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When To Use Multi-Site Architecture
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When To Use Multi-Site Architecture


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White paper on the benefits of multi-site, and when it is the right choice for your organization.

White paper on the benefits of multi-site, and when it is the right choice for your organization.

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  • 1. When to Use a Multi-Site Architecture Exploring the Benefits of Multi-Site for Your Next Web Project commonplaces Strategy Creativity Technology Inside: Introducing Multi-Site ............................ 2 What Is Multi-Site? ................................ 3 Why Use Multi-Site ................................ 4 When Not to Use Multi-Site ................... 7 Project Planning ..................................... 8 Summary and Next Steps ....................... 9 .
  • 2. Introducing Multi-Site More often than not, one website can deliver everything an organization needs, and help them achieve all of their goals. In some cases, however, your goals may necessitate multiple, related websites. Perhaps you want to build upon the success of your resource site for plumbers, and offer one for electricians as well. Maybe you want to create an online university, separate from your main site, and offer courses to your current users. Or maybe you want to customize multiple online stores for different segments of your customer base, but offer many of the same products to them. In these examples, the solution is to create multiple, distinct websites. However, in each case, these separate sites share some information or functionality. It would save a significant amount of time, money, and frustration if you could build these separate sites on a common base, sharing the information that needs to be shared, and customizing the pieces that are meant to be unique. Fortunately, you can. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 2
  • 3. What is Multi-Site? A multi-site is multiple websites that are connected in some way. You can think of separate websites, with nothing connecting them, as looking something like this: Site A Site B Site C Database Database Database But what if you want to share data between sites? Or perhaps your sites will share much of the same look and functionality. In both cases, it would be easier and more cost-efficient to build a multi-site architecture, which would look something like these: Shared Codebase Site A Site A Functionality Site B Site B Database Database Database © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 3
  • 4. Why Use Multi-Site? A multi-site solution promises a savings of time and money in the development of your project. Why? Because every piece of your project that is shared between multiple sites only needs to be built once, rather than repeated across multiple websites. As an example, both Sony and Warner Brothers Records use Drupal multi-sites to create websites for their musical artists. Because each artist’s site is made up of essentially the same pieces (blog, news, tour dates, pictures, etc.), they can replicate this functionality as many times as they need, rather than building it from the ground up every time. Multi-site delivers a big savings in your maintenance costs, as well. If your multiple sites share a database, the cost of maintaining your data will be reduced. As platform updates are released, they will only need to be implemented once, instead of once for each site. The cost savings of multi-site are clear. But there are actually many other reasons to build a multi-site solution. In fact, multi-site can deliver valuable functionality that cannot be recreated with multiple, separate sites. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 4
  • 5. Why Use Multi-Site? If you plan to create multiple related websites, a multi-site solution can offer a significant savings in development and maintenance costs. But there are other reasons why a multi-site may be the best fit for your needs. Here are a few examples: Provide cross-site searching. If you plan to offer content spread across multiple sites, the ability to search for content across sites would provide a much better user experience. That is, a search on one site would return results from all of your sites. Web users have become very accustomed to using search, and helping them find the content they’re looking for will result in less frustration and higher user retention. Single Sign-On Offer a Single Sign-On. Many of our multi-site Username clients want their users to be able to use the same user name and password across multiple websites. Password Single Sign-On makes your sites easier for your visitors to use and interact with. The value of usability can never be understated, and making Log In your users create three (or more) distinct accounts for your separate websites is not user-friendly. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 5
  • 6. Why Use Multi-Site? Use a shared e-commerce path. Managing multiple e-commerce stores is no easy feat. Between SSL Certification, PCI Compliance, and payment gateways, creating and managing a successful online store can be a challenge; managing four can be next to impossible. With a multi-site solution, you can direct multiple online stores through one shopping cart, greatly reducing the amount of time and effort needed to stay compliant with online merchant regulations. At the same time, this solution will make it easier for users to purchase items from multiple sites with a single order, making your sites more usable and encouraging your customers to buy more. Meanwhile, it will be easier for you to dynamically manage inventory across stores. Lastly, a shared e-commerce path makes it possible to recommend products from one site as your customer is making a purchase on another. Perhaps you know that many of your customers who buy Product X also buy Product Y, or that they would, if they only knew it existed. Recommended products, or “Our Customers Also Like...”, is your chance to tell them. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 6
  • 7. When Not To Use Multi-Site Although a multi-site solution can offer a lot of great benefits, it is by no means right for every website and every organization. Consider the following questions: Could your goals be accomplished by one website? While our experience shows that multi-site offers a significant savings in time and money over multiple websites, a single website is obviously the least costly option. In most cases a single website will be a more usable solution for your visitors if there is no specific reason to create multiple sites. How similar are your separate sites? So you’ve determined that you goals clearly demand multiple websites. But what do they have in common? The multi-site approach is based on the premise that time can be saved by replicating similar content, architecture, or functionality. But if your separate sites share none of these things, there is little to be gained by pursuing a multi- site solution. Will multi-site create obstacles for my site? In the open source world, a lot of website functionality is created through pre-existing modules of code. However, not all modules are built to work correctly in a multi-site environment. Before choosing multi-site, you (and/or your development partner) should consider which modules are needed, and if these will work smoothly in a multi-site scenario. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 7
  • 8. Project Planning Because of the added layer of complexity that multi-site brings to a project, it is critical that the needs, goals, and objectives of your related websites are clearly established before development begins. For example, some multi-sites rely on a single database; others are based on multiple, related databases. There are advantages and disadvantages of both approaches; the right choice for you can only be found after a complete look at the desired functionality of your websites. A complete planning process prevents any miscommunication between client and developer, and avoids costly changes in the project’s direction. A clear understanding of the project from the beginning will prevent these changes in course, and ensure a smooth development process. Lastly, a word of caution. A multi-site installation is a more complex and challenging endeavor than building a single site. Make sure that you locate a capable developer, with experience building multi-sites, to build your project. Do not trust your future success to an inexperienced development team. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 8
  • 9. Summary and Next Steps Multi-site is a powerful Web development tool. If your goals require multiple websites, creating them within one multi-site structure offers a great savings in both the development and maintenance costs of your project. But before deciding on multi-site, ensure that it is the right solution for your needs, considering the questions posed on Page 7 of this document. The development experts at CommonPlaces excel at accurately and completely planning Web projects, and can guide you to the appropriate multi-site solution for your needs. We completed out first multi-site project in 2004, and since then we have grown immensely, along with technology, to achieve great improvements in multi-site implementation. Many open source platforms support multi-site architecture. Most often, we build multi-site projects with the Drupal Content Management System. There are many reasons why we feel Drupal is the best choice for our clients. Want to learn more about Drupal? If you would like to talk more about multi-site technology and Drupal, or discuss your next Web project, feel free to contact us. Lastly, please share this document with others who would like to learn more about the benefits of a multi-site solution. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 9