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Learn more about groups

Microsoft 365 Groups are a tool for teams and workgroups. You will get the most out of groups and increase your productivity even more if you understand the capabilities that a Group provides.

Introduction to groups

Should you create a Microsoft 365 Group or a Microsoft Team?

While you’re considering the options it’s important to remember that one size rarely fits all. Different teams may prefer to work different ways and Microsoft 365 offers tools to enable collaboration in whatever form your teams prefer.  

  • If your team prefers to collaborate via email and needs a shared calendar: Create a Microsoft 365 Group in Outlook.
  • If your team wants to collaborate in a persistent chat environment or use embedded apps: Create a Microsoft Team.  Microsoft Teams offer a much more robust collaboration experience with more features than a "plain" Microsoft 365 Group.

Private vs Public Groups

When creating a group you'll need to decide if you want it to be a private group or a public group.

Content in a public group can be seen by anybody in your organization, and anybody in your organization is able to join the group.

Content in a private group can only be seen by the members of the group and people who want to join a private group have to be approved by a group owner.  

Private Groups are strongly recommended for most cases.  Private Groups are exclusive and only open to their members. The content and conversations are secure and not viewable by everyone.  Although anyone with an albany.edu address can see the name of a group, information is also security-trimmed so it is not accessible from search, links, or in other ways. Joining a private group requires approval from a group administrator. 

Although you cannot participate in a private group that you are not a member of, anyone can send email to a private group.

Only people with @albany.edu addresses can be added to Microsoft 365 Groups.

Conversations and e-mail

To get things started and keep things going, an important part of any group is communication. A group has its own mailbox so all group emails are easy to locate and manage. In Outlook Web App, you can also have a conversation with group members by posting and replying to short messages. The entire history of conversations is preserved, helping new members get up to speed quickly.

Conversations are sorted by date from newest to oldest. You can quickly catch up with new conversation messages which are marked with a blue tab and even add attachments.

Read a conversation

Occasionally, you might want to send an email message to the group to ensure everyone gets the message right away. When you create the message, just type the group name on the To line.

Group calendar

A dedicated group calendar helps all members coordinate their schedules. Everyone in the group automatically sees meeting invites and other events. If you belong to more than one group, it’s easy to view each group calendar side-by-side. Events that you create in the group calendar are automatically added and synchronized with your personal calendar. For events that group members create, each member of the group will automatically be invited.  You can add people outside the group to the meeting as well.  You can add the event from the group calendar to your personal calendar, and the event automatically synchronizes with your personal calendar. Finally, you can overlay your personal calendar with a group calendar, to see how schedules align.

Group calendar

Subscribing to a group

When you subscribe to a group, you are requesting that conversations or events from the group be sent to your inbox. If you prefer to use Outlook or another mail client instead of Outlook Web App, it’s a great idea to enable this feature, because it ensures that all members receive group email messages and calendar events in Outlook in a timely way so they can stay up-to-date on group activity. You can also reply to the conversations from Outlook, and the replies are immediately posted to the group conversation. Subscribing to a group is also helpful when you are actively working in different groups and related projects, and want to stay on the top of each conversation and calendar event from your inbox.

Subscribing is enabled by default. After creating a group, admins can also enable or disable subscribing when adding a new member. Finally, each individual can enable or disable subscribing as preferred.

If you think you are getting too much information from the group in your inbox, you can always unsubscribe from the group to reduce the information flow. The conversations are still available in the group, so you can revisit them from time-to-time to catch up on past conversations. There is a convenient unsubscribe link at the bottom of all group email messages.

Unsubscribing from an Microsoft 365 Group may not work from a mobile device (phone/tablet).  Instead, do so from a desktop or laptop computer.

Group membership

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

Files, sharing, and OneDrive for Business

Sharing content, such as files and folders, is a hallmark of group collaboration. Shared content can live elsewhere in Office 365, but OneDrive for Business makes it convenient to view and edit files regardless of the actual location. Sharing content also helps unlock useful information hidden in mailboxes and personal folders.  A group’s Document Library is like a OneDrive for the group and is the primary place for group files, but you can access other shared and followed documents that you may need throughout the day to further collaborate with your group.

OneDrive for Business Our Files view

You can also safely share a file or folder with people outside your group (anyone with an @albany.edu address). A group strikes a balance between the need to collaborate and the need to make sure your files don’t fall into the wrong hands.


Need more help? Contact the ITS Service Desk.