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Office 365 Groups Now Has Retention, Label and Restore Controls

Microsoft today announced three new tools for IT pros managing Office 365 Groups.

One new capability is the ability to add retention policies for content. Next, the ability to use labels to classify documents and e-mails was added. Lastly, Microsoft activated a 30-day grace period in which deleted groups can still be restored, per its announcement. These tools add to the ones Microsoft rolled out in June.

Office 365 Groups is a new feature that Microsoft is turning on for tenancies. Out of the box, anyone can create a group using the supported Office 365 applications, and these groups automatically get provisioned with member access to a common SharePoint Online Sites Library for file storage, plus access to a common mailbox, calendar, planning tool and OneNote notebook.

Updates to Office 365, like these new management tools, just arrive for tenancies. Sometimes, unpleasant surprises can result. For instance, Microsoft rolled out a private groups creation capability this month to some tenancies. This feature automatically sends group join-up invitations from "managers" in an organization. Consequently, it may have caused its own e-mail event, oblivious to organizational or user intent. IT pros also complained that the private groups feature would just add problems for organizations that have less than perfect Active Directory structures.

New Tools
The new retention policies for Office 365 Groups apply to a group's mailbox and SharePoint site. Content can be retained or deleted over an interval of time based on policy settings. IT pros use the "Retention page" in the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center management portal to specify those settings, according to a Microsoft support document. The retention policies work across Office 365 applications by default. IT pros can specify a retention policy for "an entire organization" or "specific locations or users," according to the support document. One caveat is that Microsoft is requiring Exchange Online Plan 2 licensing if retention policies are created for Exchange Online mailboxes.

The new labels capability is designed to help organizations specify actions based on content types. For instance, retention policies can apply based on a document's label. IT departments can permit end users to create labels for documents manually, or labels can be automatically applied. However, the automatic label approach requires having an Office 365 Enterprise E5 subscription, according to this support document. There's a Labels page in the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center where IT pros can configure how this feature works. Microsoft is recommending the use of the Labels feature to classify content instead of using Exchange Online retention tags or SharePoint Online records and information management policies.

The restore a deleted group feature is also known as a "soft delete" capability that will let a group get restored within a 30-day period. After that period, the group gets permanently deleted. Using this feature requires having the Azure Active Directory PowerShell version 2 preview module installed.

In the Works
In addition to the three new tools now available, Microsoft is promising more will be arriving over "the next three months."

IT pros will be getting an "expiry policy." It can be set to automatically delete a group and "all its associated apps after a specific period," Microsoft's announcement promised.

There will greater control for IT pros on specifying the group names that can be used. Microsoft calls it the "Azure AD naming policy" feature. A list of blocked names can be set. Text can be automatically appended to the beginning or end of group names.

PowerShell cmdlets will be arriving to set the "default Office 365 Groups classification at the tenant level," Microsoft promised.

Lastly, Microsoft plans to make it possible to add a group classification when "creating or editing a group." The policy can be set for "Outlook, SharePoint, Planner, Yammer and StaffHub."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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