With a Drupal multisite, you can manage multiple Drupal sites from a single copy of the code. Although you can configure a Drupal multisite out of the box, a separate, powerful, free program makes managing all these Drupal sites mind-blowingly easy. It's called Aegir (often pronounced "eager"). Even if you only have one Drupal site, Aegir will change the way you think about Drupal.
Add a Site? Click.
How do you start a Drupal multisite with Aegir? You literally click a button that says, "Add Site." You fill in the new domain name, pick which version of Drupal it'll run, and click.
That's it. Behind the scenes, Aegir sets up all the necessary directories and files.
Using a new, separate database is much cleaner than the default Drupal multisite configuration, where you use the existing database that your first site is already using. Yes, the default method lets you skip the hassle of setting up a new database and new credentials. But you can pay dearly for that convenience down the road. Any real problem with one of your sites could fry the database for all of them.
With Aegir, you win both ways. You get a separate database for each site, and Aegir sets it up for you.
Finally, Aegir sets up the new domain name. This still amazes me.
If you've only set up single sites so far, you probably take domain name setup for granted. The web host almost always makes getting your first domain name as seamless as possible. But when you try to add a second domain name, you find out that your CMS can't actually set up domains by itself. Domain names happen outside the CMS, at a lower level of the software stack. Depending on your web host, setting up those new domain names can be agonizing.
Aegir sets your domain up automatically. Yes, you still have to register the domain name and point it to your web host's IP address. But Aegir can do the rest.
Maintain Your Drupal Multisite? Click.
You started reading this article because you want an easy way to add new Drupal sites. But once you use Aegir, you'll only realize its full, insane power when you start to maintain all these lovely new sites. Aegir reduces each of these tasks to a couple of clicks:
- Reset password
- Delete backups
Seriously? A Couple Clicks?
Yes. A couple clicks. Mostly.
Okay, some tasks may still require a bit of preparation. For instance, you can't migrate your Drupal 6.24 site to Drupal 6.25 code unless you first get that new code onto your server. And you need to make sure that any modules you've downloaded for your 6.24 "platform" (copy of the code) are also downloaded for your 6.25 platform.
In fact, migration (and a few other tasks) are still so complex that there are several extra steps you should get into the habit of taking before and after you run these tasks. Even with Aegir, it's possible to break things badly if you're not careful.
However, Aegir still makes these tasks much simpler than they would ever be with a default Drupal multisite. We're still basically talking about a few clicks.
Try Aegir for Free
You can set up Aegir on your own computer for free, but you'll find it much easier to try this online Aegir demo. You need to give them your name and email address, but you can expect to receive a login link very quickly.
Once you log in, it won't take many clicks before you realize how much easier your Drupal multisite would be with Aegir. I think you'll get hooked fast. Your next step will be either to set Aegir up on your own host, or else, if you take my advice, you'll rent hosting from a company that specializes in Aegir.