Office 365 Groups are similar to the security groups we see in Active Directory, however, they come with some additional benefits, which we will explore.
Firstly, let’s clarify what a “group” actually is.
What is an Office 365 Group?
A group is a bit like a container which users are placed in. Each group will have a set of permissions assigned to it, which determine how the users in the group can access your data, applications, and any other relevant parts of your network.
Office 365 Groups provide a membership service that covers multiple Microsoft products, such as SharePoint, Planner, Outlook, OneNote, Power BI, Teams, and so on. This means that the policies we assign to those groups have a broader scope. For example, they can be applied to both projects and teams, as opposed to just single products. Each Office 365 Group is stored in Azure Active Directory, and a group can consist of up to 10 owners and 1000+ members. Due to the extensive scope and versatility of Office 365 Groups, Azure AD is quickly replacing Windows Active Directory as the default directory service for Microsoft products.
Why Office 365 Groups are Useful
It’s not just the cross-application membership service that Office 365 Groups provide that are making them popular with organizations, it’s also because of the way the groups integrate and communicate with the different Microsoft products. When you create an Office 365 Group, a working space dedicated to that group is automatically created and associated with the relevant Microsoft application. For example, if a group is created which has access to Planner, a new plan is created. If a group is created which has access to SharePoint, Outlook, Power BI and Teams, new site collections, groups, workspaces and teams are created respectively. The same is true in reverse, as in, groups are automatically created for each registered Microsoft product.
How to Create an Office 365 Group
There are many different ways to create an Office 365 group, however, since employees tend to spend a lot of their time composing, reading and responding to emails, creating groups from within Outlook (both Online and Desktop) are probably the most common.
You can create groups from within SharePoint Home, where the user has a choice to either create an Office 365 Group or a Communication Site, or from within OneDrive, Planner, Power BI, Teams and many more.
When you create a group from any of these applications the following spaces are also created: Outlook email distribution List, Outlook group calendar, SharePoint site collection, and Planner. However, when you create a Group from Teams, a new Team is also created.
By default, anyone in your organization can create an Office 365 Group, assuming they are a member of an existing group. As mentioned previously, a group can have as many as 10 owners and over 1000 members. External Members (not to be confused with External Users in SharePoint) are referred to as Guests. A Group can be set as either public or private, however, private groups are still visible to other users. Finally, it is possible to classify groups, including the products which they are connected to, in order to apply security policies to these groups automatically.