Demystifying Office 365 Groups – Part 1

Sriram Varadarajan
Sriram Varadarajan
November 12, 2016
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Office365 Groups

Office 365 Group is a service that enables teams to come together and get the work done by establishing a single team identity across Office 365 apps including Outlook, OneDrive for Business, OneNote, Skype for Business. It facilitates communication within the users by providing a single place to collaborate with conversations, events and files. In other words, its like an Exchange distribution group with storage (the mailbox).



· Mailbox for group email communication

· Calendar for scheduling group meetings and events

· Library for storing and working on group files and folders

· OneNote notebook for taking project and meeting notes

· Planning tool for organizing and assigning tasks and getting updates on project progress

When a new group is created, a shared Exchange Online mailbox gets created in background and it’s hidden, which is used to store contributions to group conversations as well as a shared calendar. SharePoint Online is also involved as it provides a shared document library, which includes a shared OneNote notebook. To save resources, the shared document library is not provisioned until the first time that a member attempts to use the “Files” functionality for the group. These documents are saved in a hidden site and SharePoint administrator can’t access that site under site collection. The SharePoint admin can limit the quota for group Sites

A newly added member can go through the old conversation happened in past and all the members of group can access shared calendar, file and one Note

To access Groups

O365 groups can be accessed via OWA, Outlook 2016 and mobile app (‘Outlook Groups’) in iOS, Windows and Android devices.

To Create Groups

Office 365 Groups can be created using OWA or Outlook 2016.

* Sign in to your OWA and navigate to ‘Groups’ and click the plus sign or the "Create new group" option.


* User can create groups using Outlook 2016 as well.

Ø Open Outlook 2016, select a group and, on the Home tab, choose New Group.



Ø In the Create Group window, enter the required information, including Name, Group ID, and Privacy level, (Public or Private).

Ø Decide on the subscription box to be enabled/ disabled.

Ø Add the members (user mailboxes/ Distribution Group), description, and a photo for the group (You can do this after the group is created as well).

Ø Click OK. You’ll see your newly created group in the left and a Welcome email in your group’s inbox.

Types of Groups

Groups are either Public or Private. You select the group type when the group is first created and can later on change a group from public to private or vice versa if required.

Difference between the groups

1) Anyone can join a public group and it doesn’t require the Group admins approval to access the group.1) Users who wish to join a private group send a request to the Group admin. The request must be approved by the Group admin before they can access the group.
2) Anyone can contribute to the group contents as they can always email the group to start a new conversation.2) Only the group members can contribute.
3) The data/ content is visible to everyone.3) Access to the contents held in a private group is restricted to its members.

Similarities between the groups

1) The user who creates a group is automatically added as a group administrator. An owner can promote or De-promote a member as group owner.

2) Anyone who belongs to a tenant can send email to a group (even to a private group) and that email will show up as a post in the conversations view.

3) Once you’ve joined a group you’ll receive a welcome message that contains important information and links to help you get started. If the group is public, you’ll get the message right away. If the group is private, you’ll get the welcome message after you’ve been approved by group owner.

Note: Wroth to double check before any information is posted in public groups, since everyone in the organisation will be able to access. 

Limitation with O365 groups

· As of now once the group is deleted the contents cannot be recovered, as there is no recycle bin in group.

· Though a group owner leaves the organization or team all the emails, conversations, files, and calendar events would be saved; and the other group members will be able to access the data. You should also consider having multiple owners for a group so that the co-owner can perform the work in case there needs to be some management tasks to be performed even in his absence.

· A group can’t have more than 10 owners.

· A user can’t create more than 250 groups.

· Groups with more than a 1000 members are supported, but group users may notice that accessing group conversations and the group calendar taking a long time.


Connectors are online apps, tools, and services, such as Twitter, Trello, etc that we probably use every day to connect and collaborate, stay on top of current events, track projects, and so on. They’re integrated with Office 365 Groups and take just minutes to hook up. We could hook multiple connectors to a group, and when we hook up one or more connectors, they’re available to everyone in the group. When we connect a tool or service to a group, everyone in the group can see the messages delivered by that service.

Can I change a public group into a private group, or a private group into a public group?

Only the Group Owners have the ability to change a public group into a private group and vice versa.

Is it possible to include an external contact as an O365 Group member?


Whether it has same functionality of Distribution List?

It’s more than a normal distribution list. It allows us to have mail conversation, Skype calls within group members, Group calendar, Shared site for storing documents, one note for adding meeting details. A newly added member will be able to access the old conversation, documents, etc.

Can a group be part of another group?


How long will the data be stored in the groups?

It will be stored for as long as the group is active. If the group becomes inactive, after 180 days all content will be permanently deleted.

Will the O365 Group be able to accept emails from external email addresses?

Yes. You can also allow the Group to receive email from external users

Who would have the access to create/ modify the Group’s calendar?

All the members would be able to create/ modify the Group’s calendar events

Is that possible to add the Group calendar to user’s personal calendar?

Yes, you can overlay your calendar with the group’s calendar

What is mail subscription in Office 365 Group?

If we prefer to use Outlook instead of Outlook Web App, it’s a great idea to enable this feature, because it ensures that we receive group email messages in Outlook in a timely way and can stay up-to-date on group activity. We can also reply to the conversations from Outlook, and the replies are immediately posted to the group conversation. A Group admin can make this change while creating a group or even after creating the group (By editing the existing group)

Ø To enable email subscription, select Subscribe new members so they receive group conversations in their inbox

Ø To disable email subscription, clear Subscribe new members so they will not receive group conversations in their inbox.

Compare Outlook Groups on all platforms

The following feature list is not comprehensive, but it will give you an idea of how Outlook Groups compares on the different platforms.

● Feature is supported (as of now)

◌ Feature is not supported (as of now)

FeatureFeature ActionOWAOutlook 2016


IOsAndroidWindows Phone
Create and join groupCreate a group

Join a group

Group calendarManage meetings

View group calendar

Modify calendar events

Add a group calendar to personal calendar

Working together on documentsView and edit group files

Access the group OneNote notebook

group conferencingAccess groups from Skype for Business
Group administrationCreate a group, add/edit members, edit group logo, etc.
Search for groupsBrowse groups

Join suggested groups

Category : Office 365 Groups

Author Info

Sriram Varadarajan
Sriram Varadarajan
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Sriram is a Technology Evangelist with 15+ years experience in Microsoft Technologies. He is an enterprise architect working for large pharmaceutical organization which has presence globally with largest Microsoft implementation more

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