Multisite architecture - Is it the right choice for your business?

Multisite architecture - Is it the right choice for your business?

author By Akshita Rawat Apr 9, 2019
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For enterprises looking to provide very targeted online experiences for different product lines, a multisite architecture is a no brainer. However, the challenges can be overwhelming. From managing different web content to different technology stacks, to increased costs and the most dreaded of all - an incoherent online experience for the visitors! And this raises several questions:

How well can Drupal manage your multi-region sites from a single codebase?

What options does it offer to govern the web footprint better while also securing the data?

And most importantly - is Drupal the choice for your multisite architecture?

Let us delve into these questions one by one.

Multisite architecture: A closer look

Multisite is an out-of-the-box feature in Drupal that lets the businesses run different websites on the same codebase. These websites share the same configurations and sometimes, even the modules and themes.

Utilizing the multisite features of Drupal can be the perfect fit for the needs of several businesses. Here are 6 reasons why you should opt for a multisite architecture:

  1. Knocks off the Extra Cost: Having a multisite architecture saves your business from the extra cost of having separate sites, and instead shares the resources (server, database, codebase). Licensing fees, costs of building a website, duplication issues and pre-codebase hosting expenses are all taken care of and reduced drastically.
  2. Easy to Manage with one Super Admin: With a distributed system of websites, content management can get tougher. But having a multisite platform provides a unified database and a single dashboard. This gives the admin centralized control and manage the creation and deployment of websites. It also makes the building and maintenance easier with cloned templates, modules, and themes.  

  3. Easy Maintenance: A common site architecture allows the organizations to add new modules, update or replace existing modules. With a unified multisite platform, visibility, access, and control of your sites remain in line. Easy maintenance ultimately leads to better site experiences for your audience.

  4. Upgrade Only Once: Multisite is particularly useful for managing the code since each upgrade needs to be done only once. This saves a lot of time particularly if the number of websites is more than single digits.

  5. Speed up the Website: Different and incompatible CMS platforms can be fatal to your digital strategy. While your content might be getting the right traction, do you know that a lot of traffic can affect the speed of your website, eventually pushing away your visitors with dropped SERP? Breaking the content into separate subdomains, intranet, wikis while interlinking the content is a better option. And it works wonders for media websites.

  6. Consistency in Brand: Often organizations opt for multisite because they need to build websites with the same features. With a single dashboard to manage all, admins can create and control templates and sites to build consistency in brands. Or how else will the visitors connect with three unique themes on three different website

Game of Codebase

One key element to multisite platforms is - the codebase. A quintessential part of multisite platforms, it helps in defining and maintaining that superset of functionality, the platform can provide great efficiencies.

A common site architecture allows new modules to be added, or existing modules to be updated or any changes you want to make across your sites to take place. This not only saves time during the build process but also when launching new sites.

What type of multisite do you need?

The key to effectively using a multisite platform is to understand the requirement before adding the features and functionalities. Businesses when opting for a multisite often fall in one of the three cases:

  1. Clones:  These are the sites with the same look and feel. They have only minor changes to their branding and content. Clones are perfect for multi-regional or multilingual websites where a template can be set and then deployed many times over without any
  2. Feature Flexible: These are the sites which require slightly more consideration when it comes to the features of the different websites. They are more complex than clones. Feature flexible sites require a deeper level of change management and communication for development partners who are working on the platform as well.
  3. Snowflakes: These kinds of sites have modifications unique for each of them. They provide a unique experience and have an entirely unique theming and backend development. This often leads to these sites needing their own unique site architecture that may change frequently.

A snowflake will most likely be the main organization’s website, where the major value of the digital business, such as e-commerce or customer support, will be housed.

Now that you know the kind of multisite you need, let us delve deeper into knowing how and why Drupal is the right choice for your multisite architecture.

Is Drupal the right choice for multisite?

Whether it is a university with different departments, or government helping citizens, or the corporate businesses, each has their own reasons for a multisite. But what is common is that none of them wants a co-independent site, a single database or security lapse. Which is where Drupal comes into the picture.

Here’s what it offers:

  • Enhanced Workflow for Distributed teams: Organizations can eliminate the time and opportunity for error introduced when users enter content in multiple places. Content staging and syndication is possible with Drupal’s Workflow and Deploy module.
    The Workflow module allows defining multiple workflows with fixed states and the transitions allowed between them. Drupal 8.6 ensures easy staging and preview of content in different environments.
    You can define multiple workspaces (such as "staging" and "live") which are copies of your site, and create content (or modifications to existing content) that is visible only within that workspace. Then, once the changes have been verified, you can "deploy" the content to another workspace at the click of a button.
  • Secured Network: When opting for the multisite platform, the inconsistency in the number of technologies can create a possible security loop. Each CMS will require different bug fixes, security scans or updates, making it challenging for your organization to minimize risk across the board and thus leaving you vulnerable.
    Drupal has a dedicated team of volunteers who track security-related bugs and release updates. This includes - resolving security issues reported to Security Advisory, offering documentation for writing secure code and safeguarding Drupal sites, providing technical assistance in the module.
    With a unified multisite platform, all site updates and maintenance can be done once to the codebase.
  • Faster time to Market: The more the number of CMS are used for different websites, the tougher it gets to manage the digital properties since you will need more resources to maintain them.
    By consolidating them into one, organizations can always reuse the themes and templates, thus reducing the deployment time. Assisting with the varying needs of the organizations, Drupal provides multisite management tools for easy customization.
    Not just this, each time a new Drupal core update is released, organizations only need to perform the update on one codebase instead for each site.

All of this and more make Drupal the optimum choice for your business despite the kind of multisite you need.


Opting for multisite is a big decision but it doesn’t have to be budget and time draining. By adopting a unified platform for your technical and business needs, you can take the hassle out of multisite management while reducing costs, and also bringing brand and design consistency to all of your sites.

Planning to opt for multisite but still have doubts? Drop us a line and our experts can help explore your options.


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