Internet Information Services (IIS) is the Microsoft ASP.NET web server technology and is the cornerstone of nearly all web applications running in the .NET environment.
IIS version 7 was the release which modernized the platform for newer operating systems.
Currently, IIS is at version 10 (skipping 9), but changes since version 7 have been relatively minor, and we can use “IIS 7” as a shorthand for the whole group. Earlier versions are effectively obsolete.
History of IIS 7
The acronym IIS stands for “Internet Information Services,” but formerly stood for “Internet Information Server.”
The current version of IIS is 10.0. It’s included in Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016.
The version IIS 7.0 was released in 2008 as part of a massive overhaul from version 6.
Industry experts called the release of IIS 7 one of the most important developments of the Microsoft web architecture.
How does IIS 7 Differ from IIS 6?
The vision behind the overhaul was to take the proven speed, reliability and security of the existing IIS 6.0 codebase, and transform it into a highly extensible and manageable platform.
This overhaul was the largest in the history of the product and made IIS easy to deploy and easy to customize for individual project needs.
Innovations of IIS 7
Prior to version 7, small changes had been made since the initial release, but with Windows Web server 2008, a full stack integration of database and FTP server was created.
Additionally, IIS 7 came out with a graphical tool called IIS Manager, which allows for local and remote administration and could run on all available Microsoft operating systems.
For OS versions newer than Windows 7 or Server 2008, reverse compatibility mode might be needed for some IIS modules.
IIS 7, and the newer versions offer a host of application functions and serve to direct website users based on the site navigation through page routing.
IIS 7 allows for both static and MVC-controlled applications and can be integrated into Visual Studio for fast deployment of application templates for websites.
At a high level, IIS 7 and later versions bring unparalleled full stack support, creating a controlled but comfortable environment for developers to author secure applications.
IIS has a simple text-based configuration which can be imported and exported.
The “IIS Manager” tool allows for administration of the web server local or remote.
Developers and IT-Professionals can access command-line controls, WMI, and .NET framework APIs.
IIS 7 administrators can delegate configuration tasks to lower privileged site owners or developers.
Shared configuration mode allows for global control of features across an entire server farm.
Diagnostic and Trouble-shooting tools make debugging and fault-detection easy and clean.
The modular, extensible architecture of IIS7 modernizes it from version 6, and makes .NET feature addition easy through an API.
IIS 7 runs a fully integrated HTTP Processing pipeline, which lets more powerful applications run and deliver content quickly.
Additional support for FastCGI frameworks like PHP and other independent web languages.
What are the Currently Available Versions of IIS?
The currently available versions of IIS, from 7.0 onward, are:
Included with server
Vista, Windows Server 2008
Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2
Supports TLS 1.1 and 1.2
Windows 8, Windows Server 2012
Improved SSL certificate handling
Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2
Windows 10, Windows Server 2016
There’s no IIS 9, probably for the same reason that there’s no Windows 9.
What are IIS 7 Modules?
Modules are independent “building blocks” that you can add to your server to expand the functionality to your applications. IIS 7 comes with over 30 of these modules.
It should be noted that with the module-based system engineered into IIS 7.0 – a variety of deeply configurable features are possible.
Examples of IIS 7 Modules
→ Security modules can beef up systematic checks for the request handling pipeline, URL authorization, and authentication.
→ Compression modules increase the ability to process requests for static files and make it easier to list contents of a site directory.
Module Advances in IIS 7.5: The Modern .NET Framework
Version 7.5 – extends version 7 and is included in both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.
It also comes with improved support for the file transfermodules using either FTP or WebDAV.
It also allows for command-line control from Windows PowerShell and introduces security support with TLS 1.1 and 1.2.
This allows for increased:
Client certificate mapping
Older versions of SSL and TLS have known security problems, so using at least version 7.5 is highly advisable.
Microsoft documentation provides step-by-step instructions on how to obtain an SSL certificate, create and verify a binding, and configure settings. Image via WhoIsHostingThis.com
Module Advances in IIS 8 – IIS 10: SSL and HTTP/2
Overall, IIS 7.0 and 7.5 created the modern .NET framework, version 8 and 8.5 exist with additional support for SSL and newer versions of Windows operating systems (Windows Server 2012 R2, and Windows 8.1).
Version 7.0 laid out the foundations of a more modular platform with tighter security and increased support for the ASP.NET ecosystem.
While using version 7.5 for projects with older Server OS systems is not recommended, sometimes the cost of upgrading servers can mean avoiding those upgrades. For that reason, many web applications still use these older versions of IIS, which are proven to be dependable and deeply secure.
IIS 10: Support for HTTP/2
The most obvious advance in IIS 10 is support for HTTP/2.
This revision of the HTTP protocol:
Allows push responses
Recent browsers support these features, which improve the efficiency of web access.
What Web Technologies Does IIS 7 Support?
While the main feature of IIS is its support for Microsoft technologies such as the C# language, ASP.NET, and SQL Server, it lets you use most of the web technologies that other well-known browsers support, including:
In some cases, the IIS setup is more complicated than with Apache, but all of them are doable.
IIS 7 Installation and Hosting
While most versions of Windows can run a variety of web servers, only IIS and Node.js have strong built-in support for the Entity Framework and ASP.NET environment.
IIS7 Support is automatic in the .NET ecosystem, but Node.js and any IIS applications can be acquired through Visual Basic’s use of the “NuGet” package manager.
“Windows hosting” isn’t the same as IIS hosting.
Windows servers can run Apache, Nginx, and other web server software as well.
If you’re looking for Windows hosting, though, it’s probably to take advantage of Microsoft’s native frameworks, and you want IIS for that. You may need to ask what server software the hosting site uses, and what version.
How Do I Install IIS 7?
Installation can be done from a downloadable location or depending on the version of your operating system, IIS Express can be turned on directly through control panel settings.
IIS itself is free, but the server which it runs on costs money to license the operating system.
For this reason, hosting on a dedicated can be more costly, but depending on the host, the licensing costs might be covered.
Many hosts let you configure IIS with the Plesk control panel. You might want to do some of these things when setting it up:
Force use of SSL
Set up custom error pages
Restrict access by IP address or passwords
Many major hosting providers and resellers exist who can run Shared Windows hosting (with IIS servers) – which typically cost very little, but may suffer performance issues when compared to a dedicated machine.
The same is true of any other operating system though, a shared hosting environment in Linux also is cheaper but has less control over performance.
Really, what needs to be taken into consideration is the size of the project, number of potential users, and the level of security needed.
How to Find a Good IIS 7 Host
What considerations should be taken when finding a host for an IIS 7 or 7.5 application?
What Version of Windows Server is Being Used?
The biggest technical consideration should be whether or not the provider has Windows Server 2008 R2 or newer.
Nearly all Microsoft OS hosts should have this qualification.
Security Protocols and Microsoft Specialization
Beyond that, understanding the security protocols used by your host will be vitally important, and selecting a host which specializes directly in Microsoft hosting versus using multiple platforms – could mean having better troubleshooting support.
Be sure to compare host reviews for support and select a host with great technology awareness.
IIS is Microsoft’s web server. It is similar to the Apache web server, but it supports Microsoft products such as the .NET framework. As a result, most people use Apache. But if your website depends upon .NET or one of Microsoft’s databases, IIS is almost certainly a better choice.
Why use IIS 7.0 or 7.5 instead of a newer version?
IIS 7 still has support from Microsoft, many commercial clients across the globe still rely on older versions of Windows for running enterprise scale websites. Upgrading costs money, and technology migration can be extremely troublesome.
About Gary McGath
Gary McGath spent years as a software developer before turning to writing. In addition to writing many articles on technology, he's the author of two crowdfunded e-books. His tech passions include data security and digital preservation.
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