Web Server Administration in IIS 7: New and Improved IIS Manager

The IIS Manager in Internet Information Services 7.0 (IIS 7.0) has undergone many changes from its predecessors. The new IIS Manager was completely rebuilt using .NET’s Windows Form technology. With the overhaul, most of the features available in IIS 6.0 remain intact; however, accessing those features is a completely different experience. Microsoft has done away with the tab-based method of Web Server and Site management and replaced it with a categorized features view.

Along with the intuitive new user interface comes new functionality. IIS 7.0 introduces an additional layer of separation for managing complex web sites with applications. Applications behave just like virtual directories of a web site with the exception that an application also offers the ability to operate under its own application pool and permissions can be managed to control which users can administer the application.

Another impressive feature of the new IIS Manager is its seamless integration with ASP.NET. The new ASP.NET features allow administrators and developers to control several aspects of the server, site, application or virtual directory’s settings such as; compilation, providers, application settings, Forms authentication as well as several other developer orientated features.

The new IIS Manager makes it possible to perform almost any of the common tasks associated with administering a web server. A couple of things that are lacking in IIS 7.0 are the ability to administer web servers that use previous IIS versions or FTP sites. Installing the IIS 6.0 Management Tools can cover both of these things. This allows you to use both IIS 6.0 and 7.0’s IIS Manager on the same server should you need either of those abilities. If for any reason you still need more out of the IIS manager the fact that it was developed with managed .NET code allows for additional modules to be developed.

Accessing the IIS Manager with Windows Server 2008

In order to access the IIS Manager with Windows Server 2008 you must have the Web Server Role installed. Only with the Web Server Role installed you can launch the IIS Manager using one of these methods:

  • From the Server Manager expand Roles | Web Server (IIS) and click Internet Information Server (IIS) Manager
  • From the Start Menu | Administrative Tools | Internet Information Server (IIS) Manager

When the IIS Manager is launched, you are presented with the Connections tree view for navigating servers and sites and the Start Page. The IIS Manager Start Page should be a familiar sight to developers. The layout and design of the Start Page is modeled after the Visual Studio 2005 editions Start Pages.

IIS Manager Start Page … Helps You Stay Connected

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From the IIS Manager Start Page you are provided with links to recent connections, connection tasks and popular online resources for developers and administrators as well as the IIS news feed. The Start Page is the place to go for establishing new connections and getting help and info on web server administration and development.

When you connect to a server through the IIS Manager’s Start Page or Connections tree view you are brought to the server’s Home panel. From the server’s Home panel and every other area besides the Start Page the IIS Manager is split into three columns:

  • The left column, which is also visible from the Start Page, is the Connections tree view. From here you can navigate the settings and sites of the servers the IIS Manager is connected to. You can also perform actions on the items listed in the Connections tree view by right clicking them.
  • The right column is the Actions column. From here you can perform the actions available to the item selected in IIS Manager. Typically the actions available in the Actions column reflect the actions available by right clicking the item in the Connections tree view or content view as well as offer links for help. For example, with a server selected, you can; start, restart, stop a server as well as view the server’s sites or application pools.
  • In the center column of a server’s Home panel is the server’s Features View. From this column you can access all the features available to a server. These features depend on the role services installed on the server as well as the permissions of the IIS user. The Features View offers multiple views, modeled after the views available to Windows Explorer and three grouping options: No Grouping, Category and Area. When grouped by area, features are grouped under ASP.NET, IIS or Management. When grouped by category, features are grouped under Application Development, Health and Diagnostics, HTTP Features, Other, Performance, Security and Server Components.

Server Home Features View … Improves Server Security

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Each feature has its own user interface for managing the feature. When configuring a feature, changes are not applied until you click Apply on the Actions panel or save when prompted after leaving the feature. The new modular architecture used by the IIS Manager’s features decreases its footprint and increases security on the server by not requiring unused features to be installed. Whereas previous versions require unused features to be installed and loaded to memory and simply disables access to them in the user interface.

Server Content View … Use It to View, Locate, and Configure

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Below the features list view is a pair of toggle buttons used for switching between the features view and content view. The content view of a server connection provides the ability to add application pools and web sites or switch to their respective features views from the Actions column. If FTP services are installed on the server, FTP sites will also be listed and provide a features view with a link to launch the IIS 6.0 Manager to configure them.

Dialogues … For Adding Application Pools and Web Sites

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To add a new application pool you must provide; the name, .NET Framework version to use, if any, and whether to use the integrated or classic managed pipeline module to the dialogue. The integrated managed pipeline mode runs request processing within the main IIS process, while classic runs them in a separate process designated for request processing.

To add a new web site you must provide; the name, application pool to run under, the path to the site’s directory on the server, the authentication credentials to use, binding type, IP address, port and host header used to connect to the site to the dialogue.

Application pools are used by IIS to provide a method of organizing processing configuration settings for web sites and applications. Each site or application must be set to run under one application pool, which could be used by multiple sites or applications.

Application Pools: Features View

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The features view of a server’s application pools provides a list of application pools on the server that can be filtered and grouped. When an application pool is selected, the Actions column provides links for: starting and stopping, basic and advanced settings, recycling, renaming, removing and viewing the applications using the application pool.

Dialogues … For Editing Application Pools

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An application pool’s Basic Settings dialogue has the same settings as the Add Application Pool dialogue; except for renaming, which is done from the Actions column of the Application Pools features view. The Advanced Settings dialogue allows you to configure the basic settings as well as settings for CPU usage, process model, rapid fail protection and recycling. Recycling can be configured with the Recycling Conditions dialogue as well. The recycling conditions allow you to specify how often the worker processes used by an application are automatically restarted.

Web Site: Features View

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When a site, application or virtual directory is selected from the Connections column its features view is displayed with nearly all the same features available to the server. From the action column you have access to explore the physical directory or edit its permissions, and edit the basic and advanced settings. Sites and Applications both provide the ability for viewing their virtual directories. Web Sites have links to: start, restart or stop the site, configure its bindings, connection limits, and view its applications.

Dialogues: For a Sites’ Basic and Advanced Settings

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The contents view of a site, application, or virtual directory lists their directories and files and allows you to navigate the site’s structure. Files can be viewed with a web browser and permissions can be edited from the contents view, but the IIS manager does not support editing the contents of the files themselves.

New IIS Manager … More Functional and Usable

All the improvements to the functionality and usability of the IIS Manager are phenomenal. The intuitiveness and ease of use are sure to bring the already low overall cost of operating a web server down, making the “free” price tag of Microsoft’s competitors in the web server market a lot less appealing.

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