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How to run multiple domains on a single Joomla installation

  • February 11th 2013

Fast, robust, secure and user friendly- Joomla is a self-sufficient, open source solution for building quality websites of all kinds. Used by many renowned brands such as General Electric, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, United Nations Regional Information Center (UNRIC), and IKEA to name a few. Joomla is the second most popular content management system in existence powering over 2.8 % of total websites on the Internet. With over 30 million downloads, Joomla is an open source community developed and promoted CMS that utilizes object oriented programming (OOP) concepts.

Just like every CMS available on the web, Joomla has some features that are unique to it, like a menu driven architecture and robust admin panel; and just like every CMS- there are some features that are still not available in the original design of the software. Out of these still under-development features, ‘multiple site support’ has a substantial demand. It is available in WordPress, Drupal, and Magento in which it is an integrated feature.

Use of Multiple site support

Multiple site support means running two or more domains using a single installation of CMS. This has many inherent advantages that become apparent especially for building similar websites. For example let’s suppose a car manufacturing company offers two different types of cars, a modest low cost family sedan, and a powerful high performance but expensive, sports car. Both cars have a different market, so to effectively promote it, two different websites would be ideal. But since both cars are made by same company it would be very efficient to have similar features in both sites such as similar design, same contact info, and most importantly same backend database. It would be most efficient and easy for a web developer to make a site in the CMS and then use the same software, same theme (with some modifications of course), same database, and same installation that is shared with both sites. The main advantages of this would be

  • The Developer will have to work on a single site and then clone and customize the other.
  • Easy management of the incoming request and queries as the database is shared.
  • Can change both the site simultaneously
  • No need to upload duplicate content for two sites
  • Lots of free time for the overworked web developer

How to integrate multiple site support in Joomla

Even though Joomla does not explicitly support multiple sites in the same installation, you can integrate multiple site support through some technical tricks and additional extensions.

PHP Redirect

One way of giving an illusion of multiple sites is by redirecting the first domain to the other site that is using a Joomla installation with two different templates. The procedure is simple but may require some technical knowhow. Here are some simple steps

  • First create two separate domains from the same hosting account
  • Install Joomla on one domain
  • Add content and media
  • Develop two different templates for both different sites and assign them to relevant menu items
  • Add a PHP redirect to one of the domains.

For adding PHP redirect also there are multiple ways. You can use SEF URLs and add an .htaccess redirect of apache server. Another way is to use server 301 redirect in the header. For more information refer to the following link. http://docs.joomla.org/Multiple_Domains_and_Web_Sites_in_a_single_Joomla!_installation

Virtual domain extensions

You can use Virtual Domain extension of Joomla. This extension can be used to run multiple domains to the same installation and it will give the impression of multiple distinct site to the visitor. Just create different templates for multiple sites and configure them to the back end of this extension and you get multiple sites using same Joomla plugins, database, and features. And the best thing about this extension is- that it’s free.

Refer to this link for more information and download this plugin

Multisite Extension

JMS Multisite extension is a premium tool for creating multiple domains on the same Joomla installation and database. Through this extension you can share multiple users, extension, plugins, databases, and templates among two or more domains. The best feature of this extension is that you can share multiple domains among multiple users and can use a single database, a master and slave database, or multiple databases to run multiple sites and pages. Also, unlike most other extensions, through it, you can also share multiple extensions among different domains right from the same installation. The premium packages comes with extensive documentations. You can even purchase one or three hour online training courses related to the installation, configurations and use of the extension.

Refer to this link to download the Multisite extention


Even though there are multiple ways through which you can add multiple site support in Joomla, the facility is not available in the core Joomla module. There is significant online pressure on the Joomla development team to integrate this facility in its core but since there are multiple ways to add multiple sites to a single installation, crossing the most efficient and secure way is a considerable problem that requires further research into each method. Till then you can use any of the of the methods listed above. If you have any other innovative methods in mind feel free to share it with us through your comments.