Managed WordPress hosts are popping up all over the web. The platform is now so widely used that mammoth hosting providers such as GoDaddy and MediaTemple have added specialized hosting packages dedicated to WordPress customers. WordPress hosting providers that cater to a specific niche are the latest trend.
CampusPress is a newly branded managed host that specializes in WordPress multisite networks for educational organzations. It’s actually an offshoot of Edublogs, the largest educational blogging host that has been providing multisite hosting since 2005. Due to the high demand for more CMS features, the Edublogs team decided to differentiate the services with CampusPress focused on providing multisite network hosting for schools and universities.
I spoke with Edublogs Director of Operations, Ronnie Burt, to discuss the reasons for launching CampusPress as a separate entity into the managed hosting market. He said that many of the existing Edublogs customers wanted to use the service for more than blogs but were hesitant due to “blogs” within the name. “Since WordPress is all grown up and used for way more than blogging,” he said. “We’re re-branding our Edublogs Campus service and really improving the network infrastructure and features to better support all types of sites.”
How Multisite Hosting Works at CampusPress
In addition to providing a hosting environment optimized for multisite networks, CampusPress accounts also include many built-in features specific to white labeling and managing a multisite network for education. A few examples include:
- Domain mapping
- Class and student management tools
- Content filtering and moderation
- Native apps for iOS and Android
- LDAP, Google Apps, Shibboleth and LTI authentication options
I asked Burt if CampusPress is one giant network that manages all the multisite installations. “It isn’t technically networks within a network,” he said. “Each school has their own totally separate multisite install. We use SVN to manage WordPress core and our default plugins and themes across all of the networks.” CampusPress also provides a custom SVN folder for customers to submit and manage custom themes.
The multisite hosting is truly managed in that the maintenance is handled professionally behind the scenes and customers do not have any server-level access such as FTP or the database. “This is how we can guarantee reliability and security,” Burt said. “While traditional managed hosting providers may have automated scans and a blacklist of plugins, we manually review line by line each line of code of every plugin and theme added to our networks.”
The Challenge of Keeping Pace With WordPress
Burt says that one of the biggest challenges of hosting multisite networks is performing upgrades. “Universities and schools often also have their own change management and branding policies and regulations,” he said. “They tend to not like upgrades or major changes in the middle of the school year, and they all seam to require different things when it comes to testing, timelines, and rolling out new plugins/tools.”
For example, WordPress 3.8 introduced major changes to WordPress and many organizations didn’t want to have to re-educate their users in the middle of the school year. “This is especially a challenge when they get on different versions of WordPress core,” Burt explained. “It seems like as soon as we finally get everyone happily upgraded, another version will roll out and we’ll start the process all over again. We’d upgrade them all at the same time if they’d let us.”
CampusPress Expands Beyond Educational Blogs
With the new CampusPress branding in place, Burt and his team are able to expand beyond providing educational blogs. One of the largest categories includes news/magazine sites like, such as the University of Denver Magazine. The other category they serve is faculty/department websites in need of CMS capabilities, such as the University of Oregon Political Science Department and Cornell’s Media Relations Office.
A few interesting examples of multisite networks already hosted with CampusPress include:
- Bill and Melinda Gates Hall
- Cornell’s Emergency Site
- University of Delaware Student Newspaper
- San Jose State’s Alumni Magazine
- University of Oregon Department Sites
- Ohio State’s Drumline
WordPress use is on the rise in the education sector. “The buzz around WordPress at the conferences we attend and the WP in Education mailing list suggests a growth that parallels WordPress in business and other arenas,” Burt said. With the re-branded CampusPress website launched this week, Edublogs is officially entering the managed WordPress hosting market. The company joins Cart66 as one of the first managed WordPress hosts catering to a specific niche.