How to Manage User Access Across Multiple WordPress Sites

In this guide, we'll talk you through different options for managing users across more than one WordPress site. There are a wide variety of options for different circumstances. For example, if all your users are already inside Google Workspace, or an Active Directory instance, we have some specific recommendations for you.

Option #1. Use a MultiSite Network

This is one of the favorite options on the list because it is part of the WordPress core. This official guide shows how to set up a network.

Multisite networks allow you have a centralized set of users with permission to access specific sites. This screenshot below show a centralized list of multisite users.

Multisite users list

Users can be given access to one site, just a few, or all of them. And the user's permission levels can vary across websites. You can do this via the “Users” tab for each site. In the screenshot below, my central dashboard is providing a list of all the users on this site, and also allowing me to add new users to this site.

Multisite add users in WordPress

There are also some significant technical advantages to using a multisite network. For example, you can mange all sites from the same dashboard, through a single administrator user. You only install and update themes and plugins and those changes and reflected across the entire network.

However, although multisite is part of the WordPress core, it's not always treated as a first-class citizen by core developers and plugin developers. Features that work on a single site often won't work on multisite network. And when it comes to managing users, it's difficult to do things in bulk. User management in multisite is normally done one-user-at-a-time which can be slow and frustrating for large site.

Option #2. Use a SSO or LDAP Service

RoleUp is similar in many ways to Single Sign-On (SSO) or Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) services.

RoleUp, LDAP and SSO are all tools that you can use to manage user logins on WordPress sites. Here's a comparison:

  • SSO: With Single Sign-On is that you are inside larger ecosystem. Large organizations often need you to use Salesforce, Google, Facebook, MiniOrange, Microsoft Office 365, OneLogin, Azure, or Okta for all their login systems. So your WordPress sites will become part of the ecosystem. If you are inside one of these ecosystems, you should consider SSO. Click here for more on WordPress SSO.
  • LDAP: Whereas SSO comes in many different forms, LDAP is a very specific protocol that is used to talk to an Active Directory instance. Many companies, universities, and large organizations will run an Active Directory instance with all their staff information. So if you using Active Directory, you should consider LDAP options. Click here for more on WordPress LDAP.

There are major advantages to using a SSO or LDAP approach. In particular, they can form a coherent system with your existing software.

The disadvantages often involve complexity. These systems can be complex to set up and manage, often requiring a professional IT staff. This image below shows one of the simpler examples, taken from Microsoft. You will need to navigate a lot of jargon and technical configuration.

Microsoft 365 single sign on

Option #3. Use a Service Like RoleUp

RoleUp is similar to the first two options in this list because you get a central dashboard to manage all your users. However, it also has fundamental differences from these options.

RoleUp is different from WordPress multisite networks because you don't need all the sites to be physically connected.

RoleUp is also different Single Sign-On and LDAP services because is doesn't require you to use complex integration. These are confusing protocols that require you to spend a long time configuring all the required settings.

In contrast, the RoleUp integration uses application passwords, which are part of the WordPress core. All you need to do is log into your WordPress site and approve the integration. RoleUp is a smoother and simpler alternative.

RoleUp Adding Users

Unlike Option #1, RoleUp isn't part of the WordPress core. And unlike Option #2, RoleUp doesn't have a close integration with your internal software. However, if you're looking for a way to manage users across WordPress sites that is reliable, has a friendly interface, and no technical jargon, then you should give RoleUp a try.

  • Steve Burge

    Steve is the founder of PublishPress. He's been working with open source software for over 20 years. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. This profile is generated by the PublishPress Authors plugin.