What is an IIS Server?

What is an IIS Server?

Internet Information Services server (IIS server) is a Windows Server-based web application used to deliver website content over the internet to an end user. Internet Information Services is an installable server role, and it is bundled with all Microsoft Windows Server products. More recently, Microsoft has bundled IIS components with the professional versions of their desktop operating system products, such as Windows 10 Pro; however, IIS is typically deployed and centrally managed on one or more Microsoft Windows Servers.

There are two commonly used web server applications available: Apache and Internet Information Services. Apache is an open source installable application commonly used on open system platforms such as Linux, whereas IIS is a server role configured on top of a licensed copy of Windows Server. As IIS is a Microsoft product, IIS offers several advantages over Apache; arguably the biggest advantage is that the user base, in most circumstances, will already be familiar with the product layout, design and terminology, simply because most are existing Windows operators. This makes the product extremely easy to learn and navigate and allows for other Microsoft products to be directly integrated into IIS, such as SharePoint, PowerShell and Microsoft Office.

Microsoft also provides product support for all licensed copies of Windows Server, so there is no need to purchase additional support packages as with most open source web server applications. Because IIS uses C# and .NET web application frameworks like ASP.NET MVC and Entity Framework; additionally, it integrates with Visual Studio, all of which make it a popular choice for enterprises. Other key advantages are native .NET, ASPX and PHP support for modules and scripts, which allows web developers to create eye-catching, seamlessly designed content to their web creations.

As IIS is bundled with Windows Server, updates are usually concurrently released with each OS revision or new release. First released in 1995, IIS was originally developed in-house by Microsoft as an add-on for Windows NT 3.51. It was first bundled with an OS when Windows NT 4.0 was released in 1996; this inclusion of IIS by default caused many system administrators and web developers to first take notice of IIS. It grew rapidly in popularity with the release of Windows Server 2000, and demand grew exponentially when Windows Server 2003 was published. Different versions of IIS have been released with Windows Server 2008, Server 2012 and, more recently, Windows Server 2016, which was released with IIS version 10.

Today, IIS is found extensively in data centers across the globe and powers some of the most popular websites online including Comcast.com, Disney.com and Ebay.com. IIS is growing significantly in popularity and usage. It is estimated that nearly 30% of active websites on the internet use IIS as their web server platform. Arguably, IIS is most commonly used by IT enterprise businesses, as it can be centrally managed and scaled to create vast web server farms for high traffic and high demand websites.

Other key features of IIS are its users’ ability to delegate control of the administration of the web site or web applications. This is great for creating access controls to different departments. For example, your Web Developers may only need access to the Website front end, and your IT Technical teams only require access to the configuration (or backend). IIS is easily integrated with API technology. This is not just limited to Microsoft API, but any Cloud based API as well. IIS also scales very well; web site load balancing is a core feature as well as dynamic caching and compression. This technology lowers the overhead hardware requirements on the host server(s), which can be used to reduce server footprint or can allow extra bandwidth during peak trading or high demand sales events such as Black Friday.

Microsoft has greatly improved the security of IIS since it released NT 4.0. Patching and security updates can be easily managed with seamless load balancing options. This allows servers to be removed from the farm, patched, and then added back to the farm with zero impact on the production website. Websites and web applications can be isolated, as IIS worker processes have a unique secure identity. This ensures that IIS websites and applications are not affected by other failures on the network or security breaches, ideal for solutions such as HIPAA-compliant website hosting.

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