Are there other options for EE MSM? I'd like to use MSM, but the licensing restrictions that EE places on it won't allow me to do it. For example, I wanted to develop real estate agent website and sell it to several real estate agents. I'd like to reuse Channels, Templates, etc. across the sites. Apparently, that's not allowed by EE since MSM needs to only manage sites that are owned by the same entity. Leasing the sites (so that I remain the owner) is also not allowed.

If I have 20 sites and want to change an h1 to an h2 in one of my templates, I don't want to have to do it in 20 sites. I want to do it from one place. I can't use EE MSM. What are my choices?

4 Answers 4


Bluntly: not many. There are no software alternatives to the MSM available that I know of. Further if they did exist, I strongly doubt that they would be compatible with the core EE license, specifically:

An ExpressionEngine license purchase allows a single “live” installation in a production environment and ancillary “development use only” installations as needed to support the live installation (such as development and a staging servers). Additional installations require additional license purchases. If you have specific installation needs not covered by this license, please Contact Us.

Furthermore the license also states:

Unless you have been granted prior, written consent from EllisLab, Inc., you may not:

  • Reproduce, distribute, or transfer the Software, or portions thereof, to any third party.
  • Sell, rent, lease, assign, or sublet the Software or portions thereof.
  • Grant rights to any other person.

(Emphasis mine)

The only extension/exception to this is if you purchase the MSM.

However, if you are willing to purchase a separate EE license for each of your sites, but want to share template code between them, you could easily manage that at the file level, either via symlinks (if all sites on the same server) or via site specific branches in a Git repository. Though that doesn't resolve the shared schema/fields/channels issue.

There are a number of experimental addons/products that seek to address that issue in varying ways (eg NSM Site Generator & Site Manager), but none (that I'm aware of) that are production ready.

Lastly. in my experience EE is not the best choice for a SaaS, multi-instance application for precisely the reason that channels and fields are implemented as DB data not as part of the schema. That makes for great flexibility and rapid development, but it also makes sharing site structure across installs much more difficult that with a lower level framework.

  • 2
    There's also the following clarification within the MSM docs: The Multiple Site Manager does not alter the ExpressionEngine License. The license holder must be the owner of all Sites on a single installation. Leaving aside licensing issues for a moment, you can embed templates from other sites, so there is some native support for sharing template code across a network of sites.
    – Dom Stubbs
    Dec 12, 2012 at 11:04

depending on how you want to setup your server, you may be able to save templates as files and then symlink your template directory so that the same template groups/files are used throughout your sites.

All of your sites would need to be on the same server of course.

  • They would be on the same server, of course. Seems such a horrible thing to be forced to do, though. :( Dec 12, 2012 at 8:39
  • as Tom says below, EE is not the best choice for a SaaS app. Your edge case is pretty unique. Dec 12, 2012 at 8:43

I've setup multiple sites from the same install without MSM, it can be done and this was mentioned in the wiki. These are now unreachable with the new site :-( It is also unsupported and has a few glitches:

  • Unable to save template as files
  • No way to separate mailing lists (but this is with MSM the same) and a few more things (which I don't recall I'm afraid).

But here it goes:

Copy index.php from the ee root to the folder from the site (setup with DNS on the same server)


$system_path = 'absolute path to ee system folder';


$assign_to_config['template_group'] = 'name off the template group'; $assign_to_config['template'] = 'index'; //name of the start template

Lately I've been using MSM, because its better supported with add ons like wygwam, assets etc.


Unfortunately this isn't really possible. In this case I would recommend looking at a different CMS that has a more compatible licensing scheme for your particular project.

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