Ways to manage multiple WordPress sites for free

Keep your ducks in a row

I’m always looking to provide value for my clients without going up in price, so free has become my favorite number (or word). As web professionals, we’re always looking to stay ahead of the curve and plan for what happens after the launch of a website. Luckily there are a few companies that are looking out for us, as well. I want to touch base on a few of the options we have that will help us manage multiple WordPress sites for free.

This post is for developers and agencies with many individual WordPress installations to manage. Let’s explore what you need to know and how you can get it done correctly and efficiently.

What’s important when managing multiple WordPress websites?

Hunting for ways to manage multiple WordPress sites for free can become a hassle really fast. Logging in, checking which plugins need to be updated, determining if those plugins will cause issues with your theme … There are many aspects to managing multiple WordPress websites, so let’s look at the elements that tend to be the most common:

  • Single Login — One central interface that lets you view the multiple dashboards of all your websites is key. This is a pretty common option for most of the programs out there.
  • Update Plugins — This is critical in so many ways it’s not funny. How many times have we logged into a clients site to see version 1.0 of some plugin while the current version is 5.4? Being able to update plugins from a central dashboard is key.
  • Update Core — This will depend on your hosting, of course, as many great providers offer managed hosting that updates core for you. If they don’t, look for it elsewhere.
  • Backups — When updating plugins or core, it’s always good to have a backup. The keys here are to have backups done offsite on a regular basis. This will also save your butt if your site gets infected with malware.
  • Uptime Monitoring — Want to make sure your host is doing their job? What better way than measuring uptime on your sites to ensure clients are getting what they’re paying for.
  • SEO Tracking — This is a nice bonus. If you can view your analytics at a glance without having to log into Google Analytics or a variety of other platforms, is definitely a win.

There are many other add-ons and benefits to each platform we’re about to cover, but the ones listed above are probably the most important.

Options for managing multiple websites

Let’s say you have 50 WordPress installations on our own hosting, along with a couple handfuls of WordPress sites on client hosting. You need to be able to manage, login, update, change the code, check security and do so much more — as quickly as possible.

Let’s get into the software that can help you manage multiple WordPress sites.

1. InfiniteWP

InfiniteWP sure does live up to the name, with a ton of features and add-ons. After asking around, this seems to be one of the favorites of my techy friends — and with good reason. If you upgrade, you have six options, including Analytics, Maintenance, Managing, Reporting, Security and Utilities. They’re all covered by a 14-day refund policy, so you can give it a try and make sure that each add-on works for you.

Pros:

  • Single dashboard for multiple sites
  • Easily stage and clone sites
  • Clone sites via FTP credentials
  • Manage third-party plugins
  • Broken link checker
  • Manage and update plugins and core

Cons:

  • One common theme in our industry is the freemium model. If you’re OK paying a little extra for additional features, InfiniteWP has some really decent pricing.

2. MainWP

MainWP stands out among free, open-source WordPress management tools. It gets a lot of love from agencies looking to manage multiple WordPress sites for free. MainWP comes packed with a bunch of free features for free, but if you need more, you’ll have to pay the piper.

One thing I really like about MainWP is they offer a lifetime membership for just $399. That’s great when you are in this for the long haul. Spend a little bit more up front, but save in the long run.

Pros:

  • Unlimited sites for free
  • One-click admin access
  • Multiple backup solutions
  • Manage plugins and themes
  • User management
  • Content management
  • Uptime monitoring
  • Security checks
  • Open source

Cons:

As mentioned earlier, it’s a freemium model. Does this really have to be a con?

3. Calypso

How can we have a list of great tools without mentioning Calypso, Jetpack’s own system? Calypso is a tool geared to WordPress.com users, but it allows any self-hosted site with Jetpack activated to be managed with the same dashboard.

Calypso is the only one that really interacts with WordPress.com websites. It lets you have a desktop application that edits all your sites from one location. Since .com sites are technically a very large, multi-site application, this platform makes sense for .com users. It’s incredibly fast, thanks to utilizing JS and the WP REST API. You can even view the changes in real time (how cool is that?).

Pros:

  • Nearly instant page load
  • View changes in real time
  • Manage multiple sites
  • Desktop application
  • Manage .com and self-hosted sites
  • Friendly dashboard (some say friendlier than the wp-admin panel)

Cons:

  • Still working on full integration with self-hosted websites
  • If you are a theme developer who builds bulky panels, this may be the beginning of the end unless you start to change the direction of your builds
  • Did you take Matt Mullenweg’s comments about JS seriously? (You should)

4. ManageWP

ManageWP is one of the most popular WordPress management tools around, and also the choice for my company. It’s incredibly easy to set up, add your websites and start managing right away. One might ask if ManageWP lets you manage multiple WordPress sites for free, how do they make money? There are add-ons you can purchase for more in-depth coverage of your websites. It can add up quickly, but the value of the time saved makes it well worth it.

Pros:

  • Single dashboard for multiple sites
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Create backups and migrate sites easily
  • Monitor malware and known vulnerabilities
  • Website performance reports
  • Client reporting
  • Run snippets in bulk
  • Real-time info on vulnerable plugins

Cons:

The freemium model is strong here. You get a great base of tools to use, but if you want some more in-depth coverage and capabilities, you have to pay to play. Personally, I don’t mind paying, as it keeps the company afloat and producing more great tools that we will need in the future.

5. Pro Sites from GoDaddy Pro

Pro Sites is part of the GoDaddy Pro suite of tools for web professionals who build and manage websites for clients. Pro Sites is built on top of the same technology that powers ManageWP, but includes a handful of free additional perks — like backups, cloning, migration, and uptime monitoring — for sites that are hosted by GoDaddy.

ProSites Screenshot

This is a short list of the available WordPress management tools

There are a vast number of tools that let us manage multiple WordPress sites for free. It really comes down to personal preference and trying them out. It’s really hard for one to stand out from the rest, as they all help you accomplish the same goal — freeing up your time.

With the exception of Calypso, they all use the freemium model. And as I’ve stated a few times, that’s not a bad thing. It shows that companies are willing to put together amazing products and give parts of them away for free. I’d recommend checking out a couple, or all, of them at some point as you search for the right WordPress management tools.