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A new Team or a Private Channel?

When you have several options to choose from – it is inevitable that you end up with questions on which option is the best in your specific scenario. That is exactly the situation with Microsoft Teams and Channels. Should you create a brand new Team or just a Private Channel within an existing Team? That is the question I get quite often lately, so naturally, I decided to document my thoughts and advice in this article.

What is a Team?

If you are reading this article, you are most likely already familiar with what a Team is. It is a chat-based application that allows you to collaborate with your colleagues in real-time. Besides having real-time chat and video web conference capabilities, Teams is a one-stop-shop in terms of collaboration, bringing together files and many other applications into a single workspace.

A new Team or a Private Channel

It is important to note that Teams are part of a Microsoft 365 Group. So anytime a new Team is created, so are the other assets (SharePoint site, Planner, Outlook calendar, etc.). Need to understand Microsoft 365 Group better? Check out this post.

What is a Channel?

A channel is a way to separate conversations in Teams. By default, when a new Team is created, you have one channel called General, but you can create other channels. Think of channels as different threads of conversation.

For example, in a Project Team, you might have a Channel for Business Requirements discussion, a channel for Financials, and a channel for an Implementation strategy.

A new Team or a Private Channel

Standard vs. Private Channels

A cool thing with the channels is that you can create either a standard channel (by default) or a private channel. Standard channel conversations are accessible and visible to all the team members, while Private channels are only accessible to those who are part of that channel.

Another major difference between standard and private channels is that files stored within a standard channel are stored within a folder on a SharePoint site. In contrast, private channels have their own SharePoint site for files stored there. I documented this mechanism in this post.

A new Team or a Private Channel

It is important to know that you have to be a team member to have access to either a standard or private channel within a Team!

Team and Channel Limitations

The following are known limitations we have at the moment. To clarify, there are many more that exist, but these will impact our decision.

  • Max of 500,000 teams within the organization (try exceeding that!)
  • Max of 200 Standard Channels per Team
  • Max of 30 Private Channels per Team

A new Team or a Private Channel?

In most (but not all) instances,  a new Team is always almost better than a Private channel within a Team. Please also consider the following arguments that might influence your decision:

  • Limit on the number of channels: With a limit of 200 standard Channels and 30 private channels, if you plan to use them for projects, legal cases, etc., you will likely max out sooner than later. You can create up to 500,000 Teams – so do the math!
  • Archival: It is super easy to archive a team, not even possible with a channel
  • Shared Resources: When you create a new channel, you share the same Microsoft 365 Group Resources with the other channels (Calendar, Planner, etc.). It might become messy to manage.
  • Limited apps for Private Channel: If you opt for private channels – you would not be able to add some Apps as tabs like you normally would for standard channels. This is “by design.” For example, at the moment, you can’t add the Planner (Tasks) tab to a Private Channel or a Channel Calendar app to a Private Channel.

Create a New Private Channel if:

  • You would like to have a designated area for specific discussion related to an existing Team
  • You would like to have a private chat with some select members of the team who already have access to the team
  • You don’t mind sharing the same resources used by the Channel with other team members who are not part of the channel (i.e., SharePoint site, Outlook Calendar, Planner, etc.)
  • You have invited external users (guests) into your Team and need to have a separate place for internal conversations and files not accessible by external users

Create a new Team if:

  • You need to have a designated area for conversations and other applications not related to another team
  • You need to invite internal or external users who need access to the specific content and resources not to be shared with others
  • You have a large number (hundreds) of projects, cases, etc.

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