Multi-site vs Multi-tenancy: What’s The Difference?

Author: Lauren Hall
Published: 2021-05-21

Whether your company is ready to spread its wings to global markets, or perhaps it’s time to showcase your company’s existing locations in the UK, the options for CMS expansion using WordPress are surprisingly easy.
WordPress Multi-site and WordPress Multi-tenancy both provide cost-effective and appealing platforms in terms of scale, automation and management. Expanding your business doesn’t mean that you have to relinquish control of your brand identity, depending on your needs, WordPress might be a great platform to support the level of variation that you require for your websites.

Sounds good so far, but how do I know which platform is right for my business?

Multi-site is a type of WordPress installation that allows you to create and manage a network of multiple websites (and domains too) from a single WordPress dashboard. This lets you easily make changes and keep all of your websites updated from one place. If you all operate as a single team, then it may make sense to operate a multi-site web platform with a single access point to manage all activities and websites. WordPress Multisite combines all site resources such as themes and plugins, together under a single WordPress installation - this means the front end styling maintains consistency. Essentially, it’s easy to keep numerous websites up to date and branding consistent as changes can be managed from a central interface.

The multi-site approach allows for more standardisation, so it enables you to impose brand guidelines and standard practices and protocol more easily across all websites, which can mean a higher brand equity and synergy across platforms, as opposed to variations starting to dilute the brand and level of consistency.

The WordPress multi-tenant platform, however, allows for completely individual WordPress sites with separate databases, which share a single WordPress codebase. Whereas the multi-tenant WordPress setup allows multiple ‘tenant’ sites to run from one core WordPress installation, but with separate databases.

When scaling up, perhaps internationally, a multi-tenanted platform might offer a great opportunity to take into account that there may be different imagery requirements across international markets. Furthermore, for ease of management and scalability, a WordPress multi-tenant platform could be a viable option for the international growth of a busines that requires a reach to multiple and diverse markets with numerous translations, cultural nuances and interpretation of colour, even slogans might need to be tweaked.

The key advantage about the multi-tenant option is the flexibility and customisation - you can operate everything from one codebase, however you can still decide what content and data is managed at a global level in terms of standardisation, and what is managed at a tenant level (this can be varied and customised for each tenant). It gives you the ability to have complete creative freedom and flexibility in your work whilst still maintaining a multi-tenant architecture and streamlined codebase.

In essence, the key to choosing the most viable WordPress platform for the expansion of your business relies on two factors; the level of standardisation or indeed variation, required across your websites, and how you plan to manage multiple websites across your business and possibly across international markets. You may need to consider the team structure within your business, factor in the range of localisation required across markets and whether your branding and styling resonates with the varied markets you plan to reach.

So, when your company is ready to go global, or even grow more locally, both of these platforms could help you work towards achieving your goals for reaching new markets, a solid strategy needs to be in place to ensure that you make the right decision for your business needs.

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