Migrating WordPress multisite to WP Engine

Stephen Evans
Tuesday 20 March 2018

The University hosts a multisite WordPress installation (wp.st-andrews.ac.uk) that provides websites and blogs for over 200 research groups and other University organisations. WordPress enables University staff and students to quickly create a website or blog and configure and administer it without needing specialist programming knowledge.

However, looking after WordPress takes time to ensure it is kept up to date and secure. This is why we decided to seek a partner who would take on responsibility for providing a more secure and stable environment.

WP Engine

WP Engine specialise in providing high performance hosting solutions for WordPress sites. We selected them as our provider due to their experience of working with higher education institutions and provision of 24/7 support. They are also based in the UK, which makes it simpler to contact them and ensures our data is kept within the UK, in compliance with data protection.

WP Engine will do the following for us:

  • Take care of core security updates.
  • Take responsibility for ensuring the system cannot be compromised.
  • Provide a faster and more stable platform than the University infrastructure.
  • Provide 24/7 support.

Furthermore, they offer the possibility of using a content delivery network to mirror WordPress sites to servers around the world, thereby ensuring a minimum download time for WordPress users.

New policy

A new policy has been written that will control how current and future WordPress sites are managed and maintained. The policy is currently in a draft form to allow comments to be received before coming into effect on Friday 25 May 2018. The policy will have an impact on some existing users. For example, no password protected content will be allowed i.e. the information must be in the public domain. Also of note is that no new WordPress sites will be allowed for individual academic staff. The aim of the policy is to ensure that:

  • WordPress (core, themes and plugins) is kept secure.
  • WordPress sites support University business such as teaching and research.
  • There is a good user-centred experience.
  • Content is up to date and complies with copyright, Consumer Protection Legislation (CPL),  General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other legal requirements.
  • There is an efficient process for supporting WordPress sites and owners.

Migration timeline

We will move the multisite over to WP Engine on Thursday 22 March and responsibility for WordPress will remain with the digital communications team. There will be no change to how users request WordPress sites, or how these are supported internally.

End users (i.e. students, staff and those viewing our WordPress sites) will not notice any change as a result of this project. WordPress sites will be migrated in their entirety; themes, plugins and content.

URLs for sites on wp.st-andrews.ac.uk will remain unchanged. Therefore, existing users of the sites will not notice any difference.

Digital communications will also launch a new landing page design for the main multisite homepage (wp.st-andrews.ac.uk) that will make it easier to use.

The future

In the long term our overall aim is to standardise WordPress sites to make them easier to manage and sustain for site owners, IT services and the digital communications team. We will also be reviewing how other WordPress sites could be moved over to WP Engine.

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