Regain Control: Manage SharePoint Groups for Office 365

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What do you do to manage SharePoint? Depending on how you are using the platform, you may have little or a lot of control over what people can do on it. Perhaps you manage SharePoint by changing some settings, therefore allowing or blocking certain actions to be done. You may have some PowerShell scripts running or even use tools. But with something like Groups for Office 365, should you manage them given their “open” nature?

Some ways to manage SharePoint Sites and content

Manage SharePoint Groups in Office 365
Today, SharePoint isn’t the unknown beast that it used to be. We know what it is and what it does and well, it’s been here for a while and had time to mature. So when we talk about managing the platform, we know what needs to be done and how. 

Since SharePoint is a platform, you’ll have to know what you plan to do with it so you can manage the pieces you’ll be deploying. Sites, Documents, Lists and Libraries with Content Types… there’s a lot of objects in SharePoint deployed you need to look out for. Here are some ways you can control what you are delivering:

Administration and Configuration of SharePoint

Luckily, SharePoint has a lot you can manage straight from the Central Administration and configurations made through the interface of Sites and Lists or Libraries. Whether you are setting quotas or retention policies, no need for code or third party tools at this point. It’s actually what made SharePoint probably as successful as it is when it began. Easy to create, configure, and manage.

PowerShell Scripts to manage SharePoint

As the years went by, we saw options in the Central Administration disappear to make way for more PowerShell command administration. A good example is the Search Topology and configuring your SharePoint to work with Office Web Apps. PowerShell is extremely powerful as it allows you to script almost anything or do anything. In fact, the entire installation of SharePoint and its configuration can be scripted and actually should be.

Custom SharePoint Development

Obviously, not everything can be done with simple administration or through PowerShell. Sometimes you’ll just need to code something specific to your needs or that doesn’t exist to help you manage that environment. This can be done as features or even Apps to control the creation of Sites for example. The downside of this, well you need to have developers that know what they’re doing.

3rd Party Tools to Manage SharePoint

As always, 3rd party tools can always be a solution if it does what you need to manage SharePoint. This isn’t the place to advertise Sharegate and in fact there are many tools out there, I’ll let you look for them. It always comes down to the value versus the cost of the tool.

What are Groups for Office 365 and how does it relate to SharePoint

Groups for Office 365 use a combination of Exchange and SharePoint to provide a new solution for quick collaboration needs in your organization. Not unlike a Team Site in SharePoint, Groups allow you to have conversations with group members and store files to work on as well with other members of the group. Additionally, it comes with a calendar owned by the Group itself and not one particular user.

Where does SharePoint come into play here? SharePoint hosts a hidden Site Collection with a Document Library that houses the Files you work on in the Group. So in order to manage Groups for Office 365 or at least the content within, you need to manage SharePoint.

Manage SharePoint Groups using what you can

Manage SharePoint Groups in Office 365
Office 365 Groups are open by default, this means anyone is able to create them. Needless to say this isn’t ok with every organization, though I hope one day it’ll be. If you need to manage this, there’s only so much you can do.

Basic configuration and settings per Group

When I say basic, I really mean basic. Groups for Office 365 is the kind of thing that you essentially turn on and watch happen. The only settings or configurations available are around each Group, AFTER it’s created. There’s nothing to help you decide who can create them or assign quotas to the hidden Site Collection created to host the files. Let’s call this very limited management.

Disable Groups for Office 365 with PowerShell

If you’re not ready to have Groups for Office 365 deployed in your tenant, you can choose to disable them. This can only be done through PowerShell, at the moment there’s no way to do this in the Administration Center.

According to Microsoft, the following PowerShell will disable Groups creation:

Set-OwaMailboxPolicy -Identity test.comOwaMailboxPolicy-Default -GroupCreationEnabled $false

Otherwise, PowerShell currently is the preferred method to manage these with numerous commandlets made available for administrators. You can find details here.

Customize your own way to manage Groups

As mentioned for SharePoint management, if you have developers that know how it works you can build your own solutions. Whether it’s a web interface that allows the management of Groups or an app within SharePoint, this is another solution.

3rd Party Tools to manage Groups for Office 365

Though Groups for Office are still relatively new, you can still find some tools that provide limited management for them. Some will focus on the Exchange side of the Groups and others on the SharePoint side of it. This is bound to be the norm until these verticals slowly merge into one and we see more “Office 365 Third Party Tools”.

What does this all mean? Should you even manage Groups for Office 365 or stick with SharePoint Management and leave these groups alone? It’s a real good question as Groups are meant to be open and not necessarily controlled the way we may want to. Yammer allows anyone to create groups and organizations have “Yambassadors” to make sure it is used properly and groups are not duplicated. Perhaps a similar solution for Groups in Office? What do you think?

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