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Installing and Configuring ISA 2006

by Chris Sanders
04/17/2007

Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA) 2006 is Microsoft's latest release of its popular web proxy and security suite. Since its humble beginnings, ISA has grown from a simple proxy server to a full-blown perimeter security solution for both small and large networks. Its features include:

You can view a full list of the ISA 2006 features at its Microsoft website. By the end of this article, you will have a good idea of how to install and configure ISA 2006 as a proxy server on your network.

Installing ISA 2006

Prior to installing you ISA 2006, make sure that the server you're installing on meets the minimum (and hopefully the recommended) system specifications for the software. These system specs are:

If all of those conditions are met, you are ready to install ISA 2006. You can begin this installation by inserting your ISA 2006 CD or running your downloaded ISA executable setup file.

Once the setup file has extracted all of the installation files to a temporary directory on your computer (which takes about 150 MB of space), you'll see the ISA 2006 setup welcome screen, as shown in Figure 1. Clicking "Next" will bring you to its End-User License Agreement. Read through these terms very carefully, and if you accept them, click the appropriate bubble, and click "Next."

The ISA 2006 installation welcome screen
Figure 1. The ISA 2006 installation welcome screen

Following this, you will be asked for your name, organization name, and license key. If you are using an evaluation version of ISA, this key will already be filled out for you. After clicking "Next," you'll be prompted to select your installation options. For the purposes of this article, go ahead and select "Typical" and click "Next." The install process will begin when you click "Install" on the following screen. When the installation process has completed, simply click "Finish."

Configuring ISA 2006

The configuration of ISA 2006 is done completely through the ISA Management MMC. This is accessible by default by going to Start > Programs > Microsoft ISA Server > ISA Server Management. The ISA Management tool is shown in Figure 2.

The ISA Server management tool
Figure 2. The ISA Server management tool (Click to enlarge.)

The welcome screen on the management tool does a very good job of laying out your tasks for you. There are basically five main things you need to do to fully customize your ISA installation:

  1. Define your ISA Server Network Configuration. Here you can select predefined network layouts, or create your own, so that ISA knows exactly how to function within your network. Common implementations include using ISA as an edge firewall, a back-line firewall, or under a single network adapter configuration.
  2. View and Create Firewall Policy Rules. The firewall feature is one of the key selling points of ISA. Depending on your network configuration, you can use ISA as a firewall to protect your internal network from outside threats or as an internal firewall helping to segment different departments.
  3. Define How ISA Server Caches Web Content Caching. This can greatly increase the performance of the internet when you are dealing with a large number of users. Here you can set how ISA handles caching, as well as how much space it uses for this process.
  4. Configure VPN Access Virtual Private Network (VPN). This allows mobile users to access your network from the internet. You can use ISA here to configure this for use.
  5. Monitor your ISA Server Networks. The last phase of a successful ISA implementation is to configure the monitoring of the services being provided. This monitoring includes internet usage and firewall activity.

Conclusion

ISA has truly evolved since its original conception. From being a simple proxy solution, it has developed into a full-fledged network and security management application. It provides solutions for both small- and large-size networks, and scales to fit your needs. This guide has only covered the bare basics of installing and configuring ISA, when in reality there is so much more to know about it. As a matter of fact, entire books have been written on the subject, so if you decide to implement ISA Server I highly recommend looking into further reading on the subject.

Chris Sanders is the network administrator for one of the largest public school systems in the state of Kentucky. For more about Chris, you can view his personal blog at http://www.chrissanders.org.


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