Office 365 Groups

The post continues the previous one, where I was trying to compare Groups with Teams. Despite the comparison was possible, Office 365 Group is not, what I underlined then, a standalone application, but a security object. Remember also, that Office 365 Groups were first introduced somewhere in 2014. Over the years it was being extended to work with other Office 365 based applications as well to be used in hybrid scenarios with on-premise Exchange.

Since it’s very beginning the narration that Microsoft was building around the concept was, that it is a tool dedicated for groups of employees, that delivers tools assisting and helping in their ongoing work, collaboration and communication.

Today I know, having more knowledge, that this narration is bringing a lot confusion in the end-users’ minds. Really, whoever I ask says, that this is another collaboration tool, just very similar to Microsoft Teams, but not being that pretty. 

Moreover, what is not very commonly known, there are currently 6 kinds of Groups in Office 365!

Groups in Office 365 – comparison

Basically each type of a group available in Office 365, besides Shared Mailbox, is the Azure Active Directory object. They are tightly bond, but have really different characteristics and purposes. I tried to gather their features and put together in a single table. I have searched many resources and forums and hope I haven’t made any critical mistake in the below comparison. If I had however – please leave me a message or a comment 🙂

PropertyOffice 365 groupDistribution listSecurity groupMail enabled security groupShared mailboxOffice 365 connected Yammer group
General features
What is it?Extended version of a distribution list. Users being added to the group are given an access to such tools as Exchange shared mailbox, shared calendar, OneDrive, SharePoint, Planner and much more (see below)Users added to such group are only given an access to a shared mailbox and a calendar. Microsoft recommends to create Office 365 Group instead and to use DL only when Office 365 Groups are disabled on tenant.This is a true security object. A group can be created and afterward be granted an access to specific aps, like Office 365 Video or a specific site in SharePoint. It can be compared to AD group or a claim in on-premise SharePoint.It is basically a hybrid of a standard Security Group and a Distribution list. It allows users to be granted an access to various apps accross Office 365 as well to receive emails.A group with a shared mailbox has a dedicated Exchange inbox.1st wave rolled out in May 2017. A new concept for enterprise collaboration using Yammer. Users are granted that way an access to SharePoint functionalities, OneDrive and Planner, along with functionalities of Yammer.
People from organization can join the group him/herself+----+
People from organization can join the group only when invited/ added by owner++++++
Can people from outside the organization join?+++++-
Can people from outside the organization send email to the group?++-+-+
Can be accessed via mobile devices?++-+-+
Can members subscribe/ unsubscribe to group email/ notifications?+---++
Can members send email as themselves?+---++
Where can be created?Office 365 Outlook, OneDrive for Business, Office 365 admin centerOffice 365 admin center or Exchange admin centerOffice 365 admin center, Azure Active DirectoryOffice 365 admin centerOffice 365 admin center, Exchange admin centerYammer
Is it the Azure AD Object?YesYesYesYesNoYes

Only if created as internal group. External Yammer Groups will be connected to Office 365 in next waves.
Max number of users1 000+100 000AnyAny-1 000+
Max size of stored files1TB----1TB
Max size of a single upload2GB----2GB
Max size of a mailbox50GB50GB-50GB50GB50GB
Other limitsMore: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/exchange-online-limits.aspx?f=255&MSPPError=-2147217396The same as Office 365 Group
Other features
  • A group can be a member of another group!
  • Has option to send copies of group conversations and events to group members’ inboxes.
  • Can be either private or public
It can has its Exchange-specific settings configuredA group can be a member of another group!
  • A group can be a member of another group!
  • It can has its Exchange-specific settings configured
  • Allows email forwarding
  • Allows sent emails handling
  • Allows litigation hold
  • Allows automatic replies
  • Allows members permissions management
  • Allows aliases
  • It can has its Exchange-specific settings configured
  • A group can be a member of another group!
  • Has option to send copies of group conversations and events to group members’ inboxes.
Remarks, important notes
  • Be aware, that Groups storage count to the used space in the tenant.
  • Groups don't use OneDrive for storing files, but a SPO dedicated doc. library.
An existing distribution list can be anytime upgraded to Office 365 Groups in Outlook.Can be used to grant access to Exchange, SharePoint, Planner, OneDrive, OneNote, Office 365 Video and Stream, Teams, Skype and CRMCan be used to grant access to Exchange, SharePoint, Planner, OneDrive, OneNote, Office 365 Video and Stream, Teams, Skype and CRM
  • Cannot be accessed by any email client on mobile devices, to do that user must use Outlook on the web and only if user configure the access to that mailbox from his personal mailbox.
  • A Shared Mailbox do not require a license, but every user that accesses the Shared Mailbox must be assigned an Office 365 license.
  • Active Directory user associated with a shared mailbox is always a disabled user account.
Possibility to add users from otuside of organisation is on the roadmap.
Is available under which licenses?
  • E1, E3, E5
  • Academic plans
  • G1, G3, G5
  • F1
  • Business Essentials and Business Premium plans
  • E1, E3, E5
  • Academic plans
  • G1, G3, G5
  • F1
  • Business Essentials and Business Premium plans
  • E1, E3, E5
  • Academic plans
  • G1, G3, G5
  • F1
  • Business Essentials and Business Premium plans
  • E1, E3, E5
  • Academic plans
  • G1, G3, G5
  • F1
  • Business Essentials and Business Premium plans
  • E1, E3, E5
  • Academic plans
  • G1, G3, G5
  • Business Essentials and Business Premium plans
  • E1, E3, E5
  • Academic plans
  • G1, G3, G5
  • F1
  • Business Essentials and Business Premium plans
Applications (set up by default and available for sharing)
Exchange Mailbox+ (2+ (3-+ (3+ (3+ (2
Exchange Calendar+ (2+ (3--+ (3-
Exchange Contacts+ (2+ (3----
Exchange Tasks+ (2-----
Planner+ (2-+ (3+ (3-+ (2
Connectors+ (2-----
SharePoint+ (2-+ (2+ (2-+ (2
OneDrive+ (2-+ (3+ (2-+ (2
OneNote+ (2-+ (2+ (2-+ (2
Office 365 Video- (1, 3-- (1, 3- (1, 3-- (1, 3
Stream- (1, 3-- (1, 3- (1, 3-- (1, 3
Microsoft Teams+ (1, 2-- (1, 3- (1, 3-- (1, 2
Yammer- (1, 2-- (1, 3- (1, 3-+ (2
Skype+ (2-+ (3+ (3-+ (2
Dynamics 365- (3-- (1, 3- (1, 3-- (1, 3
Flow------
PowerApps------
Forms------
Delve------
MyAnalytics------

Legend:

  • 1) – access to that application can be granted later
  • 2) – can be shared with external users
  • 3) – cannot be shared with external users

Short summary

I think that the best and most universal group is the Office 365 Group, as it gives you all benefits coming from a Distribution List and a Security Group, bringing access to collaboration applications at the same time, allowing you to work with your team and external clients. Nevertheless – I leave the decision which group to choose and use to yourself.