Whether you’re a developer, marketer or business owner with multiple websites, managing them all individually is a headache. Each time you need to perform updates, you have to log into each site separately. Not only is that time consuming, but it also involves remembering multiple passwords. Who needs more passwords or hassle these days?
Luckily there are several website management tools available to save time and assure consistent management across multiple separate WordPress sites. This article will explore four of the more common options for managing scores of separate sites from a single location. Of course, if you are not developing multiple sites for clients, WordPress Multisite may be a better option as it allows management of multiple sites on a single install.
As you might imagine, you can expect some common features among all the options. Obviously, the tools allow you to access individual site dashboards from one central location, but there are other nifty features as well.
Most tools streamline the update process by offering one-click update management across all or some sites. They also make installation and enabling/disabling of plugins and themes across multiple sites a breeze.
The tools reviewed are ManageWP, MainWP, InfiniteWP and CMS Commander. All have varying degrees of SEO tracking, uptime monitoring, security and backup features depending on the plan. Best of all, each offers a basic plan that is free.
Option #1: ManageWP
ManageWP is the granddaddy of all website management tools. It was started in 2011 by a WordPress developer and consultant, so it is no wonder it remains the benchmark against which all others are measured.
ManageWP’s basic plan is free and offers a decent feature set that includes 24×7 support. Upgrades are based on either a per website add-on fee or a bundled fixed fee. While the per website add-on fees are low – most under $5.00 per month per site – they can add up. There is a money back guarantee, so if you go crazy and do not like the add-ons you selected, you can ask for a refund.
One of the cool features of ManageWP(and there are many), is the ability to group and color code websites. So for instance, if you manage multiple sites for one client, you can color code them green. By the same token, you can color code based on topic or any other designation that makes sense.
If you are forgetful, the alerts are a bonus. Get notification when it is time for backups or when a site is down. Clients can also be included in the alerts – either via email or SMS text message.
How to Set Up ManageWP
ManageWP is one of the easiest tools to set up thanks to the Worker Plugin that quickly links installations to the central dashboard.
Once the Worker Plugin is installed on the individual website, simply click the Add Website button on the ManageWP dashboard and insert the URL of the site you wish to link. Voila, the website is automatically linked. You can link a website without the Worker Plugin, but you will need your wp-admin credentials to log in first.
The ManageWP dashboard is organized much like an individual site, so the learning curve is low. The ManageWP website includes a comprehensive User Guide with plenty of screen shots for additional help. Support is available 24×7, but you may not need it with the online tutorials.
Advantages of ManageWP
Overall, ManageWP is a very solid tool that does not fall far from the top in any category. The fact that it was developed by a WP consultant is evident in everything from design to feature integration.
If it has one drawback, it is probably cost. Some users may not find enough value, given their particular situation, to justify the expense. It is important to note, however, that support at ManageWP is top notch. That alone may be worth any added costs.
- Simple to Install and Use
- Excellent Support
- Robust Feature Set
- Price to Value
Option #2: MainWP
MainWP was created by a small group of developers in Florida that eschew the idea of SaaS (Software as a Service). With the assistance of coders and designers all over the world, they created an open source tool that is self-hosted.
You install the MainWP Dashboard Plugin directly on a site and not on a server. So, all the data is under your control and cannot be mined for stats without your knowledge like server-based tools.
The MainWP Plugins are free, while the company makes money by selling extensions. The free version allows you to manage unlimited sites, but unfortunately does not offer some key features. So, most developers managing multiple client sites will need to purchase extensions.
The good news is that MainWP has Membership Plans include all the premium extensions. Simply pay for a monthly, annual or lifetime plan and all existing or future extensions are yours. No need to figure out which plans
How to Set Up MainWP
MainWP is installed in three steps. First, you download and install the Dashboard Plugin on a site or sub-domain. Then, you download the ChildPlugin and install on all existing sites you wish to collectively manage. Lastly, you connect the Dashboard to the sites.
While three steps does not sound like a burden, MainWP recommends installing the Dashboard Plugin on a fresh WP install. So, if you have a new WP install, no problem. However, if you all your sites are currently installed there could be conflicts and the install may not go smoothly. Also, wherever the Dashboard installs is your parent site. All other sites are managed from there. If you no longer manage that site, you need to essentially start over.
When things go wrong there are online FAQs, but they oddly organized and not easy to use. For instance, the quick start installation tutorial is wordy and rather bland. Yes, the information is there, but you may get eye strain trying to find it.
Advantages of MainWP
Probably the biggest advantage of MainWP is that it is free. If all you need is basic features like single access to all sites and one-click management of themes and plugins, MainWP has you covered. However, if you need to change settings in bulk, allow team or customer access or cloning, you will need a membership plan.
Since membership plans are all-inclusive, that may not be entirely bad. Depending on the features you like, other tools may end up being even more expensive – especially as you grow and manage more sites.
MainWP is also different in that it is self-hosted. This could be a huge advantage if you are worried about the security or vulnerability of data on hosted sites.
- Free Version with Basic Features
- All Inclusive Membership Plan – No Need to Select A La Carte Features
- Support Via Help Desk Ticket
- Cumbersome Install
- Additional Server Space
Option #3: InfiniteWP
Like many other products in the space, InfiniteWP offers a free tool and then charges for add-ons that increase the functionality. Individual add-on pricing is high – ranging from $49 to $99. However, there is a bundled package that brings the cost of multiple features within reason. The Enterprise Solution is nice for teams as it gives custom restricted access to an unlimited number of users.
All the self-hosted options tout the added control and security inherit in that solution versus SaaS. Self-hosting does mean, however, that your server must be up to the task.
How to Set Up InfiniteWP
Like MainWP, InfiniteWP is self-hosted. So, just like MainWP, the control panel is downloaded and installed in a database. Then, a plugin is installed on each site that will be managed and they are all linked back to the InfiniteWP dashboard.
The whole process is not necessarily complicated, but it is vulnerable to glitches at each step. If a link does not work correctly, you may spend extra time trying to troubleshoot. Luckily, InfiniteWP support is available and there are community forums and Knowledge Base articles for self-service help.
Advantages of InfiniteWP
Installation can be a bear, but once installed InfiniteWP is easy to use – especially for a few sites. The dashboard is not pretty, but it is functional with a quick summary view and one-click updates for almost everything.
- Free Version with Basic Features
- Bundled Add-On Features to Save Money
- Cumbersome Install</li>Additional Server Space</li>
Option #4: CMS Commander
CMS Commander is a hosted solution that is giving the incumbents a run for their money. Founded in Germany and run by what appears to be one guy, it combines a management tool with a content marketing tool to create a pretty cool result.
By adding a bulk content tool, CMS Commander allows users to find and post free articles, videos and images to their sites. The integrated rewriting software automatically spins content and can post unique variations on multiple sites—quite a time-saver.
CMS Commander pricing is typical. There is a free plan with basic features allowing management of up to five sites. Every other paid plan is inclusive of all features and priced based on the number of managed sites and the number of users. There are no contracts, so it is easy to cancel or change service at any time as your clients and business change.
An interesting twist is that every user of CMS Commander is automatically an affiliate. With the ability to earn a 30% commission for any referrals that sign up for a paid account. In addition, the popular affiliate networks are integrated directly into CMS Commander. So you can find promotional opportunities while you write a new post. You can even insert ads from within the post editor – now that is monetizing a blog.
How to Set Up CMS Commander
CMS Commander is installed with plugins much like ManageWP. Simply download the dashboard and use the plugins to link to individual sites. All are built just like a normal WP dashboard, so again, the learning curve is low.
Advantages of CMS Commander
If you are both writing content and managing sites, CMS Commander may be the tool to use. By combing standard management and content marketing tools you can put many sites on autopilot with minimal effort.
- Per-Site Pricing
- Free Version
- Unique, Innovative Features & Content Management
- Lack of Strong, 24×7 Support
Overall, ManageWP is hard to beat. In certain scenarios, it may be more expensive, but it is a solid performer that is easy to use, easy to install, has a great look and the support you need when things go wrong.
CMS Commander, however, is a close second. With innovative and unique features like backlink monitoring, Google Developer PageSpeed Insights and multi-language support, CMS Commander is a great tool for managing both sites and their content.
Self-hosted solutions like MainWP and InfiniteWP fall to the bottom because of the cumbersome installation and need for server space. Unless you are truly concerned about the information others may be gathering from your sites, the added hassle does not seem to be worth it.