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I'm planning on starting three different websites, under one web host. I know of a web host that supports this. The question I have is this: can I administer all three sites under one Joomla instance? If so, is there a best practices for doing this, administration wise?

Update: I just saw the Joomla Documentation on Multiple Domains and Web Sites in a single Joomla! installation, that essentially explains how to do this.

So now I guess my question is, is it a good idea to do this, or would it ultimately create more trouble than it's worth?

  • So now I guess my question is, is it a good idea to do this, or would it ultimately create more trouble than it's worth? Usually more problem than it's worth. Except if the sites share some data like logins or articles. – Bakual Jul 3 '14 at 10:22
  • It might very well be, Bakual, I haven't tried to do this yet. I was thinking that the two sites would share a similar design rather than similar content and having a multi-site setup under a single Joomla installation would make this easier, but I could be wrong about this. – Evan Lynch Jul 4 '14 at 7:50
  • The design is done by the template. Installing a template is dead easy and usually you don't update it that often. Also if you want to adjust the design a bit, it may be easier with two templates again. So only for the design, I wouldn't do it. – Bakual Jul 4 '14 at 13:16
  • Ah, okay. I think you talked me out of it, that was the main benefit I was going for, I figured two sites would have pretty similar templates, but not identical. – Evan Lynch Jul 4 '14 at 19:12
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    Have a look at servcies like watchful.li and myjoomla.com if you plan to manage multiple Joomlas. I have a feeling those will be helpful :) – Bakual Jul 6 '14 at 19:55
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Joomla multi-sites is a long-waited feature and a core capability to implement this is in my wish-list. So far there were a few really good 3rd party extensions that handled this feature, which allow great flexibility and many different configuration scenarios.

This is the first time I hear about the core ability to create a multi-sites configuration with a single Joomla installation. I have not tried what is described in this documentation and I have no idea about its advantages or disadvantages, although I think that with this method there will be no easy way to distinguish the 2 websites in the backend, and have them work as 2 independent sites.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, if you will be the only one who will update the websites. I guess you will have to implement a logical content organization (categories, modules, menus) and familiarize yourself with the process of creating/editing the right content for each website.

In general, a multi-sites scenario as described in that documentation can be ideal for 2 similar websites of 1 owner, since you will have to maintain only 1 installation, and it doesn't seem to hard to make it work.

However, I can't visualize at this moment how far you will be able to go by implementing this approach and what possible disadvantages or restrictions you might come across.

As said, Joomla multi-sites has been handled by 3rd party extensions since long time ago. You should define your actual requirements for your setup, then do a further research and have a look at the 3rd party extensions at JED, in order to find out more about current possibilities of a Joomla multi-sites scenario.

So far, I have worked with JMS Multi-Sites and Mighty-Sites, which are great and allow database tables sharing for many components across different domains.

I am also curious to hear anyone else that have tried the core ability to setup multi-sites with Joomla though...!

Update May 2017

Adding here the links I posted on the other question that was marked as duplicate (Can i use different site using one Joomla installation?), as I think it contains newer resources links and in more organized fashion.

Joomla Docs

Extensions

Update (older update):

Other relative Q/A in JSE:

  • I prefer to stay away of multi-site and multi-account sites. It's far better to have a good management of individual sites, in a cloud-like style. – Anibal Jul 3 '14 at 11:25
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    After reading the documentation again, the core multi-site option looks a bit hacky to me. Do you have any preferences betwen the JMS Multi-sites and Mighty-Sites tools on which you prefer? – Evan Lynch Jul 4 '14 at 8:11
  • Anibal, what's the disadvantage to using an extension like FFrewin suggested to manage multiple sites within Joomla? As long as the databases are kept separate, like Multi Site allows, it doesn't seem like it'd make the administration harder. But I freely admit that I haven't tried this, so it could very well be harder to manage in ways I haven't foreseen yet. – Evan Lynch Jul 4 '14 at 8:17
  • @EvanLynch. The answers and comments of the other users should also be considered. My answer focused mostly on the MS scenario. What will make the best decision, is dependent on your actual project needs. If you decide to go with the multi-sites option with an extension, it is recommended to contact the extensions' developers and describe them what you are after. They both provide good support and also they could offer you configuration assistance. To resume my whole answer on the topic, the MS approach can be ideal for certain projects, but it might not be the best for any kind of projects. – FFrewin Jul 4 '14 at 8:32
  • Good point. It seems like it'd simplify things administratively, but since three different people said it wouldn't, it sounds like I may be mistaken there. I just did a little more research and it looks like the most straightforward way to do this would be to use the WordPress for Joomla extension, which allows for multiple websites. – Evan Lynch Jul 4 '14 at 8:36
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If it's only 3 sites, and the content and extensions are different, I wouldn't mess with multi-site stuff. Just set all 3 up separately, and then use a tool like watchful.li to monitor them and push updates to them from one dashboard. If you use Akeeba Pro you can even set up watchful to run backups for you (say, to an S3 account) and it will notify you if there are updates to your extensions.

Watchful.li

  • Upvoting because this sounds really useful and a good way to handle the administrative overhead, though I'm accepting FFrewin's answer since that is what I was originally looking for. Thanks for your help, I appreciate it. – Evan Lynch Jul 4 '14 at 19:15
  • While excellent central management tools abound in Wordpress, it is about the only such beast for Joomla, but I tested watchful.li and found it wanting. My Akeeba (Admin Pro & Backup Pro) updates, among others, were failing and I had to do updates manually anyway. Hopefully now they do not have as many problems with authentication on premium plugins. You can achieve the same thing with crons & scripting and it is more reliable and won't cost you anything. – garth Jul 27 '17 at 1:25
  • Actually it not the only one for Joomla. I switched a year or so back over to myjoomla.org as it does malware scans and auditing. There's one more that I can't think of the name of and googling for 10 minutes got me nowhere. If I find it I'll post that too. – Brian Peat Jul 28 '17 at 13:15
  • Perfect Dashboard is the other service I was thinking of. – Brian Peat Jul 28 '17 at 14:11
  • Just to correct something, Brian said, the correct domain name is myJoomla.com and not myJoomla.org ;-) – Phil Taylor Jul 29 '17 at 7:59
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Shared Hosting

If a hosting provider restriction is causing you to consider a Joomla multi-site solution, then it may be easier to find an alternative host and build the websites individually than complicating things with a Joomla multi-site which will inevitably involve some compromises.

Most shared hosting accounts can be configured to host more than one Joomla website either by creating multiple databases or by using different table prefixes in the same database.

Multi-site vs Individual Sites

Obviously there are pros and cons to building separate websites compared to combining them into one Joomla install. You need to think carefully about whether a multi-site solution will work for the particular scenario and you may need to make some compromises.

It is more difficult to set up a multi-site website initially but less ongoing maintenance is required as you only need to apply Joomla and third party updates and run backups etc on one website.

If something breaks on a multi-site solution, you may lose all the websites rather than just one website.

Note that not all third party extensions work as intended on a multi-site solution.

Official Multi-site Solution Not Recommended

The official instructions at Multiple Domains and Web Sites in a single Joomla! installation direct you to edit the template index.php file. This is not considered best practice as template updates can overwrite your changes in future.

Third Party Multi-site Extension

It is probably better to use a third party extension such as the free Virtual Domains or similar which avoids hacking the core code.


Note: The remainder of this answer is written from limited experience with one implementation of Virtual Domains. The items listed may or may not be relevant to other third party multi-site extensions or even Virtual Domains configured in a different way.


Multi-site Content

Create separate content categories for each website (this is important for search).

Multi-site Modules

Modules aren't so easy to categorise as some modules may be common to all websites. You could use the Joomla 3.x "Note" feature to help keep track of which modules apply to which websites.

Multi-site Template(s)

Will the individual websites have their own look and feel? If so, it is probably easiest to install a different template for each website.

Virtual Domains enables you to specify a different template for each website.

Multi-site Menu(s)

Will the individual websites have their own menus or share a common menu?

Using RocketTheme Gantry 4 templates I found it was easier to set up one menu and use the "Menu Filtering" feature in Virtual Domains to specify which menu options applied to each website.

Virtual Domains enables you to specify a home menu item for each website.

Multi-site Search

Assuming search results should be limited to the website that is being searched, enable Smart Search and create a filter for each website at Components -> Smart Search -> Search Filters by selecting appropriate categories for each website.

You can then create a Smart Search module for each website using the appropriate filter you have created for each website. Set up the Menu Assignment in each search module so the modules are displayed on the appropriate pages on each website.

Multi-site Global Configuration Items

Ideally, the multi-site extension you choose should let you specify unique Global Configuration items for each website.

Virtual Domains lets you specify a unique Site Name, From Email, From Name, Meta Description and Meta Keywords for each website.

Multi-site Search Engine Friendly Urls

With SEF enabled, each page requires a unique url across all the websites. For example, if I have two websites in the multi-site website, www.acmeproducts.com and www.acmeservices.com, then they can't both have about us pages like this:

  • www.acmeproducts.com/about-us
  • www.acmeservices.com/about-us

The urls need to be unique so the about us pages will need to be more specific like this or similar:

  • www.acmeproducts.com/about-acme-products
  • www.acmeservices.com/about-acme-services

Multi-site User Accounts

By default, registered users on one website will be registered users on all the websites which may or may not be an issue.

Hopefully this gives some idea of what needs to be considered before being able to decide if a multi-site solution is appropriate for the particular scenario.

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    Haven't logged into stackexchange in ages, and I just saw your answer. Had it came first, I probably would have accepted it as you provided an amazing amount of really useful information. But I just incremented it so you'll at least get some rep. Thank you for all the useful information. – Evan Lynch May 9 '17 at 3:42
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I found this component very powerful to manage multiple front ends with a single Joomla installation. https://codingmall.com/products-mainmenu-8/178-joomla-multi-sites-extension

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