Web Server Role Overview

Applies To: Windows Server 2008

The Web server role in Windows Server® 2008 lets you share information with users on the Internet, an intranet, or an extranet. Windows Server 2008 delivers IIS 7, which is a unified Web platform that integrates IIS, ASP.NET, and Windows Communication Foundation. The key features and improvements in IIS 7 include the following:

  • A unified Web platform that delivers a single, consistent Web solution for both administrators and developers.

  • Enhanced security and the ability to customize the server to reduce the attack surface.

  • Simplified diagnostic and troubleshooting features to aide in resolution of problems.

  • Improved configuration and support for server farms.

  • Delegated administration for hosting and enterprise workloads.

In the following sections, learn more about the Web server role, the required and optional features in a Web server, and hardware and software used for running a Web server. At the end of this topic, learn how to open the interface for the Web server and how to find more information about Web servers.

What Are Web Servers?

Web servers are computers that have specific software that allows them to accept requests from client computers and return responses to those requests. Web servers let you share information over the Internet, or through intranets and extranets.

With a Web server, you can:

  • Provide information to users on the Internet.

  • Let users download and upload content with FTP or World Wide Web Distributed Versioning and Authoring (WebDAV).

  • Host Web services that contain business logic for three-tier applications.

  • Distribute applications to users over the Internet instead of through physical media, such as floppy disks or CDs.

Web servers can be useful for different customers and needs. For example:

  • Small business owners might provide information about their services by using a simple Web site.

  • Owners of medium-sized businesses might offer their goods and services through an online ordering system composed of various applications in a site.

  • Enterprise businesses might develop and provide business applications to employees over corporate intranets.

  • Hosting companies might provide individual customers with server space and services to host different online content and applications.

  • Corporations might provide pertinent information and applications to business partners through extranets.

Features in the IIS 7.0 Web Server Role

The following sections describe features of and improvements to IIS 7, the Web platform in Windows Server 2008.

New Administration Tools

IIS 7 provides a new task-based UI and a new powerful command-line tool. These new administration tools let you:

  • Manage IIS and ASP.NET in one tool.

  • View health and diagnostic information that includes the ability to view currently executing requests in real-time.

  • Configure user and role permissions for sites and applications.

  • Delegate site and application configuration to non-administrators.


IIS 7 introduces a new configuration store that integrates IIS and ASP.NET configuration settings for the whole Web platform. The new configuration store lets you:

  • Configure IIS and ASP.NET settings in one configuration store, which uses a consistent format and can be accessed from a common set of APIs.

  • Delegate configuration in a precise and secure manner to distributed configuration files that live in content directories.

  • Copy configuration and content for a particular site or application to another computer.

  • Script configuration for IIS and ASP.NET using a new WMI provider.

Diagnostics and Troubleshooting

IIS 7 Web server lets you more easily diagnose and troubleshoot problems on the Web server. The new diagnostics and troubleshooting features let you:

  • View real-time state information about application pools, worker processes, sites, application domains, and current requests.

  • Log detailed trace information about a request as it makes its way through the IIS request-processing channel.

  • Configure IIS to log detailed trace information automatically based on elapsed time or error response codes.

Modular Architecture

In IIS 7, the Web server is composed of modules that you can add and remove from the server as needed. The new architecture lets you:

  • Customize your server by adding only the features that you need and use, which minimizes the security and memory footprint of the Web server.

  • Configure features (such as authentication, authorization, and custom errors) that were previously duplicated in IIS and ASP.NET in one location.

  • Apply existing ASP.NET features, such as Forms authentication or URL authorization, to all request types.


IIS 7 Web server guarantees maximum compatibility for existing applications. IIS 7.0 lets you continue to:

  • Use existing Active Directory Service Interfaces (ADSI) and WMI scripts.

  • Run Active Server Pages (ASP) applications without changes to code.

  • Run existing ASP.NET 1.1, and ASP.NET 2.0 applications to work without code changes (when you run in an application pool with ISAPI mode in IIS 7).

  • Use existing ISAPI extensions without changes.

  • Use existing ISAPI filters except those which rely on READ RAW notifications.

Hardware and Software for the IIS 7.0 Web Server Role

The hardware and software requirements for the Web server role are the same as requirements for Windows Server 2008. Use performance counters, lab test results, existing data from production environments, and pilot roll-outs to determine the capacity needed for your server and adjust as necessary.

Installing a Web Server

After you finish installing the operating system, a list of initial configuration tasks appears. To install the Web server role, in the list of tasks, click Add roles and then click Web Server. For more information on installing IIS, see Installation.

Managing a Web Server

Once you have IIS installed, use the following procedures to open IIS Manager on Windows Server 2008 or Windows Vista®.

To open Web Server Manager on Windows Server® 2008

  • Click Start, point to Administrative Tools, and click Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager.

To open Web Server Manager on Windows Vista

  1. Click Start and then click Control Panel.

  2. In Control Panel, click System and Maintenance.

  3. In System and Maintenance, click Administrative Tools.

  4. In Administrative Tools, click Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager.

For More Information

To learn more about the Web server role you can view the Help on your server. To do this, open IIS Manager as described in the previous section and press F1.

For more information about the Web server role, see topics for Windows Server 2008 on the Web: