Good Ol’ Smokey instinctively knew how to move through the cattle and push the herd toward the horizon. Ya see, before modern equipment, we used to have to drive the cattle a long way to market with little more than a trusty steed and a lasso. Yep, Ol’ Smokey could do it all, but it wasn’t nearly that easy for the other folks on the range. It usually took three to five cowboys and their equine companions to complete the same amount of work.

It’s a problem today’s website wranglers can relate to.

Like railroads made it easier for cowboys to move cattle, WordPress has made it easier to create websites. It’s simple to use, modifications are straightforward, and plugins and themes extend WordPress for just the right amount of customization.

But what makes WordPress great also makes it somewhat difficult to manage multiple sites at the same time. There are plugins and themes to update, backups to make, and new credentials to apply. Compounding the issue is the fact that each website also has a different admin login credential, domain name and hosting account.

Creating multiple websites has never been easier, but managing them has become increasingly complex.

Worry not, though. Just as Ol’ Smokey did the work of many to move the herd, you can employ one of many workhorses to keep your herd of websites healthy and moving quickly.

Multi-site management tools help with herding

You can use multi-site management tools to manage plugins, themes and other settings related to WordPress site maintenance from a single dashboard. Imagine being able to deploy an updated or new plugin or update a password on 10 sites at the same time. There are two main styles of multi-site management tools: self-hosted solutions and hosted solutions. There are pros and cons to each approach.

Solutions such as InfiniteWP are self-hosted, meaning that you’ll need to install the management software on your own web server. The base InfiniteWP product is free because it’s self hosted, so while the initial task of setting the product up on your server might take more time, you’ll save some money by hosting it yourself. Of course, for more advanced features (think user management and automatic backups), there are pay-to-play add-ons.

On the other hand, services like ManageWP and iThemes Sync are hosted solutions, so you can get started quickly without installing the management software on your own web server. While these hosted options are a quicker and easier way to get started with multi-site management, these services charge per site rather than per advanced feature.

Of course, if you’re running more than five sites, it just makes sense to let someone else do the work. Heck, you might even decide to charge monthly for managed site updates and automatic patching (hint hint).

Here are some of the most well-known multi-site management tools:

Try one out, and tell me what you think. Or are there other solutions we should include here? Please feel free to list them in the comments.

As for Ol’ Smokey? Well, his legacy lives on through the spirit of the developers who work to make your multi-site management easier every day.

Image by osvaldoeaf via Compfight cc