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Types of groups in Microsoft Exchange Online

Updated: May 15

Groups are used for collaboration between users inside and outside your company.

There are Five basic group types

  • Distribution groups OR Distribution Lists: Used for sending email notifications to a group of people.

  • Dynamic Distribution Lists: Created to expedite the mass sending of email messages and other information within an organization.

  • Security groups: Used for granting access to Microsoft 365 resources, such as SharePoint. They can make administration easier because you need only administer the group rather than adding users to each resource individually. Microsoft 365 Groups can't be members of security groups.

  • Mail Enabled Security Group: Used for granting access to resources such as SharePoint and emailing notifications to those users. They include the ability to send mail to all the members of the group. Mail-enabled security groups can be added to a team.

  • Microsoft 365 Group OR Office 365 Group: Used for collaboration between users inside and outside your company. They include collaboration services such as SharePoint and Planner.



Creating a Microsoft 365 Group: A Step-by-Step Guide 

Access Point

Launch the Microsoft 365 app launcher (waffle icon) and select Groups. Alternatively, you can access Groups directly through Outlook or SharePoint. 

Click the "Create group" button and choose your Group type

Office 365 Group

The most versatile option offers a Group mailbox, SharePoint site, OneNote notebook, Planner, and potentially Microsoft Teams integration. 

Team

Creates a Microsoft Teams team with its chat channels, file storage, and meeting capabilities. 

Group Details

Provide a clear and descriptive Group name that reflects its purpose. Optionally, include a description outlining the group's function. 

Privacy Setting

Choose between Public (open to everyone within your organization) or Private (requires membership approval). 

Owners

Assign one or more users as Owners who will manage the group and its settings. Ownership can be changed later. 

Members

Start by adding initial members to the group. You can add more members later. 

Additional Options

Here, you can configure advanced settings such as: 

Guest access

Allow external users to collaborate within the group (requires appropriate licensing). 

Email address 

Assign a unique email address for the group. 

Hide from the member's list

For public Groups, prevent cluttering user lists by hiding the group from the default view. 

Review and Create

Double-check your settings and click "Create" to bring your Microsoft 365 Group to life! 


Managing Your Microsoft 365 Group: Optimizing Collaboration

Accessing the Group Settings

Within your Group in Outlook or SharePoint, navigate to "Settings" to access management options.

Member Management

Add, remove, or edit member permissions (view, edit, or owner) as needed.

Guest Access Control

Manage guest user permissions and invitations for external collaborators.

Conversation Settings

Moderate discussions by enabling message approval or moderation for sensitive topics.

Workload Permissions

Control access to specific workloads within the group, such as SharePoint document libraries or OneNote notebooks.

Expiration Policies

Set an expiration date for temporary groups so they can be deleted automatically after a designated timeframe.

PowerShell Automation

For organizations managing a multitude of Groups, explore using PowerShell scripts to automate repetitive tasks like adding members or assigning permissions.


Office 365 Groups vs distribution lists

Microsoft 365 Groups


Microsoft 365 Groups and Distribution lists – similarities

Distribution lists are known to both Microsoft 365 admins and even the oldest Exchange on-premises experts. DLs have been around for a while, and the idea behind them is quite simple. They allow users to write or forward their messages to a group of users, whether it is a single department, members of the same office, or the whole company. For those who work most of their day in Outlook, it is a feature used so much that they do not think about it.

Another similarity is that both distribution lists and Microsoft 365 Groups are managed in the same way. Although the cmdlets used to work on them are a bit different, their attributes are quite similar in most cases. In fact, if you change the New-Distribution Group cmdlet to New-Unified Group while leaving the same parameters, the code will most likely be executed with no issues.

Microsoft 365 Groups and distribution lists also look very alike from the Exchange Admin Center point of view – they both use the same wizard to create them. But that is as far as the similarities go.


Differences between Microsoft 365 Groups and distribution lists

The most important reason to use Microsoft 365 Groups is to enhance collaboration. While distribution lists have the same purpose, Microsoft 365 Groups go a few steps further.

The first difference is that Microsoft 365 Groups have a shared mailbox and calendar. This means that emails are not only distributed to all list members – they are stored in a separate mailbox. The shared calendar gives the functionality previously reserved for public folders.

However, the differences mentioned above fall into the category of Outlook and OWA features. Microsoft 365 can do more than that. Depending on what functionalities you need, a group can be created along with an associated SharePoint library, OneNote notebook, Microsoft Teams, etc.


You can see another set of differences in EAC. Despite the similarities to a distribution list, a Microsoft 365 Group has two additional fields: Privacy and Subscribe member.

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