Web Servers Training Labs

A review of Train Signal’s Web Servers Video Lab Training – Product Details. See more details at Train Signal’s website.

We start with the Concepts video where the advantages and disadvantages of various web servers are discussed:

  • IIS 4, IIS5 & IIS6 and Apache (Apache being the dominant server at this point in time)
  • Difference between Web Site and Web Server.  Site = software. Server = hardware
  • Host yourself or use a dedicated hosting company
  • Expense involved
  • Domain Names – top level and different suffix like .net, .org as opposed to .com
  • Sockets (IP & Port Number) in a simple graphical presentation (great analogy)
  • SSL – type of encryption to secure sensitive info transferred over the net
  • FrontPage Server Extensions – again a simple explanation of how it is used to manage your website using you guessed it, FrontPage.  HTML knowledge not needed

Want to host your own web site or even multiple sites on one server, then Train Signal’s Lab 3 – Web Server tutorial is the ultimate guide for you.

Video 1 – New features in IIS6 are covered with security being a high priority. Microsoft has even released a scaled down version of Windows 2003 Server that can only act as a Web Server. IIS6 is not installed by default, unlike IIS5 and when you do install IIS6, you only get what you select. It just doesn’t install everything in one hit. This way if it isn’t used, it doesn’t get neglected during security patch time.

Worker Process Application Mode is explained. If one application fails then it doesn’t take others down with it, you just restart (or fix) the problem child. Web server setting can now be saved and POP3 is included with SMTP so a simple mail server can be setup.

IIS6 also has Server Backup (with Encryption) which results in minimal downtime if your Web Server bites the bullet. Microsoft has done its usual trick and changed the location where an application is installed from so IIS6 is harder to find this time round but Train Signal reveals the hidden location. A run through the IIS Management MMC and a description of the various options available then it’s down to the business of the Lab title.

Once the default web site is created, we get a tour of its various options, then create a simple web site and learn how to host it. Once it is created we run through the Web Site Creation Wizard and the various options are discussed in length, especially the importance of the correct default content page. I was surprised when it was mention that some web sites were stored on the users desktop. Must have made things real “interesting”. A quick DNS install lesson and configuring to enable it to resolve a domain name to the IP of our newly created web site. This was done by adding a Host (A) Record and an Alias (CNAME). Learn more about this in the superb Lab 4 DNS videos.

Video 2 – Here we add a second Web Site to our Web Server and make it secure. With a second web site added we have the dilemma of both sites using the same IP. How does the Internet client know which site to go to? Port numbers can be changed but then how does the client has to know the new port number? A Host Header is the solution to the problem!! A really simple solution to a potentially fatal problem. Host Headers, you just gotta love them.

Security is added by a couple of methods and each is discussed in detail. After using several Train Signal Labs, I am still impressed when something doesn’t go according to plan and instead of re-recording the video without the glitch, Train Signal use it as a learning tool and we find out what went squew wiff and how to fix it. Very impressive and great value for money!

FTP is a straight forward install and a default FTP site is added to the IIS MMC. Again the site (FTP) is set up through the FTP Site Creation Wizard. It is pointed out that like the Web Site, the FTP Site NTFS permissions must be correct for FTP to work correctly. Some nostalgia was added (maybe just for us old guys) by using FTP from the Windows Console. Again we have a quick trip to the DNS to add an Alias so we can use a Domain Name instead of an IP for the FTP Site. A simple step to solve a potentially mind numbing problem of having to remember the FTP’s IP. Security and permissions are gone over with it really being a revision lesson due to them being the same for the web site.

Video 3 – We start off installing a tool to allow us to remotely manage or “new” web site through a web browser. Once installed we are given a good look at the extensive options that are available. This tool not only does web site management but also server management. Due to what this tool can do it seems more designed for internal use than for using it across the Net due to security issues. A new item that I hadn’t seen before was the Backup/Restore Configuration tool that allows you to backup (or restore) the configuration settings of your web of FTP site but NOT the actual sites themselves. This is an essential tool if you highly customize your web/FTP settings. Custom Errors and customizing them is given a pretty good workout. This is fairly cool, simple to do and can keep potential customers on your site if the happen to click on a faulty link or make a mistake typing a page name (Also great for your personal site if you have a warped sense of humor).

Older versions of IIS had a reputation for flimsy security. IIS6 however, changes this. As mentioned earlier, IIS6 is NOT installed when 2003 Server is installed. However when you do install IIS6, ONLY the components required for your selection are installed. Microsoft have really tried to be security conscious with this version but you must also do your bit by making sure Windows Updates are current and very secure admin passwords are used. After viewing this lab I was inspired to triple the length of Microsoft’s minimum length for a strong password. Now if can only get it right first time, each time.

The MSBA tool and running it is absolutely essential and simple as you will see from the video. It can tell you where critical vulnerabilities are so you can finally fix them and the IIS lockdown is also given a run. This tool will be familiar to users of IIS 4 and IIS 5. However due to IIS6 already being installed in a lockdown state, this tool won’t run on it.

Again Train Signal has delivered the goods with an instructually informative and interesting tutorial chock full of goodies.

Web Servers Video Lab Training – Product Details

For more information and review copies

Please visit Train Signal’s website