Updated: WordPress Multitenacy

Main Thread 2 min read

Although I migrated this blog to Octopress, I still develop with WordPress. A few months ago I shared a solution for WordPress multitenancy. This post received great feedback. I incorporated several suggestions into an updated WordPress multitenant install.

A single WordPress symlink

My original solution symlinked all-the-things. The entire top-level WordPress structure symlinked to the core WordPress install. While this works, it's brittle. If the top-level WordPress structure changed in a new version the tenant install may break. Although I mitigated this with an install script, there was room for improvement.

Bastiaan pointed out that you could move WordPress into its own directory. After following the steps outlined in the WordPress Codex (carefully in order) you can use a single symlink. A much cleaner solution.

Having a single symlink also makes maintaining tenant installs easier. I can quietly install a new version of WordPress while tenant sites safely point to an old. Then update their symlink (thus updating WordPress) as needed.

WordPress Must Use Plugins

WordPress also introduced Must Use Plugins. A WordPress install must use these plugins - meaning they are automatically activated, and can not be deactivated. Using WPMU_PLUGIN_DIR and WPMU_PLUGIN_URL I can configure the location of mu-plugins just as I did for wp-content. Now the WordPress multitenant install can share even more between the tenants.

A note about security

Strebel left a comment that there were "significant security concerns" with my WordPress multitenant solution. Unfortunately he did not elaborate. Thanks Strebel

I am not a sysadmin. Nonetheless, to mitigate any security concerns I set permissions of the core WordPress directories and files to 755 and 644 respectively. In addition, all of the core WordPress are owned by a non-tenant, non-web user. Note: This will not work in an suPHP environment.

In addition, I have moved some of the configuration settings related to the multitenant install to the core wp-config.php. This prevents tenants from changing their configuration. And as you can not redeclare PHP constants, they can not overwrite this configuration.

1// set global configurations
2define('WP_CONTENT_DIR', $_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT'] . '/wp-content');
3define('WP_CONTENT_URL', 'http://' . $_SERVER['SERVER_NAME'] . '/wp-content');
5// load site-specific configurations
6require_once dirname($_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT']) . '/wp-config.php';

I also follow common WordPress security practices, such moving wp-config.php outside webroot for both the core and tenant installs.

WordPress multitenant structure

The web directory of a tenant using the updated WordPress multitenant install:

webroot$ ls -l
total 16
-rw-r--r-- 1 jason staff 200 Mar 30 13:35 .htaccess
-rw-r--r-- 1 jason staff 405 Mar 30 16:17 index.php
lrwxr-xr-x 1 jason staff 20 Apr 6 14:30 wordpress -> /opt/wordpress/3.5.1
drwxr-xr-x 6 jason staff 204 Mar 30 16:35 wp-content

A few notes:

  • Core WordPress files live in a versioned subdirectory of /opt/wordpress/. Such a structure allows for multiple WordPress installs.
  • wp-content lives at the top-level.
  • mu-plugins is a symlink under wp-content.

As always, I welcome your feedback.

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