What Is a Web Front End Server in SharePoint?


Heather Bennett

In SharePoint, a web front end server (WFE) plays a crucial role in the overall architecture of the platform. It serves as the interface between users and SharePoint, handling all web requests and providing the necessary resources to render web pages.

What does a Web Front End Server do?

A web front end server in SharePoint is responsible for handling user requests and serving up web pages. It acts as a middle layer between the client (user’s browser) and the SharePoint farm, which consists of multiple servers working together to provide a seamless experience.

Key responsibilities of a Web Front End Server include:

  • Processing user requests: When a user interacts with SharePoint by accessing a site or performing an action, such as uploading a document or submitting a form, the request is sent to the WFE server. The WFE processes this request and communicates with other servers in the farm to fulfill it.
  • Rendering web pages: The WFE retrieves the necessary content from databases and other data sources and combines them with templates and stylesheets to generate HTML pages that can be displayed in the user’s browser.

    This includes rendering lists, libraries, forms, views, and other components.

  • Caching: To optimize performance, WFE servers often implement caching mechanisms. Data that is frequently accessed or doesn’t change frequently can be cached at this level, reducing the load on backend systems such as database servers.
  • Load balancing: In environments with multiple WFE servers, load balancing ensures that incoming requests are distributed evenly among them. This helps distribute the load across servers and ensures high availability and scalability.

Web Front End Server Components

A web front end server consists of several components that work together to deliver SharePoint functionality:

Internet Information Services (IIS)

IIS is the web server software that runs on the web front end server. It receives incoming requests from users and routes them to the appropriate SharePoint components for processing. IIS also handles authentication and authorization, ensuring that users have the necessary permissions to access SharePoint resources.

SharePoint Web Application Service

The SharePoint Web Application Service is responsible for managing web applications within SharePoint. It handles incoming requests from IIS and routes them to the appropriate site collections, where further processing takes place. It also manages authentication, session state, and other web-related tasks.

SharePoint Distributed Cache

The distributed cache is a component that improves performance by caching frequently accessed data in memory. It reduces the load on backend systems and enables quick retrieval of data when requested by users. The distributed cache is shared among all WFE servers in a farm, ensuring consistency across different instances.

Considerations for Web Front End Servers

Here are a few things to consider when setting up and configuring web front end servers:

  • Scalability: As user traffic increases, additional WFE servers can be added to handle the load. Load balancing mechanisms ensure that requests are efficiently distributed across multiple servers.
  • High availability: To ensure uninterrupted access to SharePoint, multiple WFE servers can be configured in a failover cluster or by using network load balancers.
  • Certificates and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL): If your SharePoint environment requires secure communication over HTTPS, you need to obtain and configure SSL certificates on the WFE servers.
  • Performance optimization: Implementing caching mechanisms, optimizing database queries, and fine-tuning IIS settings can significantly improve the performance of web front end servers.

In conclusion, a web front end server is a critical component of SharePoint’s architecture. It handles user requests, renders web pages, and ensures optimal performance for SharePoint users. By understanding its role and configuring it effectively, you can enhance the overall user experience in your SharePoint environment.

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