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Microsoft Office 365 Group Types Explained – Best Practices. All in all, Microsoft (Office) 365 gives businesses a productive workspace provided the most appropriate tools are leveraged for a streamlined workflow. Office 365 Groups helps admins configure the user settings so that it enhances team collaboration and performance. 

In this blog post, we take an in depth look into the types of Microsoft Office 365 Groups, their features, their (best) use cases, the challenges faced by an admin while managing Office 365 application(s), and how to best manage Microsoft Office 365 Groups to ensure increased team productivity and business growth.

What Are Microsoft Office 365 Groups?

First of all, Microsoft Office 365 Groups is a cross member service offered by Microsoft that helps you collaborate with your teammates in real time. All this, whilst also creating spreadsheets, sending emails, scheduling meetings, etc.  The Group Administrators have the power to add or remove any contact from the group.

Features of Microsoft Office 365 Groups

Members Addition

A contact doesn’t require permission(s) to join a group if it is a Public Group. However, the administrator receives the permission request via email (which is then accepted or rejected), if the group is a Private Group. Once accepted, the contact has access to the OneNote Notebook, group mailbox, calendar, and the Team Site.

Group Control

Next, with Microsoft 365 it also gives each user the ability to make up to 250 groups. At the same time, there are policies that limit group creation which is controlled or disabled in Yammer, SharePoint, Planner, Teams, and Outlook.

Group Restoration

Certain content can be restored in Microsoft Office 365 groups after deletion. Once a group is deleted, it remains in the Deleted Groups folder for up to 30 days after deletion and can be restored within this span. Once restored, the revived groups appear in the navigation panel. Additionally, contents that can be restored are AAD objects, Yammer, SharePoint, SMTP group addresses, shared calendars, and inboxes.

Label Management

Labeling the group content keeps it organized and allows you to take appropriate action for a specific group easily. You can archive, delete or keep the content based on your group classification by creating a separate retention policy for each.

Dynamic Membership

It is a Microsoft 365 feature wherein you can create a defined group membership based on user properties using AAD — which helps easily manage a large group.


Also, the Report Dashboard allows you to get insights into past and current activities under each product such as new groups created, newly used groups, etc., and Skype admins, Exchange admins, and SharePoint admins can view them.

We arrived to the main part of this article blog. Next, Microsoft Office 365 Group Types Explained – Best Practices.

Microsoft Office 365 Group Types Explained — Best Practices

Distribution Groups

Also called Distribution Lists, it is an email client app used to send bulk emails or multiple meeting requests to multiple people. They are used only with the email apps like Exchange.

 They cannot be a part of the DACLs (Discretionary Access Control Lists) because they are not security enabled, and therefore a group with the capacity to control access to shared data cannot be created. These groups are static, and permissions cannot be assigned to them.

Features Of Distribution Groups

  • Cannot be nested into a security group but can be nested in a mail enabled security group.
  • One distribution list cannot be installed in another distribution list or a SharePoint group.
  • Power Apps cannot be shared with Distribution Groups.

Use Cases Of Distribution Groups

They are great when you have to broadcast information to a set of contacts. Apply it in different scenarios such as:

  • Grouping your team members together for specific projects.
  • Giving employees access to resources like templates, documents, and project plans.

Dynamic Distribution Groups

Key point of this group type is that it is used for larger groups. Dynamic in nature and there should be at least one owner of a Dynamic Distribution Group. Each time a message is sent in the Dynamic Distribution Group, an Active Directory ensures that an updated membership is in function.

Features of Dynamic Distribution Groups

Use Cases of Dynamic Distribution Groups

These groups are used for communicating and collaborating within as well as outside of the organization more effectively.

For example, you may want to create a dynamic distribution group to send out an email announcement about a new product or service. One group for sales reps, another for the SEO team, etc.

Security Groups

An administrator in a Security Group grants access to a SharePoint page to a certain group of members. Since its functionality consists only of administering the group and not indulging in adding or removing contacts, the administration is easier.

Since a Security Group can comprise users and devices, it is created easily for devices by using mobile device management services such as Intune.

Features Of Security Groups

  • Consist of users or devices, which manage them simultaneously, and added to a team.
  • Can be dynamic. You can grant user access by searching location, title, etc.

Use Cases Of Security Groups

  • Ideal for collecting user accounts, computer accounts, etc. that are assigned specific permissions and policies under one roof of easily manageable content.
  • Limit the number of users who accesses your SharePoint sites and services.

Mail Enabled Security Group

Its functionality is similar to the Security Group, but it cannot be managed dynamically as is the case with the latter. Also used for giving access permission for notifications and resources in AD (such as Web Pages, SharePoint sites, etc.) to the users.

Image Source: GroupID

This group type assigns permissions to its members and also send messages to all contacts of the group.

Features Of Mail-Enabled Security Group

  • Can be added to the Teams.
  • They can be created, modified, or removed in Exchange Admin Centre (EAC) or Exchange Management Shell (EMS).
  • Mail enabled Security Group provides a shared mailbox to its members.

Use Cases Of Mail-Enabled Security Group

  • Suitable for SMBs and enterprises to help in controlled access permissions and email transactions to only certain people or groups of people. 
  • Gives you the ability to control who sends emails from your organization, how often they send them, and whether they read an email or not.

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Microsoft 365 Group

With Microsoft 365 Group, you easily collaborate with your teams as well as with contacts outside the organization (if enabled by the admin). You create this group in more than 15 different ways. Also access this group on mobile apps also, such as Outlook for Android or iOS.

Features Of Microsoft 365 Group

  • Joining the group is easy, provided the settings are set to Public.
  • A member subscribes to the conversations on the group via email.
  • Each group has storage as accommodating as ‘One Drive’.

Use Cases Of Microsoft 365 Group

  • If your team wants email conversations and a shared calendar, then a group should ideally be created in Outlook.
  • In case they want a direct chat like interaction, then the group is created in Teams.

Dynamic Group

Dynamic Groups is time saving and improves your network security. These have their own group memberships with certain defined rules (graphical based rule builder). The memberships are dynamically updated following the user or device attributes. You need to have Azure AD Premium P1 or P2 memberships to use the Dynamic Group.

Features Of Dynamic Group

Use Cases Of Dynamic Group

  • Provide users with access to common business applications and resources.
  • Can also be used for collaboration among groups of users (e.g., Sales team and Marketing team) where each member has access only to the specific apps and resources they need.

SharePoint Group

SharePoint Group consists of members who collectively have pre defined permission to access sites or content, thereby enabling collaborative teamwork.

Image Source: Roland Wanner

SharePoint allows feature customization. Even though it comes with various pre built robust features, yet, you personalize each content as per your business requirement.

Features Of SharePoint Group

  • Customizable and has several built in features.
  • Easily integrate it with your existing apps.
  • Offers centralized administration and efficient Document Management.

Use Cases Of SharePoint Group

  • Beneficial for teams having members focused on attaining a shared purpose such as revenue growth, business development, etc. 
  • Provides a virtual space where team members can communicate with each other using topics and files that have been created in SharePoint Online.
  • Can also be used for project management.

How To Manage Microsoft Office 365 Groups?

Challenges Faced By The Group Admin

  • User Adoption — Tracking Office 365 Application adoption and management of buy ins from end users is time consuming as well as resource draining for the IT team.
  • Security and Risks — The risk of data loss (forwarding or downloading of critical data) and continued access (access rights of external users) are two major risk factors.
  • Troubleshooting — Office 365 generates voluminous data as it is interconnected with various apps. Navigating the native tools to identifying the trouble and resolving the issue(s) can be challenging.
  • Performance and Efficiency — Systems need to be monitored regularly to check the amount of usage, anomalies (if any), performance capacity, etc. 

Ways To Manage Microsoft Office 365 Groups

Governance Strategy Before Group Deployment

Before deploying the Microsoft Office 365 Groups in your organization’s framework, the strategy should be laid down with the following points in mind:

  • Why does the group need to be provisioned?
  • How long should the group exist?
  • How to manage the changes?
  • In what ways should changes reflect in the group?
  • Considering the Microsoft naming and expiration policies.

Defined Group Settings

Since groups are objects in the AAD: Every time you create a SharePoint or a Team Site plan, a new group is automatically created; Azure AD can centrally secure, manage and govern a group. It is thus important to consider piloting the group with a smaller group of members than directly introducing it to the whole organization.

This can be done by defining the access settings or settings that can control and limit the group creation ability of the members via their assigned
Group roles — owners, members, or guests.

Identity Governance

Image Source: Petri

Use Entitlement Management in Azure AD to rationalize the way access permissions are granted. Automatic accessibility permissions are processes for workflow requests: Policies of expiration, reviews and assignments.

Group Rolling Out Strategy

We advise that the groups be rolled out in stages instead of all at once. This strategy helps in identifying whether the groups are proving to be productive or not, and users can be guided about the groups during the creation itself.

Communication Channel Usage In The Groups

Whether it is communication via emails on the Outlook mailbox, direct chats on Teams channels, or interaction via Yammer threads, it is wise to educate the users regarding the communication methods, such as:

  • Ensuring that the conversations are productive and consistent.
  • Using the proper channels for specific purposes, such as using email for sharing documents, Teams for quick response, etc.

Thank you for reading Microsoft Office 365 Group Types Explained – Best Practices. We shall conclude this article blog. 

Microsoft Office 365 Group Types Explained — Best Practices (Conclusion)

To summarize, in Office 365, Groups are the fundamental services which are sometimes managed by the SharePoint team, by Exchange Team, or at times by the Identity Management Team, etc. Every solution tends to a specific issue or enhances a certain business section.

Image Source: Imperial College London

It is the size of your organization and the workstream that together impact your group choice best suited to your specific business needs.


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Anmol Nigam

Anmol Nigam

I write bespoke content for SaaS entrepreneurs and brands to help them scale organically.

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