Understanding Office 365 Groups and Teams

A while ago I wrote an article that detailed:

Where to put data in Office 365

and in typical fashion, technology has now moved on. This means that I need to revisit the concept of where you should be putting inside Office 365.

We of course now need to remember that we have new locations like Microsoft Teams and Staffhub, as well as improved locations like Office 365 Groups to house our business data. So let my try and broadly explain the the data locations that are currently available to you in Office 365.


Let’s start by considering the two major types of data we have to deal with in today’s businesses. As the above slide shows, we can typically categorise data it shared and personal. Personal data is typically created and owned by a single user in the business. Personal data is also only shared between a handful of people at most. By contrast, shared data is data that is not owned by any single individual and typically needs to be seen across a wide wide audience.

You also typically tend to find that shared data is a much greater percentage of the overall amount of data as illustrated by the size of the bars above. From here on in, we’ll consider shared data locations being green and private data locations being blue. We will also consider shared data locations to be on the left while personal data locations will be on the right.


Office 365 provides us a location into which we can store all business data, whether shared or personal. It is the box into which everything will live, both shared and personal.


We store business data inside a number of serviceswithin Office 365. These include Exchange for emails, SharePoint for files, Planner for tasks, Yammer for social conversations and Skype for meetings.

You’ll notice that the majority of these services are designed for the storage of shared data, however both Exchange and SharePoint have the ability to store both shared and personal data. Thus, they appear twice in the above slide as locations in which we can store data.


Into the personal data location for Exchange we place a users individual mailbox. This is designed for them to receive emails from outside the organisation and also typically from individuals inside the business. A personal mailbox is not a good location for generic email addresses like accounts@ or info@. It is designed for personal correspondence to and from an individual.

Likewise, SharePoint provides the OneDrive for Business location designed for a user’s personal files. These files are owned by the user and typically shared with a very small number of people. OneDrive for Business is NOT designed as a file server replacement, it is designed as repository for an individual users to store files they typically have on their desktop, on their local hard disk, or on an external USB drive or a home directory on a network.

Thus, Office 365, thanks to both Exchange and SharePoint, provide each and every licensed user a distinct location in which to save their own own personal information. Because that information is still within the Office 365 environment it remain secure and compliant as well as being easy to manage for the business owners.


Now Exchange and SharePoint also provide locations to save shared data into. Exchange provides this via shared mailboxes. Best practice is for shared mailboxes to be things like info@, sales@, etc that may need to be shared between a number of people and will also persist beyond any individual currently performing that task.

Likewise, SharePoint provides Team Sites as a location to save information into that all people in the business can access. You can of course provide custom security around all shared Office 365 services as needed.

However now in this space of shared data in Office 365, you get additional locations to store your information. Services like Planner allow the organisation of tasks and schedules across a team. Yammer allows the business to get out of email and work in an enterprise social network. Not only does that reduce email overload for users but because information is shared publically, it makes it more searchable and shareable. Finally, Skype for Business allows people in the business to meet virtually. They can chat, conduct meetings, share desktops, whiteboards, files and more.

Each one of these shared locations can be used stand alone if desired. Thus, you can have a Team Site to fill a single need. Likewise, you can use Skype as a way of chatting to people. As I have written about before:

The modern way of collaboration

To get a job done these days, people need more than stand alone tools. They need all the power of the individual services that Office 365 provides but they need them rolled together in a single place that is easy to work with.


Enter Office 365 Groups. If you combine a SharePoint Team Site, an Exchange shared mailbox, a Planner plan and a Yammer network you get an Office 365 Group. However, an Office 365 Group also provides you with an additional service, called ‘Connectors’, that allows you to bring information from services outside your business (i.e. Facebook, Twitter and more) directly into the Office 365 Group.

You can create as many Office 365 Groups as you need and when you do each one will get its own dedicated SharePoint Team Site, Exchange shared mailbox, Planner plan and Yammer network. You can also still have each service stand alone, like a stand alone Team Site, but each Office 365 Group you create automatically provisions all the individual services inside it and links them together.

Why might you still need a stand alone service like a Team Site?  Maybe you just want a single location to put all your brochures for people to sent to customers. That function might not need email or plans or chat, so you simply provision a stand alone Team Site to perform that function. However, when the people who create those brochures need to actually collaborate, then an Office 365 Group makes sense and you can mix and match as needed.

Again, it is totally up to you how and when you use these services. You may choose to only use stand alone services and no Groups. Likewise, you may choose to only use Groups. The choice if yours. That’s the flexibility Office 365 provides


If we now take an Office 365 group and add a Rostering service we get Staffhub. So when you create a new Staffhub for your business to manage rostering and employee times you also get a dedicated SharePoint Team Site, Exchange mailbox, Planner plan, and Yammer network. Do you have to use them all? Of course not, but they are provisioned automatically for you when you create a Staffhub because chances are that you will find use for the services.

Imagine you need to create a roster for your business. You will also probably need to share documents with your staff about their duties. That’s where the SharePoint Team Site fits in. There also probably be the need for staff to chat about their work. That’s where Yammer comes in. Hopefully, you get the idea here is that when you create a Staffhub or Office 365 Group Microsoft automatically gives you a range of stand alone services integrated together because the chances are you’ll find a need for them. It’s bundling at its best!

Again, you don’t need to use them all immediately, but they are there from the start, ready for your to use, whenever you need.


Finally, if we ingrate Skype for Business and add persistent chat to our Staffhub resources (that were a superset of Office 365 Group resources) we get a Microsoft Team.

As with Staffhub, when you create a new Microsoft Team you get everything Staffhub provided plus additional integrated services. If all you want to use is persistent chat then you can use that but again, chances are you are going to need more options down the track so they are automatically provisioned for you.

Everything in Office 365 is built on core services like Exchange for email, SharePoint for files and Skype for Business for communications. You can use each of these services stand alone or you can combine them together in an Office 365 Group, a Staffhub or Microsoft Team.

Of course, there is more planning involved than what I have laid out here when it comes to collaboration but I hope that I’ve made things a bit clearer and shown you all the options Office 365 provides you for storing your information. The trend today is certainly to provisioning something like a Microsoft Team first to give you everything you want immediately, even if you don’t use it all. However, the choice is yours. Go with a single service or go with them all. Do what makes the most sense for your business today and don’t too much about what will happen down the track as you can easily scale up into all the options that Office 365 provides, because typically, you’ll find that what you want is already provisioned thanks to Office 365 Groups, Staffhub and Microsoft Teams.

Getting Started With Skype For Business Online


I am happy to report that the ePUB and MOBI versions of our book Getting Started With Skype For Business are now available. You can find these versions here:

ePUB – http://www.e-junkie.com/ciaops/product/509403.php

MOBI – http://www.e-junkie.com/ciaops/product/509404.php

as well as the original

PDF – http://www.e-junkie.com/ciaops/product/509275.php

I am also pleased to report the book is also now available on Kindle here:

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01C29M2DO

We are expecting a version to be shortly available on the Apple iBookstore and Barnes and Noble Nook, with a printed version also available shortly thereafter.

We thank everyone who supported us through this process and those who pre-ordered the book. We hope every one who does purchase the book gets value from it and we’d love to get your feedback and suggestions about the content. Email your comments directly to (director@ciaops.com).

Find this and other books from me on SharePoint, Office 365, etc. at:


Getting Started With Skype for Business Online–Preorder now!

I am happy to report that a new book from CIAOPS will be available very, very soon. As such, we are opening up for preorders:


Pre-orders will receive a 50% discount on the ultimate retail price of the work. Pre-orders will also receive the book in all ‘e-formats’ (PDF, MOBI and ePUB).


This book is designed to get you up and running with Skype for Business Online fast! It takes you step by step through using everything in Skype for Business Online, showing you each item in detail, including screen shots at every stage. This book will help you use and better understand the capabilities of Skype for Business Online and the power that is can bring your business. Most importantly, it will show you how to be more productive by using the tools you already have to communicate better. If you use Office 365 but are not yet familiar with Skype for Business then this book is for you.

The content of this book is aimed at those using Skype for Business Online rather than those administering it (that book is still in the works)

For this book I have been working with a Skype for Business and telephony expert, Greg Plum from PlumUC. I got Greg on board as an author because Skype for Business Online now includes integration to on premises phone system and now has the option for Cloud PBX. This means there is now so much more information that needs to be covered and more knowledge that needs to be shared. The only way to do that effectively is to bring on an experienced expert in the field, and that’s exactly what I’ve done with Greg. His contributions are what is going to set this book apart I believe.

We are currently putting the finishing touches to the book, and we expect it to be generally available in early March. However, we wanted to give people the opportunity to pre-order at a discounted rate so they can get their hands on the information as soon as it becomes available.


To pre-order simply click on link above, record your details and payment and we’ll get back to you very soon with the completed work.

How to present Office 365

I’m working on a new course for my online training academy that will give people a framework for successfully presenting Office 365 to prospects, clients and colleagues.

Having presented this material in face to face classroom sessions I was really looking to incorporate the “whiteboard” experience on screen. What I therefore decided to try was using the Windows 10 OneNote app on my Surface 3 along with the Surface pen to see how well it would work while obviusly recording the whole thing.

My trial attempt is shown above and I think it worked pretty well. Obviously, there will need to be some polishing done before I release the final version of the course material, which will also contain more tutorials on how to present each individual service such as Delve.

Have a look and let me know what you think at the rough draft of on screen “whiteboarding”. Also, if you have played with OneNote and a pen then I suggest you do as OneNote is a great hand notetaking tool as hopefully the video illustrates. Of course if you want to find out when the course on Presenting Office 365 becomes available then stay tuned here or sign up for free at my online academy: