As a webmaster and WordPress host with multiple clients, a provider must decide whether to use a single instance of WordPress for all your clients or keep each client separated. There are pros and cons for each approach.
If you keep each of your clients or blogs on a separate server, changes in one do not affect the others. Single instances can need tweaking with special themes or plugins, and by hosting every site separately, you avoid making a mistake that can cause all your clients to go down simultaneously. The down side… you have to make sure you visit every site on a routine basis to install updates and perform backups.
Many providers prefer to use one instance of WordPress and load “multiple sites”. It is a straightforward process and documented on WordPress. For providers hosting multiple WordPress clients you can check http://codex.wordpress.org/Create_A_Network for complete details. WordPress used to have a separate version called “MU” or Multi-User, but now it is just a configuration change.
At 3Deers when hosting a site, we prefer the network version. We have better control of updates and can ensure clients are managed efficiently. A host does need to ensure only top quality themes and plugins are used, however. One rouge process can cause a heck of a problem.
When hosting on the network version of WordPress, clients are typically sub-domains. However, most want their own URL. For example, we did a site for an artist and they did not want to be www.3deers.com/pastelpuppies, they wanted to have their own URL, www.PastelPuppies.com. Let us face it, they are right… you need a private domain to get the best results on search engines and reader appeal.
We lease space from Dayana Host and we can set up “extra domains”. When the domain is registered, it is pointed to the servers for 3Deers. That, however, is only part of the solution. You must also let WordPress know how to handle this scenario.
We found a great plugin for managing the domains. The plugin is called “WordPress MU Domain Mapping” by Donncha O. Caoimh. (You can find this doing a plugin search or go directly to http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-mu-domain-mapping/).
We found this works great and allowed us to start with the sub-domain on the page, then implement the site with a private URL when it was ready. Going live becomes very simple, too. We also like using a Coming Soon plugin, to block people from seeing a site that is not ready for Prime Time.
When hosting WordPress sites, providers always have options. Research and a little preparation can go along one to find the most effective solution for you and your clients.