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Office 365 Groups Get New Automatic Renewals Policy

Microsoft changed group expiration controls for Office 365 so that groups now automatically renew with user activity, according to a Monday announcement.

With the new policy, now at the "general availability" commercial-release state, groups will get automatically renewed if certain user activity has occurred before a group's expiration date. These activities might include members of a group uploading a SharePoint document, sending an e-mail to the group via Outlook or visiting a Microsoft Teams channel, according to the announcement.

The new policy slightly alters the current Office 365 groups expiration policy that was established last year within the Azure Active Directory Admin Center portal. Essentially, organizations set a time for Office 365 groups to expire. If "group owners" (typically certain end users) don't renew their groups before this expiration deadline, then they'll get sent a series of e-mail reminders at 30 days, 15 days and one day before end. If there's no response, though, the group gets automatically "soft deleted" but it can still be restored within 30 days' time. After that 30-day period, though, the group gets permanently deleted. Microsoft's new policy stops the group's expiration based on user actions.

The new policy applies to organizations that have set up Office 365 group policies via the Azure AD Admin Center portal or Azure AD PowerShell. It works across various Office 365 applications, such as the groups used for "Outlook, SharePoint, Teams, Yammer and others."

One catch for organizations is that the ability to set expiration policies for Office 365 groups depends on having an Azure AD Premium subscription for all group members. Here's how this Microsoft document expressed the point:

Configuring and using the expiration policy for Office 365 groups requires you to possess but not necessarily assign Azure AD Premium licenses for the members of all groups to which the expiration policy is applied.

Right now, it's just possible to set one expiration policy for "all Office 365 groups in an Azure AD organization," according to Microsoft's document.

The types of user actions that have the effect of automatically renewing Office 365 groups with the new policy are described in the following list:

  • SharePoint -- View, Edit, Download, Move, Share, Upload Files
  • Outlook -- Join group, Read/write group message from group space, Like a message (OWA)
  • Teams -- Visit a Teams channel

This list of actions likely will get updated at some point, though, Microsoft indicated.

Microsoft came up with the new Office 365 groups expiration policy in response to user feedback. The policy change aims to "strike a balance between cleaning up unused groups and ensuring any valuable groups do not get deleted unintentionally, causing data loss," the announcement explained.

About the Author

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

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