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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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

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.


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


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.


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


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.



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!

The 600 pound social media gorilla has entered the room


Social media giant, Facebook, has just announced it’s new business social media platform called Workplace which you read about here:

introducing Workplace by Facebook

There is no doubt in my mind that this is a big thing and many are asking what impact this might have on Microsoft Yammer? Before I share my thoughts on that specific topic let make some other general observations first.

The reason this is a big deal is the fact that Facebook is major part of a massive amount of people’s personal day. Previous, Facebook had been aimed at the individual user but that has now changed. Sure, many people used Facebook for business but mostly they were using it to promote their business rather that using it as part of their business. Workplace changes this focus dramatically.

With Workplace, Facebook is providing businesses a dedicated tool for them to use to communicate socially inside their business. Yes, there are already other platforms that do this but Facebook’s huge consumer reach provides an unprecedented level of familiarity and penetration. This means adoption for Workplace will pretty much be a no-brainer for businesses that adopt it.

I reckon the biggest threat Workplace poses is for existing one off messaging platforms like Slack and Hipchat. Facebook may not be the best in town but it is by far the biggest and is positioned very nicely to squash these smaller players.

So where does that leave a product like Microsoft Yammer? There is no doubt that it will put pressure on Yammer but only if you see Yammer as a stand alone platform. Yammer is fast becoming simply another component of Office 365. Business collaboration is more than just messaging or sharing links and photos. It is about documents, calendars, lists, tasks, emails and more. This is where you need to look at Yammer as only part of the solution Office 365 provides for collaboration.

Microsoft Yammer inside Office 365 not only has greater collaboration features but also greater governance, reporting and security. This is something many businesses really want. So again, you need to look at Workplace vs Yammer in the wider context of Workplace vs Office 365. At that point you see how much more Office 365 offers any business.

The great thing is that Workplace is going to place even more legitimacy on social being acceptable within a business. It is going to be readily adopted by millennials who have grown up with Facebook and are now the dominant component of the workforce. It is going to mean decreasing dependence on email as a business communications medium as well as make more information public rather than siloed.

The flow on effect will in fact benefit Yammer and the overall Office 365 product I believe. Why? Because, even though Workplace may be great and many business may adopt it, it is still really only a single product designed for a single task. Whereas Office 365, that already includes a social network, provides a single identity and shared information access across a range of services. Integration is a key factor going forward with technology for businesses today. No matter how good a single product is, unless it integrates easily, then it’s value starts to fall away quickly.

Also if Workplace did “everything” then why did Facebook adopt Office 365 inside it’s own business?

Why Facebook is betting on Office 365 and the Microsoft Cloud

Workplace doesn’t do everything, that’s why.

Yes, Workplace provides a solution but it isn’t as broad or as deeply integrated as Office 365 is today and moving into the future. I can see some businesses choosing to use Yammer with Office 365 for superior integrated collaboration just as much as I can see others using Workplace and Office 365 together. I’d also be betting on close integration between the two products to provide superior access for those users when compared to others using stand alone third party services like Slack.

So I think announcement Workplace is sounding the changing of the guard in business. That is, away from email and towards social. I think it is going to have a major impact on the market and will disrupt many, especially existing smaller, single product providers. Workplace will certainly provide a challenge to Yammer, however when you consider the ongoing integration of Yammer deeper into the Office 365 suite, I actually believe it will potentially increase demand for a fully integrated product like Office 365.

We’ll see what the future brings but if nothing else, it once again means to me the game is shifting and those who don’t also shift as well are destined to lose

Using Azure to test OneDrive for Business Sync


In a recent blog I detailed how you could automatically download all the content from the recent Microsoft Ignite 2016 conference. In that post I also said that the ultimate destination for that content, in my case, was going to be SharePoint Online.

There are number of different ways that you could get all these files into SharePoint Online but I thought that this would be a great opportunity to test the new Preview OneDrive for Business Sync client that now works with SharePoint Online document libraries. You can read more about this release here:

Getting started syncing SharePoint sites with the new OneDrive sync client – preview

I will caution you before you go charging in and setting this up. This is still currently PREVIEW software! That means it is not yet complete. I will also caution you that it is not simply a process of installing a download. The release of the completed sync client is due in November 2016, which isn’t really that far away. So, unless your job is to play with software, I’d wait until the released product is available real soon.

Luckily, part of my job IS to play with software and let people know what it’s all about. So what I thought I’d do to test out this new OneDrive for Business sync client is to use it to upload all the material I captured from Microsoft Ignite.

Now there’s another aspect to way I approach these tasks these days and that is to use Azure as my primary tool. So, to actually download the Microsoft Ignite content, as detailed previously, I actually did this using an Azure virtual machine? Why? Firstly, it is nice to have a clean machine with plenty of disks space. I can also adjust the power and storage of the machine to suit my needs and only pay for what I need. I can also leave the machine running in the Microsoft data center and access it from anywhere. However, in this case, the major reason is simply better bandwidth.

The downloading process of the Ignite 2016 content ran about ten times faster in Azure versus downloading locally. This likewise also means that uploads to SharePoint Online will run ten or more time faster. Given that time is money, that’s why I prefer to use Azure even for mundane stuff like this.

Now the Ignite 2016 PowerPoint slides alone come to over 10GB of data. So once the I had downloaded all that to my Azure Azure VM, I installed the new OneDrive for Business sync client and sync’ed the existing destination Team Site Document Library. The sync tool then downloaded the existing contents to my Azure VM without issue (about 3GB of data). I then created a new directory in my local sync area and then dumped the 10GB+ of data into that location.


I watched as the sync client merrily start chewing away on all these new files. I check the status (as you can now do on the new client by simply click on the System Tray icon) and saw the files uploaded to the SharePoint Document Library.

Even though this was an azure VM, 10GB+ of data is still not going to happen instantaneously. I checked back with the process regularly. I did see the sync client crash once (remember, it’s still in preview) and restart but apart from that, in a short period of time all that data was now not only in a SharePoint Document Library but also synced to the Azure VM.


I then checked the properties of what I had stored locally in my sync folder and you see from the above that it was all there.

So there you have it. I successfully sync 12GB+ of data to a SharePoint Online Document Library using the new preview OneDrive for Business sync client. YEAH!

Even though you’ve seen this success, remember my earlier warning about this currently being demo software. It won’t be long before the completed production version is available to all and I’ll report on that when it happens. However, the big takeaway should be that new OneDrive for Business sync tool is looking pretty good and I am very confident about not only its reliability but also features upon release.

If you have been frustrated with previous versions of the sync tool, I’d suggest now is perhaps a good time to start looking at it again as I believe it is going to become a very powerful feature of the Office 365 suite that is going to challenge many existing incumbent third party software products that competes with the OneDrive for Business sync tool currently.

In summary, I am very confident that the new OneDrive for Business sync will be a major reason TO shift to Office 365.

Need to Know Podcast–Episode 116

Marc and I are joined by MVP Bill Chestnut, maybe better known as Biz Talk Bill, to speak about the wave of automation that is sweeping Microsoft products. Bill brings us up to date about Microsoft Biztalk Server and then shares with us his insights around things such as Azure functions, Microsoft Flow and PowerApps. We also cover the latest Azure, Office 365 and Microsoft Cloud news for you to ensure you have the latest.

You can listen to this episode directly at:

or subscribe via iTunes at:

The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:

also now on Soundcloud at:

Don’t forget to give the show a rating as well as send us any feedback or suggestions you may have for the show.


Bill Chestnut – @biztalkbill

Marc Kean – @marckean

Robert Crane – @directorcia

Azure functions

Azure Logic Apps

Microsoft Flow


Marc’s blog

New access controls for Office 365

New Office 365 App launcher

Updates to Yammer

Automatically download all the Microsoft Ignite 2016 content

Automatically download all the Microsoft Ignite 2016 content


I’m still working my way through all the content from the recent Microsoft Ignite 2016, however what I really wanted was all the PowerPoints from each presentation in one place as files and searchable. I also heard from many who wanted that as well as all the videos from the sessions downloaded locally.

Luckily, Michel de Rooij has created a PowerShell script to do this automatically for you. You’ll find it here:

Ignite 2016 Slidedeck and Video downloader

Simply download and run the script to get the videos and presentations from each session downloaded directly to your local machine. If you are like me and only want the PowerPoint’s then run the following command:

.\ignite2016downloader.ps1 –novideos

That will automatically create a local directory called \ignite2016 and commence downloading the specified content there. You see exactly this taking place from the screen shot above.

Now, downloading the content is one thing but making effective use of so much material is another, but I have a solution for that as well. What I did after getting all the content was to then to upload it into a SharePoint Online Document Library so that it is quickly searchable and I can easily see a preview of each file. Not only that, I can also use my own custom metadata to tag information by technology allowing me to group similar sessions together, keep track of what I’ve already reviewed and so on. Watch out for an upcoming post on how I’ve done this.

Remember, data on its own is useless. With SharePoint Online, I’ve transformed data into information and in the process made myself more effective. Achievement unlocked!

Thank you Mr Jeffrey Snover for telling me about OMS


After conducting a recent podcast with Jeff Snover from Microsoft I decided to spend a little time playing with Microsoft Operations Management Suite (OMS). What I didn’t realise, but was highlighted by Jeff in the podcast, was that fact that OMS comes with a free tier!

So I went ahead and created a workspace and then started to connect things like my local machines to it so that the status could be reported back to my OMS dashboard. Thanks to that ability i received the above email letting me know that I needed to update one of my machines.


However, OMS does more than just warn me about security patches, it also details what software changes have been made on my systems as shown above as well of lots of other stuff.


You can also connect it to your Office 365 tenant as you see above.


I can click on that Office 365 tile in the console to reveal further detail, like that for SharePoint as shown above.


If I drill in further I get detailed log information as you see above. All of this is also searchable from OMS.


From this I can then go in and create an email alert as shown above.

This therefore provides a lot more detail and functionality around Office 365 reporting than I’ve seen elsewhere. Best of all, it is totally free! I would expect to see its abilities continue to increase.


You’ll find a huge amount of solutions you can simply plug into your dashboard to monitor all kinds of things, and they are adding new ones all the time. Just go to the solutions gallery, as shown above, to see all the modules you can add.


You’ll also see from the above that you can get a free plan that provides a lot of functionality, certainly a no brainer as a starting point for low level Office 365 monitoring and log capture. From there you can upgrade to the full plan on a per node per month cost.

Microsoft OMS is probably not as comprehensive as some existing third party monitoring solutions I’ve see out there in the SMB space at the moment, however I can also see how powerful OMS is going to become very soon as Microsoft focuses more attention and resources on its development.

I’d therefore be suggesting that if you need to monitor on-premise or cloud services then you really need to have a look OMS and understand what it can do today and what it is going to be capable of in the future. If I were those third party monitoring solutions, I’d be pretty worried about my business model going forward as Microsoft is coming to town with something that is going to make a huge impact.

If you need to monitor or secure any sort of technology, take a look at Microsoft Operations Management Suite (OMS) can do for you. You can even get started for free, so there is no reason not to give it a try.

I’ve got a new Office 365 App Launcher


As recently announced by Microsoft:

Introducing the new Office 365 app launcher

we’ll all be seeing a new style of App Launcher surface in our Office 365 tenants.

As you can see above, mine has already arrived thanks to being enabled for First Release.


What I really like about this new App Launcher is the ability to right mouse click on the tile and bring a configuration menu. One of the options is the ability to pin the icon to the nav bar which run across the the top of the Office 365 tenant.


This is a really handy way to quickly get to your most common services.

When you look at the new interface for Office 365, it is kind of a mirrored Windows 10 environment. When you think about it, that makes a lot of sense because you local services are at the bottom, while the cloud services are at the top of the screen. Not only that, it means you can use both navigation schemes with minimal overlapping. Smart. Great to see Microsoft thinking about the integrated usability of a users whole environment.


If you haven’t got the new App Launcher, don’t fret, you’ll see it soon.

Using the Office Deployment Toolkit

One of the most common questions I see around Office 365 is how to deploy Office applications to desktop using a single download or from a central network repository. To this you’ll need to use the Office Deployment Toolkit.

The first step is in this process is to download the appropriate version. The 2016 version is available here:

Office 2016 Deployment Tool

If you want to use this tool to deploy software across a local network the suggestion is that you download and install the tool on a suitable machine with enough disk space and that is available and connected to all machines on the network.


Once you have downloaded and installed the tool you should see just two files as shown above. It is also a good idea to share the location of the Office Deployment Toolkit across your network so connected machines can run the setup.exe program remotely to actually install the software.

The next step then is to create a network share into which the downloaded Office desktop software will be located on this machine.

In that directory you will find a file called configuration.xml. If you open this file you will see something like:


This contains information about the version of the Office software that will be downloaded and deployed. What you see here is only a very basic version of what the possible options are for the configuration file. You find the full list of options and parameters for this configuration file here:

Configuration options for the Office Deployment tool

However, I would suggest that an easier way to generate the appropriate configuration file for your environment is to visit:


This web based tool allows you to enter in all the parameters you require and then for the configuration file to be built out for you automatically on the right. You can then simply copy and paste, email or download the result.

Take this and use it to overwrite the default configuration file provided.


You then need to go to the command prompt and navigate to the directory into which you downloaded the Office Deployment Toolkit. You then need to run the command:

setup.exe /download configuration.xml

This will then download the specified Office software to the location on your machine as specified in the configuration.xml file.

It is important to note here that you are downloading a full version of the Office desktop software every time, not just updates. You can rerun the command at any point with updated configuration parameters if required.


Once the command has completed, if you view the location where the files have been downloaded you should see something similar to that shown above.

You’ll also notice that I have different versions of Office software available thanks to also selecting to make first release versions of the software available.

With the Office software now downloaded to a shared network location, from a connected workstation you can map to the network location for the Office Deployment toolkit setup files and run the command:

setup.exe /configure configuration.xml


You should then see the Office software installation process commence.

The installation will use the parameters you have previously defined in the configuration.xml file.

The configuration.xml file also controls how updates are handled. Use the element to set attributes. For example:

If you wish to install Office software from Office 365 onto a Remote Desktop Server (RDS or Terminal Server) environment you MUST use the Office Deployment Toolkit to do this. You will also need to specify the following in the configuration.xml file:

Of course, you also need the appropriate version of Office 365. This is E3 or better. Business Premium suites are NOT licensed to have Office software installed in a RDS environment.

There are plenty of options available to you in configuration.xml to manage deployments, updates and removals so be sure to take a look at all the options. However, I recommend you use:

to actually create the configuration.xml file you need.

Using the Office Deployment Toolkit is a quick and easy way to deploy and control Office software from Office 365 from a central network repository. It not only saves you bandwidth but also time.