating to multi-tenant WordPress.
Our infrastructure allows multisite businesses to truly scale.
Every subscription at WPCS includes free migration of your stack to WPCS.
We’ll automatically create stand-alone WP installations for all your subsites and load them into your Console.
Additionally, we provide a full learning experience with easy-to-follow course modules, tackling everything from choosing your audience to automating your business.
“We have a window of technical advantage to exploit until the World catches on that multi-tenancy is available.” – Ken Lyle (The Tattoo Platform)