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Reading through the documentation you have the ability to setup a WP Network in two ways, Sub-Domains and Sub-Directories. The only explanation they give you is

Sub-directory sites

It works with the use of the mod_rewrite feature on the server having the ability to read the .htaccess file, which will create the link structure.

If you are using pretty permalinks in your blog already, then subdirectory sites will work as well.

Sub-domain sites

It works using wildcard subdomains. You must have this enabled in Apache, and you must also add a wildcard subdomain to your DNS records. (See Step 2 how to set up.)

Some hosts have already set up the wildcard on the server side, which means all you need to add is the DNS record.

Some shared webhosts may not support this, so you may need to check your webhost before enabling this feature.

I'm looking to find if there is a performance, maintenance or other benefit to use one over the other.

2

I began using Multisite just a few months ago, and am really loving it. You're going to want to use the sub-domain structure if you have a host that supports it. I use a Media Temple Grid Server plan. It will allow you to create a subdomain and then mask it with a symbolic link. i.e. rtgibbons.mynetwork.com would be mapped as rtgibbons.com or whatever URL you want presented.

Upon a Google search, I found that as long as you plan to use Domain Mapping, there will be no advantage to either method.

http://wordpress.org/support/topic/multisite-subdomain-vs-sub-directory-setup?replies=4

I'd suggest subscribing to the WordPress.org Multisite Forum. There is very good info over there and Andrea_r is very sharp.

  • Thanks for the link, didn't stumple across this. Appear as separate sites is something I hadn't thought about. – Ryan Gibbons Aug 2 '11 at 16:44
  • The advantage of the sub domain method is that it doesn't interfere with the permalink structure of your main site. Sub directory method will add a blog/ prefix there that is hard to get rid of. – David Oct 19 '17 at 12:48
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Not that I really have the credentials to answer this but I did find this awhile back and thought I'd share. It's a pretty decent walkthrough of what to do for setting up the multisite feature, permissions, and things of that nature. Like I said, it doesn't really answer the question here but it does work in tandem with what we're looking to do.

http://digwp.com/2011/02/hosting-clients-wordpress-network/

Thoughts?

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I'm looking to find if there is a performance, maintenance or other benefit to use one over the other.

The only difference is SEO. And also subdomain require wildcard subdomains st up server side. Subfolders stuff a /blog/ off the main site only for permalink collisions.

Otherwise, within WP itself is irrelevant.

0

A standard (not-multisite) WP install on a web site is usually installed in one of two ways.

As A Sub-directory

Sub-directory sites are put in separate folders like this mydomdotcom/folder and is accessible as mydomdotcom/folder

As A Sub-domain

Sub-domain sites are put in separate folders too except that the virtual folder name of (mydomdotcom/folder) is an alias name, configured by mapping the alias name through Cpanel or other access that presents the information existing in newfold.mydomdotcom as mydomdotcom/folder

The end result is that on the site that presents the information the access folder is the same /folder but where the information physically exists on the server is different ie..(folder versus newfold.mydomdotcom)

Now to answer the question of why the difference and when to use one type of install versus other?

If you use html files on your main site (or from any folder on your site) and you want to display and use a Wordpress installation (that exists in a /folder) within your main html files that display on your main site then a Sub-domain installation would work best

As reference and in comparison, a (WPMU) multisite WP installation would do the same thing except that Wordpress is installed and used in main site and because of the WPMU configuration WP existing in folders on the site are accessible as (and looking like) they are part of the main site.

The bottom line is information and how you present and want site vistors to access information.

Either through your site as one main interface or through separate folders (which will usually always pop out as separate Sub-folders if they are installed as such, versus Sub-domains that allow wrapping into another interface without popping out)

In addition when do use Sub-domain versus Sub-folder you usually have separate stats for that one physical location on your server.

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