Install and configure IIS on Windows Server Core 2016

In a previous post we covered using the System Preparation Tool to convert a VM into a VM Template in XenServer. Once we have used this template to create a new VM, it’s time to set it up as an IIS web server to host some ASP.Net MVC applications.

Revisiting the Basics

Network Settings

When creating a new VM from the template the network settings in the template will also be copied. If it was set to DHCP that will be fine but if the template had a static IP, you should change the IP address to a different one now so that you don’t run into an IP conflict (ie. Two machines on the network using the same IP address).
start powershell
sconfig
– Select 8) Network Settings
– Select the relevant Network Adapter from the list
– Select 1) Set Network Adapter Address
– Enter S for (S)tatics
– Enter the static IP address
– Enter the subnet mask
– Enter the default gateway
– If required select 2) Set DNS Servers

Advanced Networking

In some cases you may need to get a little more fancy with your networking. For example you may need to set your default gateway to a gateway router that can get your traffic out to the Internet, but you have a backend gateway router that handles communication to IP addresses on your private LAN. In this case you can use the route command to tell Windows to send traffic out through different gateway routers.
route print will show current routes, note the current default gateway route (0.0.0.0)
route add 10.0.0.0 mask 255.0.0.0 10.x.x.x -p will send all traffic destined for IP addresses in the 10.0.0.0/8 subnet (ie. Any address starting with ’10.’) out through the 10.x.x.x IP address (backend gateway router). The -p signifies that the route will be persistent and therefore will stick around after a reboot.
route print will now show your new persistent route both in the Active Routes section and below that under Persistent Routes.

Now that you have this route to the private LAN in place, you can change the default gateway address to the ‘Internet’ gateway server without loosing access to your server over the private LAN. This can be done by reconfiguring the network settings again using sconfig or by simply deleting the default route and adding another one.
route delete 0.0.0.0
route add 0.0.0.0 mask 0.0.0.0 10.y.y.y -p will send all traffic destined for an IP that can’t be handled by a more specific route out via the 10.y.y.y router. In this case you would replace the 10.y.y.y with the IP address of your Internet gateway router.

Enable Echo Requests (pings)

This step is optional but if you are going to monitor your server with something like Nagios you probably want to make sure it is online. This will enable the default rule to allow inbound IPv4 pings.
Set-NetFirewallRule -Name FPS-ICMP4-ERQ-In -Enabled True

Checking Internet Access

Many websites rely on web based resources (API’s etc). Now would be a good time to check that your new server has Internet access (unless you are purposely restricting it).
Invoke-WebRequest https://google.com -UseBasicParsing

This will show a big red error if it can’t hit Google, or a 200 status code if it can.

Join an Active Directory Domain

If you need to join your server to a domain to make management easier, follow these steps otherwise continue on to the next section to install IIS.
sconfig
– Select 2) Computer Name
– Set the new computer name and reboot the server
– After the reboot completes, log in again with the Administrator user
sconfig
– Select 1) Domain/WorkGroup
– Type D for (D)omain
– Enter the name of the domain you wish to join and the relevant administrator credentials
– You will be prompted to change the computer name again, click No as we have already done this.
– Click Yes on the Restart prompt
– After rebooting users should be able to login with your domain credentials.

Switching users on the Server Core login screen

If you are using Remote Desktop you should have a normal sign in experience but if you are still looking at the server’s console with just a CMD window on screen, it may not be immediately obvious how to switch users to log in with your domain credentials instead of the default administrator account. Here’s how:
– To change users hit the ESC at the LoginUI.exe screen
– This will present another sign-on options screen, hit ESC again
– Select Other User
– Enter your domain credentials and log in.

Installing the Web Server Role

Powershell comes with some very useful tools for managing the Window Features that are installed on a server
start powershell to open a powershell window
Install-WindowsFeature -Name Web-Server -Confirm will install IIS.
Get-WindowsFeature will show you a list of all available features and show which are installed.

At this point you should have a base install of IIS running the default website on port 80. If you open a browser and type in the IP address of the server you should see the default IIS website.

Install ASP.NET Support

  • Install-WindowsFeature -Name Web-Asp-Net45, Web-Net-Ext45 -Confirm

Installing IIS Diagnostic, Performance and Security Goodies

  • Install-WindowsFeature -Name Web-Custom-Logging, Web-Log-Libraries, Web-Request-Monitor, Web-Http-Tracing -Confirm
  • Install-WindowsFeature -Name Web-Performance -IncludeAllSubFeature -Confirm
  • Install-WindowsFeature -Name Web-Security -IncludeAllSubFeature -Confirm

Installing and Enabling Remote Management for IIS

This will allow us to use the IIS Manager window on another computer to manage our server. Even though we’re installing this now, I won’t be using it to configure the server in the interest of trying to do as much as possible via powershell. The idea is to script all of the server setup so that it can be entirely automated.
Install-WindowsFeature -Name Web-Mgmt-Service -Confirm
Set-ItemProperty -Path HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WebManagement\Server\ -Name EnableRemoteManagement -Value 1
Set-Service -Name WMSvc -StartupType Automatic
Start-Service -Name WMSvc

Note: You will need to install the IIS Manager on the machine that you will be using to manage the server/s. To do this, run:
Install-WindowsFeature -Name Web-Mgmt-Tools -Confirm

Website File Structure

The default directory for storing website files for IIS is C:\inetpub\wwwroot. When configuring your websites though you can put the files wherever you like. To make things simpler if you want to sync your website files between multiple web servers or apply special permissions etc, I find it best to store files in a seperate folder.

To keep things organise when hosting multiple websites across multiple domains I like to organise the content on my IIS servers in the following folder structure:

C:
|_WebFarmFiles
|_Content
|_domain1.com
|_subdomain1
|_project1
|_blah.aspx
|_project2
|_subdomain2
|_domain2.com
|_subdomain1

So if you have a site that will live at the URL http://subdomain1.domain1.com/project1/blah.aspx then blah.aspx would be saved to the C:\WebFarmFiles\Content\domain1.com\subdomain1\project1\ folder.

This setup may look a little confusing at first but it will make sense if/when you need to host multiple sites and quickly find things. Of course your system of organising files may vary and it is, of course, personal preference.

  • New-Item -ItemType Directory C:\WebFarmFiles\Content\domain1.com\subdomain1 this should create all the required parent folders for us automatically.

Getting files onto the server

Create Network Share

  • New-SmbShare -Name WebFarmFiles -Path C:\WebFarmFiles -FullAccess "domain\group1", "domain\group2"
  • Copy files from another machine onto this one using the share \\server\WebFarmFiles.

You could also use robycopy or other utilities to copy files from another network share or download files from github etc.

Set up your first Website

Let’s say we copied some files to \\server\WebFarmFiles\Content\domain1.com\subdomain1 which are intended to be accessed at the URL http://subdomain1.domain1.com. Let’s also say that we want this website to run in it’s own Application Pool so that we can manage it’s resource usage easily rather than everything running in the DefaultAppPool

Create the IIS Application Pool

  • New-WebAppPool -Name subdomain1.domain1.com

Associated cmdlets to explore:
Remove-WebAppPool
Get-WebAppPoolState | Select *
Restart-WebAppPool -Name subdomain1.domain1.com

Change the App Pool Identity

In some cases, the process running your application may need to access files on the network with specific user permissions.
Set-ItemProperty IIS:\AppPools\app-pool-name -name processModel -value @{userName="domain\user";password="password";identitytype=3}

Set the App Pool startMode

If your application is a big one, you may wish to set it to AlwaysRunning so that the first visitor doesn’t have to wait for it to initialise:
Set-ItemProperty IIS:\AppPools\app-pool-name -Name startMode -Value AlwaysRunning
Get-ItemProperty IIS:\AppPools\app-pool-name -Name startMode to check the setting.

Create the IIS WebSite

  • New-Website -Name subdomain1.domain1.com -ApplicationPool subdomain1.domain1.com -HostHeader subdomain1.domain1.com -PhysicalPath C:\WebFarmFiles\Content\domain1.com\subdomain1\

Associated cmdlets to explore:
Get-Website
Remove-WebSite -Name subdomain1.domain1.com
Stop-Website -Name subdomain1.domain1.com
Start-Website -Name subdomain1.domain1.com

The new website should now be running and you can access it by pointing the subdomain1.domain1.com URL at your servers IP address either just from your local machine by modifying your hosts file or by modifying the DNS records for the domain1.com domain. These methods are not covered in this article.

Adding an additional binding

In some cases you may have a need to point two different URL’s at the same website.

  • New-Binding -Name subdomain1.domain1.com -HostHeader subdomain1.domain3.com

In this case, the ‘Name’ of the binding relates to the WebSite it will be linked to.

Associated cmdlets to explore:
Get-WebBinding
Get-WebBinding | Select-Object * for a more advanced view
Remove-WebBinding -HostHeader subdomain1.domain3.com

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