By: Shankar
March 6 2018

Why and When Should You Need A Multisite?

Envisage a picture where thousands of people spread over different IT departments are working towards effectively managing the multiple websites of their organization. They can be necessitated to handle every website change and would need people technically skilled to oversee each of those alterations across its entire portfolio of sites. Sounds hassling right? What if all these can be done under one roof. A multisite platform is what organizations need which are scattered across different locations with their diverse services.

As soon as you get to know the solution for all your aggravating situations in your business environment, you plunge right into it to reap the merits. Although this augurs well how can benefits come without the mandatory ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’?

This brings us to the juncture where we strive to find more about such a rewarding option. Now several questions arise with the implementation of a multisite platform in a firm:

  • Who needs a multisite platform anyway?
  • How is it beneficial?
  • Will technical and non-technical website handlers remain on the same page?
  • Who should opt out of choosing this platform?
  • Is there any use case?

Who Needs A Multisite Platform Anyway?

Industries with the necessity of multiple websites

It is hardly any surprise to witness the growing number of websites on the internet as the ever-increasing user base has propelled the industrial conglomerates to look for ways to grapple with the needs of these users. Even a survey conducted by Forrester that compiled a report on the digital experience delineates that on an average, enterprises have to handle 268 customer-facing websites. That’s monumental!

Some of the industries that are in dire need of multiple websites are:

  • To allow the teachers, students, and administrators have separate websites to cater to their needs is exceedingly useful for the Higher Education industry.
  • For media, entertainment, and publishing (MEP), reporters managing their own news columns and publishing content on-the-go is very fruitful.
  • Public sector/Government can have multiple websites to cope with their flourishing online presence and dearth of IT staffs.
  • With a large number of stores around the world, industries like Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) can have a different website for each of its stores.
  • Working on different social causes can demand dedicated websites for Non-governmental Organisations (NGO).

When does the need for multisite platform pop up?

It is imperative to understand that having multiple websites drives us to think about its efficacious administration. A multisite platform can act as a central system of governance for all your websites. But the important question here is when do you need this? Or do you really need this at all? Let’s find out.

  • Site considerations
    You should really consider having a go at it if you have certain parameters. One of the first things that you can think of is managing your huge library of sites. You want to cope with the lack of staff in handling these sites. You might also be having sites with similar sort of functionalities and want to streamline the scope of each of these sites. Also, if the sites are for the same client, you can think of a multisite platform.
  • Templates
    Clones, sites which resemble each other except for few changes in their content, are great for specific regions. If you have your offices located in different countries, you may have clone sites for different regions. For instance, this works well for a multinational company which can set the template as per the business regulations of the countries where they are operating and deploys numerous sites globally.
  • Themes
    Once the websites are deployed over and over again from a set template, each of the sites would demand a different appearance on screen with unique colors and graphics. Theme library, which is the storehouse of all the components of design, lends the website a unique look and also makes sure that they remain consistent under a common codebase.
  • Involvement of digital agencies
    When there are external creative or development partners like digital agencies involved in administering your feature flexible sites, which requires so many development tools to test the functionalities, management and supervision play a pivotal role. Regression testing, which helps in debugging error during changes in your website, should be used whenever themes and templates are altered to ensure that codebase is not compromised.
  • A site with unique needs
    An organization’s main website might require special attention in comparison to other sites due to heavy footfall. People throng your main website before moving on to the subsidiaries. Such sites with unique needs, also known as snowflakes, can require unique architecture as well. It, of course, comes with the price of serious cost considerations.

How Is It Beneficial?

A multisite platform can provide a slew of sops to the enterprises which are reeling under the dilemma of effectively managing their growing online presence. Major benefits include:

  • Same codebase
    Sharing the same code base and web document root can be meritorious in efficiently managing multiple sites and saves plenitude of time.
  • Single dashboard
    The centralized system makes it a commendable platform as it facilitates the administration of multiple websites. For instance, an organization has a new project lined up and would like to build a dedicated website for its launch. A multisite platform would provide them a single dashboard to build and maintain the website, flexibly create templates, control permissions and make clone sites for different regions without hampering the underlying codebase. They can effortlessly perform code management by fixing code standards to maintain a consistency across the sites. Furthermore, they can perform security scans and upgrades in all of their sites with the help of a single click.
  • Economic feasibility
    It knocks down the license fees, handling costs and resources designated to administer each platform. Thus, consolidating your website governance can help in economizing and saving a lot of money as it de-escalates intricacies and duplication.

Will Technical And Non-technical Website Handlers Remain On The Same Page?

Developers, most often than not, have to deal with the task of testing the superabundance of sites deployed by an organization. Can it be made effortless? Unlike the custom, do-it-yourself (DIY), where each of the sites has to be tested separately, a platform can assist a developer to successfully update the sites with fewest of testing processes.

Hundreds of websites can be working on a common site architecture in your business environment and testing a module can be tricky. But a platform ensures that a developer can update sites concurrently without rendering alterations to the features. Each site has its own database and configuration settings. Thus, each site has its own enabled modules and theme. In case, if a problem does occur while making changes in one site, other sites are not going to face repercussions. A production downtime is averted in that sense.

So what about non-technical website builders? Would someone be able to build websites without any knowledge of technicalities involved with it? Yes, if you have a platform! Non-technical people can swiftly build a website and deploy it on their own. Interestingly, they cease to depend on developers anymore unlike DIY which poses a lot of hindrances. A platform actually allows them to easily create duplicate sites and handle permissions with no help from developers whatsoever.

Who Should Opt Out Of Choosing This Platform?

Drupalcon Austin (2014) conducted The Great Multisite Debate where the conversation was about everything ranging from the merits of a multisite platform to its downsides. While the multisite had furnished dramatic transformation in the governance of multiple websites, the future of multisite is debatable because of drawbacks that come along with its implementation.

The Debate, which mostly glorified the impeccable possibilities of a Drupal multisite platform, had criticisms pouring in as well. Multisite can be a good option if an enterprise is scrimping and the risks are fine as long as websites are not too important. Also, it is the only solution available within the infrastructure budget to manage a huge number of sites that are pushing us to go for it. But it is not the future architecture.

Anyone with full administrative privileges can execute code on a site which might turn out to be malicious. This becomes a concern when there is no mutual understanding among the administrators and can prove disastrous for an organization. So, trust issues can creep in.

Having codebase and a centralized system is splendid but Drupal says that it is subject to vulnerability. If a hacker gets the access to your core code, all multi-sites are in danger. Non-multi sites can provide enough opportunity to close down bugs.
If the clients are different and the multiple distributions have to be handled, multisite should not be used. For instance, when the sites have different functionalities, they are required to be scanned, tested and upgraded individually and are allotted separate times.

Is There A Case Study?

Success stories are what people would like to hear about. If a multisite platform does have a herculean role to play in simplifying the administration of multiple websites (if not for all), then who has benefitted from this?

CPG industry needed a robust, system like a multisite platform for providing efficient digital experience to the customers. SABMiller, one of the largest brewers in the world, has its presence in more than 80 countries and has a mountainous task of managing over 200 brands.

SABMiller has been able to scale new heights by choosing a multisite platform for looking after different needs of their customer with their unique brands like Pilsner Light, Cerveza, Aguila, and Strongbow. They were able to minimize the costs involved in the management by migrating to a single platform and were no longer dependent on legacy websites which were too ultra-expensive. In fact, their teams around the globe could autonomously administer and rapidly execute the digital experiences.

Public sector industry is in need of better governance of their digital market presence. The City of LA, which was in shambles and pondering over how to handle their burgeoning digital market. With over thousands of people in multitudinous IT departments managing the city’s official websites, it was getting tedious. Having a central database, minimal resources could manage the sites and it proved to be very cost effective.

Summing Up

Maintaining multiple sites may seem like a daunting task for an organization but it is significant to understand that it does not have to be troublesome as it seems. Embracing multisite platform would pay dividends for an organization which looks to deliver better and faster digital experience. Contact us at [email protected] to learn more about the best multisite platform that can work wonders in your business environment.

He is a colossal cinephile who loves to watch critically acclaimed movies and binge tv series. He likes to write reviews on the films that he has watched and the technology he likes. He relishes exploring music produced around the world with a special liking to The Pixies and Sigur Rós. He seldom likes to sketch as well. He heads to the park and the gym to attain the goal of supreme fitness.