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Microsoft Expands Teams Integrations but Delays Access Feature

Microsoft recently delivered a mixed bag of news to organizations either using or considering the use of its Teams chat service.

On the positive side, Teams now supports integration with third-party cloud storage and file-sharing services such as Box, Dropbox, Citrix ShareFile and Google Drive. On the negative, support for guest access -- which would allow external users like outside contractors, partners, customers and suppliers to participate in Teams groups -- will arrive later than the June timeframe that Microsoft had projected back in March, when Teams first launched.

However, the wait should be brief, according to Suphatra Rufo, a Microsoft Teams program manager who announced the delay last week in a support forum. Although Rufo didn't provide an exact timeframe, she said Microsoft still plans to deliver the external users feature.

"We just are hitting some technical issues," Rufo's explanation read. "The next date is not too far from the original June target. This is a top priority, so trust me when I say you will have it soon!"

Several posters on the forum commented that "soon" is too vague for their liking. "I'm about to launch a multisite project about lean manufacturing," commented someone identified as Gerald Cousins. "Nearly 8 companies, 20+ project leaders to coordinate / inform / communicate. A good opportunity to use Teams. Have you any expected date for availability? So that I can decide to delay ... or to postpone."

A commenter named Marco, who apparently works for a school district, was hopeful the delay would be brief. "This is becoming a real problem now. You 'committed to June' and I relied on this and made commitments for it to my customers. There are school migrations planned during July that rely on this feature. School starts again in August. So, will we be able to use Teams with external access or not."

As for the good news, Microsoft is extending the storage and file sharing options for Teams, which, until now, required organizations to draw from OneDrive and SharePoint. Now Teams members can also integrate with Box, Citrix ShareFile and Google Drive. Office 365 admins can configure the individual storage providers in the Office 365 Admin Center, according to the announcement posted by Katharine Dundas, a Microsoft senior product manager for Office 365.

"By bringing content from Box into Teams, organizations can share their files more easily and collaborate on projects in real time, all while keeping their content securely managed in Box," said Jon Fan, a senior director for product management at Box, in his post announcing the integration with Teams.

Ross Piper, vice president of enterprise at Dropbox, added that the integration of Office 365 and Teams with Dropbox, which is set to be available next month, will make it easier to find, share and gather feedback in a chat without having to leave the conversation.

"Once the integration is authorized by an administrator, users will be able to add Dropbox folders to a channel," said Piper's announcement. "From there, they'll be able to upload files to conversations, and create Office files directly on a shared Dropbox folder in Teams."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.