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MultiSite WordPress Installs and the SuperAdmin

What's a WordPress Multisite?

The MHAA website is one of a few subsites running under an administrative umbrella known as a WordPress Multisite install, which allows a single installation of WordPress to host multiple unique subsites. This was chosen primarily for two reasons:

  • It simplifies high level administration of multiple sites for the WordPress owner (Steve) - A single user ID can administer multiple sites while plugins can be shared across them for easier updating.
  • It can save money - Since the install and plugins aren't duplicated, there's a smaller net memory and storage footprint on the physical server thus reducing hosting plan costs. Plus, the MHAA is able to use some plugin licenses for free that Steve already pays for in service of his other sites. Some plugins allow a single license to be used across all multisite subsites instead of requiring you to purchase a unique license for each.

What's a SuperAdmin; should MHAA have one?

A SuperAdmin is a special role that is unique from the regular Administrator role. While an Administrator of a subsite can manage that website's configuration, content, users, etc. only a SuperAdmin can manage the multisite configuration since those settings can affect all of the subsites within the multisite.

Since the other subsites in this multisite consist of Steve's personal website and his friend's business' website, and since moving the MHAA site to a standalone site would likely incur new and recurring costs for certain plugin licenses, he is likely to remain the only SuperAdmin. If ever the MHAA site is exported to a unique WordPress installation, a SuperAdmin would likely not be required as it would likely be setup in a standard single site install, not into a new multisite environment.

When might a subsite Administrator need a SuperAdmin's help?

Most likely, the only time a SuperAdmin will be needed is for issues related to plugins. For example, only the SuperAdmin can install new plugins to make them available to the subsites. The Administrators of each subsite can generally opt to activate each plugin or not, individually. This creates a consistent plugin library that is easier to support and keep updated, as well as reduces the potential clutter of having multiple plugins installed that do the same thing.

However, a subsite Administrator cannot activate/deactivate plugins that require network activation or that were optionally network activated by the SuperAdmin. "Network activated" plugins are active on every subsite in the multisite. Some plugins, like the 2-factor authentication (2FA) plugin, require activation at the network level and the administration panels for configuring it may only be found within the network admin panels thus requiring the SuperAdmin for support.

Any other plugin can be network activated at the SuperAdmin's discretion. Plugins like the EWWW image compression and distributed content network plugin are network activated purely because the SuperAdmin believed the functionality is universally desirable for all subsites. In this kind of network activated plugin, the plugin administration panels are usually found within the subsite administration panels.

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