How to Manage Multiple WordPress Sites from a Central Dashboard

How to Manage Multiple WordPress Sites from a Central Dashboard

Managing multiple WordPress sites could be a mess. When new releases are available, you have to switch between sites constantly to update the WordPress core, plugins and themes of each site. And to deal with other tasks, such as comment moderation, regular website backups and post management, you will also be tired of endless logins and logouts. The website maintenance is definitely a nightmare if you do not make a detailed plan in advance.

Fortunately, those intelligent developers have developed a number of plugins and tools which make it easier and less time-consuming to manage multiple WordPress sites. As you may have heard about some popular solutions like ManageWP and InfiniteWP, in this post we would like to introduce a plugin named MainWP.

In below, we will go through the introductions, configurations and usage of the MainWP plugin.

Why Use MainWP?

MainWP is a free WordPress management plugin that enables you to manage multiple WordPress sites from a single dashboard even though the sites are hosted on different servers or hosts.

The plugin maintains a 4.9-star rating from about 700 users, which is one of the important reasons why we have chosen it. The other two main reasons why it is recommended are:

  • MainWP is self-hosted. Unlike the online services like ManageWP, MainWP can be installed and managed on your own server, so that you don’t need to worry about the security of your WordPress sites’ information. Everything is under your control.
  • The plugin is feature rich. Besides the easy update of WordPress, themes and plugins, MainWP helps you manage posts, schedule backups, control users, monitor site uptime, etc. In addition, you will get alerted for the abandoned themes and plugins for the sake of site security.

Within the dashboard of MainWP, you are able to access each of the child sites (the WordPress sites that are managed from the dashboard) without manual login.

The basic plugin comes with useful functionality, while there are many premium extensions that are built with additional features such as link manager, code snippets, team control, Google Analytics, etc. These extensions are all available within a membership plan priced at $29.99/mo.

To use MainWP for the management of multiple WordPress sites, you have to take advantage of two plugins: MainWP Dashboard and MainWP Child. The former is used for central management, and the latter needs to be installed on each child site to pull the site information.

Manage Multiple WordPress Sites with MainWP

Install and Configure MainWP Dashboard

MainWP Dashboard can be installed on any WordPress site. However, to prevent the possible plugin conflicts which may affect the functionality of this plugin, it is highly suggested to install the dashboard on a fresh and clean WordPress install.

After getting a new WordPress install ready, you can simply install and active the plugin in the same way as you have done with any other plugins. For any confusion about the process, read this guide for WordPress plugin installation.

When the dashboard is installed, a setup wizard will show up automatically to help you configure the plugin. The wizard guides you through the basic system check, hosting setup, network optimization and more, so you can follow it to make simple configurations.

MainWP Setup Wizard

Optionally, you can close the setup wizard and access more settings by visiting MainWP > Settings. Under the “Global Options” tab, you can deal with the preference settings of the dashboard, including:

  • Global Options: Set up the notification email, WP-Cron and the display of SEO stats.
  • Upgrade Options: In this section, you can require backup checking before any upgrade is applied, which is highly recommended. Besides, you can also disable automatic updates, or allow the trusted plugins to be updated automatically.
  • Data Return Options: You are able to limit the number of comments and posts returned to the dashboard from child WordPress sites.
  • Backup Options: Choose the number of backups stored on the server and remote storage, select a preferred archive format, and configure the email notifications for backup. For the backups on the server, we suggest keeping the number to the minimum because they will slow down the server.

MainWP Global Options

Next, open the “MainWP Tools” tab and scroll down to the “Hide WP Menus” section. Here you can hide the menus that you don’t need so as to declutter your site.

MainWP Hide Menus

Add Child WordPress Sites to MainWP Dashboard

To add child sites, you will first need to install the MainWP Child plugin on each WordPress site that you want to add to the MainWP dashboard.

When the child plugin is activated, go to the MainWP dashboard and click on MainWP > Sites > Add New. Now you get a form in which you have to enter the information of a child site, including the site name, URL and admin username. If you have too many sites to manage, you can also assign a group to the child site for easier management in the future.

Add a New Site to MainWP Dashboard

After clicking on the “Add New Site” button on the bottom, the child site will be available in the MainWP dashboard immediately. Now you can add more sites to the dashboard in the same way. MainWP does not set a limit on the number of sites.

If you want to add an extra layer of security to the connection between the MainWP dashboard and your child sites, you can generate a unique Security ID in MainWP Child. In this case, sites cannot be added to MainWP dashboard unless the Security ID you enter in the “Advanced Options” matches the one on the child site.

MainWP Security ID

Manage Multiple WordPress Sites in MainWP Dashboard

Now that you have added all your WordPres sites in MainWP, you can start managing them from the central dashboard. In the “Sites” submenu of the plugin, all your sites are displayed in a list from which you are able to see how many updates are available, access the admin area of each individual site, backup sites, add new posts, etc.

Child Sites

Also, you can bulk update the WordPress core, plugins, themes and translations of the child sites by using the “Bulk Actions” function.

Bulk Actions

Besides, each child site comes with its own dashboard in which you can apply updates, add/manage posts and pages, install plugins, install themes, check the site security, create a backup, etc.

MainWP Dashboard for Child Sites

In below, we will introduce several common site management tasks that you can finish in MainWP dashboard.

Add and manage posts

In MainWP > Posts, you get some post management tools. Once the post type and child site are selected, the corresponding posts on your WordPress site will be rendered.

Render Posts

After getting the posts, you can easily edit them, view them, trash them and unpublish them just like you do in the normal WordPress dashboard.

Manage Posts

If you want to add new posts to your child sites, open the “Add New” tab and create a post like you usually do. Don’t forget to select the site/sites you want to publish the new post to. Once the new post is published, you will see it on the child site/sites that are selected.

Add a New Post

The management of pages is the same as what you can do with posts.

Schedule a backup

MainWP comes with a backup tool which is easy-to-use. To schedule a backup with it, visit MainWP > Schedule Backup and open the “Add New” tab. Here you need to enter a backup task name, select the frequency of the automatic backup, choose a backup type between full backup and database backup, and exclude the folders that don’t have to be backed up.

Also, you have to select the child sites for backing up. To prevent unintended issues and conflicts, one site is suggested for one backup task.

Schedule a Backup

Change the admin password

As the plugin enables you to update the admin password of the child sites separately or in bulk, you can do that by going to MainWP > Users > Admin Passwords. Simply select a site and choose a new admin password for it.

Change Admin Passwords

Install new plugins

Clicking MainWP > Plugins > Install, you will be able to access the WordPress plugin installer. To install a plugin, the following steps are needed.

  1. Search the plugin.
  2. Check the install option under the plugin details.
  3. Select the child site/sites on which the plugin will be installed.
  4. Configure the installation options.
  5. Click on the “Complete Installation” button.

Now wait for a few seconds for the plugin to be installed and activated on the child site/sites.

Install Plugin

Besides what introduced above, MainWP offers tons of other features that make it easy to manage and maintain a large number of WordPress sites. If you are struggling between multiple sites, a better life can be expected now.