Even though Windows 2000 Professional is mainly a desktop operating system, it can perform server tasks as well. It ships with Internet Information Server (IIS) 5.0, which can be used as a development Web server, or to serve up a small site for the Internet or an Intranet.
Before going any further, please remember that any host that provides a service on the Internet will be targeted by crackers. If you intend to set up IIS or any other service on Windows 2000, you must review your system security. Do not connect to the Internet with a "wide open" Windows 2000 installation (e.g., one that runs File and Printer Sharing with NetBEUI bound to TCP/IP, or a box without up-to-date antivirus software).
Once you've secured your system as much as possible, install IIS from the Add/Remove Software Control Panel applet.
Note that, by default, these IIS components will be installed in addition to the Web server:
Documentation for IIS; an FTP (file transfer protocol) service; FrontPage 2000 Server Extensions; an IIS administrative snap-in for the Microsoft Management Console (MMC); the Personal Web Manager, a GUI to administer IIS; a mail (SMTP) service; and the Visual InterDEV RAD Deployment Support Component, used for developing Web applications as part of Microsoft's Visual Studio platform.
If you don't want all of these components, click on the Details button to deselect the undesired ones. Unfortunately, you can't pick, for example, just the SMTP service without the Web server, as it depends on IIS to run; it is possible, however, to set up a pared-down Web-only server.
If you want to explore IIS (and have been through the security checks), install everything. Annoyingly, the installer puts IIS on the system drive, without an option to put it elsewhere. If you want to shift the location of your Web site, you'll have to do it through the IIS MMC after installation is finished.
Once the installation is finished, try entering the IP address of your Win2K system (or its fully-qualified domain name, in the form host.domain.toplevel-domain) to check that IIS is working. You should get an "Under Construction" page in the browser. If not, fire up the IIS MMC from the Administrative Tools folder on the Start Menu, and check that IIS was started up; if it won't start, check the Event Viewer for error messages.
The finer points of configuring IIS are outside the scope of this article. Check www.microsoft.com/iis for a good overview.
While you're in the IIS MMC, you'll see two more servers: the SMTP (e-mail) and the FTP (file transfer protocol) one. Setting up either is very simple: right-click on the Default SMTP Virtual Server (or Default FTP Site) and select Properties.
The SMTP server comes with a raft of interesting features, such as TLS Authentication and LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) support. You can control access to it on an IP address basis and restrict relaying (important to foil spammers); also, if you set the SMTP server to do reverse DNS lookups on connections, you'll get a better idea of who is accessing the server.
Be paranoid when you set up a mail server on the Internet. Log connections, and monitor the logs frequently. Mail servers are the favourite targets of Internet vandals, unfortunately.
The IIS SMTP service writes the e-mail messages in the CDONTS (Collaboration Data Objects for NTS) format, with an .eml extension, in "a Drop subdirectory under the %iisroot\Mailroot\ folder. Read more about CDONTS here:
Outlook Express opens .eml files as e-mail messages when you double-click them. However, you can't set up Outlook Express (or Outlook) to directly read the .eml files; for this, you will need a POP3 or IMAP server (both these protocols are supported by Outlook Express) that can read CDONTS formatted messages.
DNS If you decide to use Windows 2000 Professional as a small-scale Internet server, and you have a registered domain and IP address, you'll need a DNS (Domain Name System) service, as well. Without a working DNS, nobody "on the Internet can find you and neither mail nor Web traffic will reach your system.
There is a Win32 port of the Berkeley Internet Naming Daemon (BIND), which is freeware, but Microsoft doesn't provide a DNS server for Win2K Pro - for that, you'd have to run Windows 2000 Server.
IIS has been revealed to have a few well-publicised security holes. Here are some links to Microsoft's Web site to help you understand the dangers: