Deploying to remote IIS with MsDeploy

We've been using MsDeploy to automate our web site deploys for some time. Our build server (running TeamCity) creates the deploy packages, and a PowerShell script on the production server downloads the packages and deploys them to IIS. Recently, we added a fallback-server in another physical location in case there is a problem with the normal server. Naturally, we want to make sure that all the web sites are up to date on the fallback server as well. And that means we want to make the scripts that deploy the site on the production server also deploy to the fallback server.

Now, MsDeploy has support for deploying to other servers, but as it turns out, it can be a little tricky to get it working. One option is to use a windows user with administrator privileges on the target server, but we didn't really want to do that. The other option is to use an IIS Manager User. This options require a couple of steps to get the authentication working.

1. Create a new IIS Manager User

The first thing you need to do is to create an IIS Management User. This is done by opening the IIS Manager, clicking on the server node, and then Management - IIS Manager Users. Add a new user, let's call it "deploy" with the password "password".

2. Allow the IIS Manager User on the site

The next step is to give the user permissions to deploy on all the sites that are to be deployed this way. Click on the site node and then on IIS Manager Permissions. Under Actions, click on Allow User.

Select IIS Manager, and then click Select to find your user. Unfortunately, you have to repeat this process for each site.

3. Give IIS Management Service permissions on site

A not so obvious step is that you need to make sure that the IIS Management Service has permissions to actually perform the deploy on each site. The easiest way to do this is to right-click on the site in IIS Manager, and select Edit Permissions. Under the Security tab, give Local Service "Full control".

By default, this IIS Management Service runs as Local Service, but if you have changed that, you'll have to use that account instead. It might work with only modify permissions, but it didn't for me.

4. Run msdeploy with the correct parameters

Finally, the trickiest part is getting the parameters to msdeploy right! This is what we ended up using.

> msdeploy.exe -verb=sync -source:package="" -dest:auto,computerName=https://FALLBACKSERVER:8172/msdeploy.axd?site=SITENAME,userName=deploy,password=PASSWORD,authType=basic -setParam:"IIS Web Application Name"="SITENAME" -allowUntrusted=true -skip:Directory="App_Data"

There are some things worth mentioning here. First, you need to use the full url to the server (including msdeploy.axd) with the sitename as a querystring parameter in order to be able to use a IIS Manager User, since they only have permissions on individual sites. Otherwise the authentication will fail. Also, you need to set authType=basic, otherwise it will try to use a Windows user instead.

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