I am looking at the feasibility of converting a client's site from countless hand-built web pages to a WordPress installation. The challenge is that we have a free area and a members-only area. The members-only area is a folder protected by standard Apache .htaccess / htpasswd authentication. The password folder is externally managed by legacy billing software that we do NOT want to change.
I think the best answer might be to do TWO WordPress installs, one at the domain root and one inside the members folder. That way neither install needs to be aware of the Apache authentication. I have the impression that MultiSite would not serve my purpose, because I need a real physical members area folder. I'm not sure the "virtual" feature would get me what I want - both the url rewriting and triggering the htpasswd authentication.
I've searched the boards and plugin repositories related to members or otherwise private areas. All solutions I can find assume that the members are managed via WordPress. That's not the case for me! I'm intending to use WordPress for the content management, and leave WordPress unaware of the authentication issue.
Does a double install sound feasible and the right approach? Can I just do a double install to a single MySQL database, just specifying a custom table prefix (not wp_) for the second install?