It seems like everyone has a Web site nowadays. If your company has been slow to move onto the Web-site highway, there is no time like the present to rectify that problem. But how exactly do you go about implementing a Web site for your organization? In this Daily Drill Down, Derek Schauland shows you how to plan and implement a Web site using Internet Information Server 5.0 under Windows 2000.
Internet Information Server (IIS) is Microsoft’s Web server. IIS has been around since the dawn of Windows NT 4.0. With Windows 2000, Microsoft has moved IIS to version 5.0. IIS 5.0 will integrate with your company’s Exchange servers, as well as any other relatively new communication systems used on your network. It is heavily used with Exchange Server 2000 to handle many of the POP and SMTP mail roles as well as simple WWW features.
Ask any Linux advocate what platform to use for a Web site, and you’re sure to hear all about Apache and Linux. One of the key arguments for using Apache and Linux instead of Windows 2000 and IIS is price. After all, Linux and Apache are free, and you can’t get much cheaper than that. However, if you’ve already made the decision to standardize on Windows 2000 in your organization, you’re in luck. IIS 5.0 is an integral part of Windows 2000 and, for all practical purposes, is free too. As long as you’ve invested in Windows 2000, there’s no reason to learn and deploy another operating system when you already have a “free” Web server at your fingertips.
Another popular argument against using IIS 5.0 is the fact that IIS is a popular target for hackers. It seems like every other day a new security warning or issue with IIS appears. However, properly maintained and patched, IIS can be a very secure platform. Microsoft quickly releases hot fixes for IIS when holes are discovered. Additionally, using the IIS Lockdown Tool and the IIS Security Roll-up Package utilities from Microsoft, you can quickly secure your Web server.
Planning: More than just software
Planning is the key to success with anything as complex as a Web site. Don’t get caught in the trap of focusing solely on hardware and software during your planning process. You should pay an equal amount of attention to what you want your Web site to do. Take the time to draw out the plans for your Web site upfront because if you don’t, you’ll just waste extra time fixing things later.
Before you start configuring software, purchasing hardware, or configuring your network, plan what you want your Web site to accomplish. Talk to all of the parts of the organization to get a feel for exactly what they want the site to do. To get maximum buy-in by affected parties, listen to all of their ideas, including opinions about color and layout. Your Web site should present information about your organization’s products and services in a way that reflects the organization as a whole, especially in terms of the people it represents.
Avoid the temptation to make your site glitzy. You need to make the site appealing, but it’s easy to go overboard and end up with an appalling site that is overloaded with ads for the vendors you buy from or pop-up windows about technologies you have to offer. A strategically used banner ad or pop up window (when requested, via a hyperlink) can work great, but overuse of these techniques can cost you return visitors. Some technologies, like Java and Flash animation might be cool, but remember, many people still use 56 Kbps modems to dial up to the Internet. Flashy technology sometimes causes Web pages to load slowly, and slowly loaded pages are another way to annoy your visitors.
By listening to, and applying, internal ideas and suggestions in equal measure with your own plans, you’ll get the go power needed to get the site up and running. While you are working on ideas, brainstorming for content, and getting the production server loaded and ready, you might look in to a free service such as GeoCities to play around with HTML and discover some of the tricks it has to offer. This will add to your goody bag when you are all set to move forward on the construction of the corporate Web presence.
After you have determined the purpose of the Web site and what you want for it to accomplish, you can start thinking about hardware and software requirements. Naturally, IIS 5.0 requires a server version of Windows 2000. Microsoft ships a version of IIS with Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP, but these versions are limited in power, and, more importantly, are license-restricted to only 10 simultaneous connections. So, to make IIS 5.0 work effectively, you should make sure your server can handle Windows 2000 Server.
If you expect to have a lot of traffic, you may want to deploy Windows 2000 Advanced Server to take advantage of load balancing and clustering. These features of Windows 2000 Advanced Server allow multiple servers to share the work if many users try to access your Web site at once.
Beyond the minimum system requirements, your server should have enough hard drive space to accommodate your Web site. Equally important is the amount of bandwidth your network can handle. If you’re primarily planning on using your Web site for internal use, bandwidth isn’t much of an issue. Even an old 10-baseT network can handle Web traffic easily.
However, if you have users coming in from the Internet, be careful. Even if you have a T1 connection to the Internet, which by definition is rated at 1.536 Mbps, with a typical HTML page that contains 5 KB of data, you can only serve 28 pages per second. While that may sound like a lot, think about how many pages 1000 of your customers are going to want. At 28 pages per second, a large Web site will quickly time out and cause users to go away. Therefore, rather than hosting the site yourself, you may want to think about using a Web collocation service that specializes in bandwidth. That will solve many of your bandwidth headaches, and you’ll still be able to use IIS.
Another thing to remember when setting up Web servers is that your server will use more resources than before, so it is a good idea to limit the tasks performed on the Web server to as few as possible. Don’t place your Web server on a server that’s also serving as a domain controller or acting as a file or print server.
Most likely your company has already reserved a domain name for the Internet. If not, you should consider reserving that name now. This would be the name of your business or the name of your company’s Internet division.
Once you have decided how to implement IIS, you can get down to the nitty-gritty of deploying it. IIS normally is included as part of the basic Windows 2000 Server installation routine. However, you (or a predecessor) may have chosen not to include it when you installed Windows 2000. You can check to see if IIS is loaded by clicking Start | Programs | Administrative Tools | Services. Scroll through the list of services and check to see if the WWW Service is listed. If so, IIS is installed and you can skip this section. If you don’t see the WWW service, you must install IIS.
As with many Windows programs today, IIS uses a wizard to help you get rolling. The wizard can be reached from the Configure Your Server Snap-in located in the Start Menu’s Administrative Tools folder. To start the wizard, click Start | Programs | Administrative Tools folder. This will show you a list of all the available administrative snap-ins installed on this computer. Select Configure Your Server from the list. This will open the Configure Your Server window that you normally see when you start your Windows 2000 server.
In the left-hand area of the configuration screen, select Web/Media Server and then select the Web Server menu item. This will display a Getting Started screen that provides helpful information to get you started once IIS is installed. Choose the Start link to open the component installation wizard. Windows will get the installation of IIS going by displaying a list of all components that can be installed or uninstalled from Windows on the Windows Components Wizard screen, shown in Figure A.
|The Windows Components Wizard helps you to install IIS.|
Place a check in the box next to Internet Information Server and click Details. Doing so displays a list of IIS-related services you can also deploy. Take a few minutes to decide what other Web-based services this server should be responsible for. If you only plan to serve Web pages, then you may wish to remove extra services such as Mail functions, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) capabilities and New Server (NNTP) services. If you don’t need a service, don’t select it. That will go a long way towards eliminating potential backdoors for hackers. If you need to remove any extra services, uncheck the appropriate boxes and click Ok. When you’re done, click Next.
The wizard will then proceed to copy the files needed for IIS. The wizard may prompt you to provide the Windows 2000 Server CD-ROM, so have it ready just in case. Then the installation should continue without a hitch. Since adding IIS to your Windows 2000 server causes major changes to Windows, you’ll have to restart your server. Immediately upon reboot, reapply the latest service pack to your server along with any IIS hot fixes and security packages.
Getting your site ready to go
Now that you’ve got IIS configured, you’re ready to go. Unless you changed it during installation, the default location for the files that will make up your new Web site is C:\inetpub\wwwroot. This is the root directory for all things www as far as IIS 5.0 is concerned.
IIS’s wizard places some default, or placeholder files in the virtual directory on installation. The default homepage provided by IIS is DEFAULT.HTM. When you get your own content ready, publishing it is a breeze. Save your home page in the wwwroot directory with the DEFAULT.HTM file name. IIS’s Default.htm will be overwritten and your content will be displayed the next time someone visits your site.
Management of the root directory, for things such as permissions and subfolders, is handled by an MMC snap-in just for IIS. With Internet Information Services MMC, you can manage directories or subfolders, access rights, and any other little detail of your IIS server.
You can also manage IIS features, such as virtual directories and access rights from a Web interface called the Microsoft Internet Services Manager. This interface is located at http://host.mycompany.com/iisadmin, where you replace host.mycompany.com with the DNS name for your IIS server. The Microsoft Internet Services Manager, shown in Figure B, can come in handy for those times when you need to make changes to your server but aren’t close to it. Just be careful to make sure that you’ve set a good password for the user ID that you use to access this site. Otherwise, it will be a paradise for potential hackers.
|You can administer IIS from a Web-based interface.|
What a tangled Web we weave
Now that you have an IIS 5.0 Web server installed on Windows 2000, you can spend time getting all the kinks worked out as far as your content goes. The content, in many cases, is just as important as the server on which it sits. This will be a rather large task, which will need to be juggled by both server administrators and content developers to keep all those associated with the Web site working on the same page. Keeping everyone informed about changes to both the content and the server equipment will ensure the site runs as smoothly as possible.
Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.