How to Migrate WordPress Multisite? – Complete Guide(2022)
Do you wish to migrate WordPress multisite to another server or web host? Because of the complex nature of a multisite, migrating it to a different location isn’t as straightforward as migrating a single site. You might have several questions before you begin. Will the WordPress multisite migration cause downtime on my live site? Would I have to edit core WordPress files? Would I have to change any settings? Is it too hard?
It’s natural to have these questions. But fear not. In this guide, I’ll explain how to move WordPress multisite via different methods that are known to work.
TL;DR: Migrating a WordPress multisite is a significant endeavor that carries some risk. You can alleviate that risk, save a lot of time, and prevent potential headaches by using Migrate Guru, a dedicated WordPress migration plugin that has facilitated countless migrations since its birth. Not only is it easy to use, but it also works with any web host out there. All you need are your FTP or cPanel credentials, and Migrate Guru will handle the rest!
Things to do before you perform WordPress multisite migration
Before you get started on the WordPress multisite migration process, make sure you do the following (this will prevent any unnecessary hiccups or time sinks during the multisite migration process):
- Back up your website. It always helps to have a safety net. Should anything go wrong during the migration, you can restore a functional version of your site, ready to start again.
- Get FTP/SFTP credentials of both your existing web server as well as those of the server you’ll be migrating to.
- Disable caching and firewall plugins. Such plugins are notorious for causing issues during the migration, and you will save yourself a lot of trouble by disabling them. You can re-enable them once the migration has been completed successfully.
- Make sure the PHP versions on the source and destination sites match. While this isn’t necessary, it can help prevent certain errors after the migration has been completed, like the HTTP 500 Error.
How to migrate WordPress multisite using a plugin
Migrating a multisite using a dedicated WordPress multisite migration plugin is probably the easiest and fastest way to do so. However, not all migration plugins are built equal, which is why I highly recommend using Migrate Guru. It can migrate multisites out of the box for free, which is usually a paid feature for other plugins. Moreover, it works with any web host out there and powers the migration feature of popular web hosts like WP Engine, Flywheel, Cloudways, and more.
- Install and activate Migrate Guru on your website.
- Next, enter your email address to create an account, then click on Migrate Site.
- On the next page, pick the host you want to migrate to. If your destination host isn’t listed, choose either cPanel or FTP to continue.
- Next, enter your details and click Migrate to continue. If you chose FTP in the previous step, you would have to enter the FTP credentials of your destination server here.
- Migrate Guru will now validate your FTP credentials and start the migration process. You can also see how much progress it has made during the migration via the progress bars.
That’s it! How easy was that? Once the WordPress multisite migration is complete, you’ll see a confirmation message on the screen along with a link to visit the migrated site at its new location. You’ll get a confirmation email too on the email address you used in step 2.
Migrating a WordPress multisite manually
Migrating any site, let alone a multisite, is a non-trivial endeavor and carries a certain amount of risk. It’s why I strongly recommend using a dedicated migration plugin to move your WordPress multisite. If, however, you don’t want to install yet another plugin on your site and would prefer to carry out the migration yourself, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.
Note that this method is more technical than the other methods I’ve discussed in this article, requiring you to make changes to core WordPress files and your database. It also takes a much longer time to complete the migration when compared to the other methods and is error-prone too. If you want to proceed to do the WordPress multisite migration manually anyway, I’m reminding you to take a full backup of your site.
Now, let’s take a look at how to migrate a WordPress multisite manually.
Step 1: Download WordPress files
In this step, you’ll download the WordPress files of your multisite to your local computer. To show how, I’ll use the popular FileZilla FTP client.
- Connect to your multisite remotely using FileZilla as shown in the image below. You’ll need the FTP credentials of your site to do so.
- Navigate to the folder on your local computer, from the left-hand area labeled ‘Local site,’ where you would like to download the WordPress files of your multisite.
- Find the root directory of your multisite’s WordPress installation on the right-hand area labeled ‘Remote site,’ right-click on it, and click on Download. This will start downloading the WordPress files to your local folder.
Step 2: Download the database
In this step, you’ll export the database of your multisite. You’ll import this data into a new database in a later step. To export your database, you’ll need access to the database manager of your multisite. The two most popular ones are phpMyAdmin and Adminer. It’s highly likely that your web host uses one or the other. For this part, however, I’ll use Adminer to illustrate the steps. Both Adminer and phpMyAdmin work in mostly the same way, so you should be able to apply the steps here for phpMyAdmin without any problem.
- Open the Adminer dashboard for your multisite. It should look something like this:
- Click on Export from the left-hand pane.
- Select ‘save’ as the output, SQL as the data format, and then click on Export.
- In the pop-up window, give the SQL file a suitable name and download it to your computer.
Step 3: Create a new database and user
To be able to import the database that you exported in Step 2 into your new web server or host, you need to create a new database. This new database will act as the new home for your multisite’s data and settings. I’ll use Bluehost as an example to show how to create a new database. The steps for any other web host will mostly be the same (the option to create a new database will be in the ‘Databases’ section of your hosting account’s dashboard or cPanel).
- Go to Advanced > Databases from the left-hand navigation menu.
- Under the section ‘Create New Database,’ provide a name for your new database, then click on Create Database. In my example, I’ve named the database ‘mybhsite_home_for_new_database.’
- Now, we’re going to add a new database user for our account. Scroll down to ‘Add New User’ under ‘MySQL Users.’ Choose a username and a strong password for this user, then click on Create User to finish creating.
- Now, add the user you created in Step 3 to the database you created in Step 2 as shown in the image below.
- On the next page, assign all privileges to this new user and then click on Make Changes.
That’s it! You now have a new, blank database on your new destination server.
Step 4: Point the WordPress config file to the new database
The wp-config.php file is a critical file of your WordPress installation. It is located in the root directory of your website and contains your website’s base configuration details, like database connection information. This file is what WordPress consults to communicate with the database. So, if it isn’t configured with the correct database information, a visitor won’t be able to access the site.
Right now, your multisite is connected to your old database. In this step, you are going to connect it to the new database that you created in the previous step.
- Find the wp-config.php file in the folder you downloaded in Step 1 and open it.
- Modify the following lines of code with the correct information related to your new database.
define('DB_NAME', 'new database name here'); define('DB_USER', 'username for the new database'); define('DB_PASSWORD', 'password for the new database'); define('DB_HOST', 'new MySQL hostname');
- Save the changes and close the file.
Step 5: Upload the old database
Again, I’ll use Adminer to illustrate the steps.
- Launch Adminer on your new host or server.
- Select the new database that you created in Step 3, then click on Import.
- Choose the SQL file to import, and then click on Execute to start importing.
Importing the data can take a while if the database is huge. After a successful import, you’ll see a message confirming so.
Step 6: Upload the old WordPress files
In this step, you’ll upload the WordPress core files that you downloaded in Step 1 to your new server. I’ll use the FileZilla FTP client to illustrate the process.
- Connect to the server you’re migrating to on FileZilla.
- Navigate to the folder where you downloaded the WordPress files of your multisite in Step 1 in the left-hand pane of FileZilla labeled ‘Local site.’
- Next, right-click on the folder containing your WordPress multisite’s files, and click on Upload. This will upload the WordPress files to your new server. If your server already has a WordPress installation, those files will be replaced.
And that is it. WordPress multisite migration to a new server is succesfull. After all the files have been uploaded, you’ll see your multisite at the new location.
How to Move WordPress multisite using your web host
Did you know that you could migrate your multisite via your web host? Most hosts provide a free migration service to facilitate the migration of your site to them. In fact, BlogVault powers the migration feature of several web hosts including WP Engine, Flywheel, Cloudways, and many more.
In this section, I’ll show you how you can migrate your multisite to a new host or server using your destination web host. I’ll use WP Engine as an example. The steps should largely be the same for your destination host. The main difference lies in the location of the migration feature in the hosting account’s dashboard.
- Install and activate the WP Engine Automated Migration plugin on your multisite.
- Enter your email address, agree to the terms of service, then click on Get started.
- The plugin will check your site for migration readiness. Once it confirms that your site is migration-ready, click on Migrate to proceed. You’ll be taken to the migration form.
- Enter your site’s URL and the SFTP credentials you received from WP Engine. By default, the plugin only migrates the database and files found in the wp-content directory. Check the relevant boxes if there are additional root directories and/or database tables that you want to migrate. When you’re done, click on Migrate to continue.
The WP Engine Automated Migration plugin is powered by BlogVault. It will validate your details on the next page and then start the migration process.
Once the WordPress multisite migration is complete, you’ll see a confirmation message on the screen.
What to do after the multisite migration
Even though the WordPress multisite migration is technically complete, there are some additional things you need to do to ensure a smooth transition for your multisite. They are as follows:
- Clear your website’s caches. These include the caches of your WordPress installation, browser, and plugins.
- Test every critical component of your site to make sure it’s functioning properly. This includes the theme, pages, posts, hyperlinks, images, analytics code snippets, and ads.
- Disable maintenance mode if you had enabled it before starting the migration.
- Reactivate SSL on your new site if your new web host didn’t add it automatically after the migration. Use the Really Simple SSL plugin to do so quickly and easily.
- Make sure the following tables in the database have the correct information related to your multisite.
Troubleshooting WordPress multisite migration issues
If you used Migrate Guru to migrate WordPress multisite, then this section is likely not for you. If you migrated it manually, then there is a chance that you may have faced an issue or two during or after the migration. Some of the common ones are as follows:
- The dreaded HTTP 500 ERROR: This error has a number of causes and can be hard to diagnose and resolve. It is why I advise people to disable caching and firewall plugins, and to make sure that the PHP versions on the source and destination sites match. If you get this error, head on over to our guide for troubleshooting it.
- Error establishing database connection: This error is usually caused by incorrect database information in the wp-config.php file. Check the values for DB_NAME, DB_USER, DB_PASSWORD, DB_HOST, and table_prefix in the file to make sure they correspond to your new database and not the old one.
If your issue isn’t listed here, seek help from your web hosting provider or the official WordPress support forums. If you still haven’t solved your problem, I suggest taking the nuclear option: reinstall WordPress on your destination server, restore a backup of your site, and use Migrate Guru to move it. Trust me, it just works.
As you probably witnessed from the article, WordPress multisite migration to a different server or web host isn’t all that complex. It is quite an undertaking nonetheless and there are chances that you may mess something up if you decide to migrate your site manually. The manual method also takes up a humongous amount of time, with all the setup, editing, and pathetically slow speeds of FTP.
It’s why I highly recommend using a dedicated migration plugin. Now, there are quite a few migration plugins out there, but my personal recommendation is Migrate Guru. Using it, you can migrate your entire multisite network easily and safely to any location with a few clicks. All you’ll need are the FTP/SFTP or cPanel credentials of your destination server. Moreover, it can migrate your site to any web host on Earth. Migrating WordPress sites has never been easier!
Q – How can I migrate my WordPress multisite?
A – The three main ways you can migrate WordPress multisite are:
- Using a plugin;
- Doing it manually via FTP; or
- Using your web host’s migration feature (provided it has it).
Out of these, I highly recommend using a plugin and Migrate Guru in particular.
Recommended read: How to migrate a WordPress site to a new host or server.
Q – What is a good plugin I can use to migrate my multisite?
A – Migrate Guru. It’s easy to use, can do the job really quickly, and requires no setup from your end. Moreover, it works with every web host out there.