Friday, October 14, 2016

My Office 365 Groups are now SharePoint sites

There are a lot of changes rolling out to SharePoint Online and one of the major ones is around Office 365 Groups.

Office 365 Groups used to be simply a shared mailbox and a shared OneDrive For Business (basically a single Document Library). Groups have now become more about identity management in Office 365 than a separate service.

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If I now navigate to my OneDrive for Business I see a list of Office 365 Groups at the bottom of the menu on the left.

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if I navigate to one of these you’ll see I end up in a Document Library as shown above. However, if you now look more closely, you’ll see that is in fact now a complete SharePoint site.

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If I now navigate to the Home page you’ll see that I get the modern SharePoint interface with Quicklinks and Activity on the front page.

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Here I can create more apps (like Document Libraries) for the site.

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If I go to Site Contents, I see the familiar SharePoint overview of all the items that existing with a SharePoint Team Site.

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Interestingly, when I go to Site Settings for the Team Site I basically only see two items as shown above.

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You’ll also notice that the URL of this new location is:

http://<tenant name>.sharepoint.com/sites/<group name>

This indicates that the Group is now a stand alone Site Collection. However, when I look inside my SharePoint Admin Center I don’t see this Site Collection listed.

A few observations here.

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I can create new apps within the new Group Team Site but I can’t appear to create any subsites.

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When I go to the Site Settings for the new Group Team Site you’ll see that the theme changes and I lose the Pages option from my menu on the left.

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The Settings for a Document Library appears identical to what is available in a standard Team Site although there are less options.

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The above shows all the options available from a standard Team Site Document Library as a comparison.

You can still share individual files like you can in standard Team Site but there isn’t anywhere to share or set permissions in the new Group site.

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You’ll notice there is no full site “share” (upper) as there is in a standard Team Site (lower).

So in summary, Office 365 Groups have now had their data storage locations upgraded to a ‘basic’ SharePoint Team Site. This new Group site is it’s own Site Collection were permissions are managed by the Group rather than in the SharePoint site. This Group site also doesn’t have the full functionality of a standard Team Site.

The main question I have at this point is where the new Groups sites storage comes from? It seems that it doesn’t come from the standard SharePoint Team Site pool, as the site isn’t even listed there. Does that mean the storage is independent of that available for standard Team Sites? If so I wonder what the limit of storage is? I wonder if it is like OneDrive for Business and effectively unlimited for Enterprise plans? My guess? I’d say each Group site has a limit of 25TB. Is it possible that each Group could have 25TB of space available to it? Not sure.

From what I understand, Office 365 Groups have now become more a container of users that will be utilised across all the Office 365 services, from Yammer to Exchange and so on. Each Office 365 Group will get a cut down version of a full SharePoint Team Site, in an independent Site Collection. I also believe an Office 365 Group will get its own Yammer location.

So the change here is that you need to start thinking about an Office 365 Group as a location that holds a collection of users. These users have access to a number of Office 365 services (such as the basic Team Site) as part of being members of this Office 365 Group. This new Office 365 Group can also be given access to other Office 365 services, much like any security group.

It is clear from all the information I’ve been watching from Microsoft Ignite, that Office 365 Groups are still an intermediate step when it comes to collaboration, between an individual’s OneDrive for Business and a fully blown ‘standard’ SharePoint Team Site. That makes sense, as it keep things simple for users who just want to start collaborating. If you are a member of an Office 365 Group you get a basic independent location to share files, folders and information as well as share information.

Where the complexity arises is where is the best place for people to store stuff? Their OneDrive for Business? A Group site? A Team Site? Yammer? etc? They are spoilt for choice but does require somewhat of an understanding of what each location can and can’t do. Maybe that’s why some yearn for the good ol’ of simple an F: drive to store stuff in?

I need to go away and continue to work through the content from Microsoft Ignite, especially the deep dive sessions so I can determine exactly how all this fits together and what Microsoft’s plans are going forward. Now that I actually have these abilities in my tenant it will be easier and I’ll report back what I find. Until then, enjoy the new functionality office 365 Groups provides. Also remember, that many changes are still rolling out, and will continue to do so for some time yet!