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Office 365 Group or Communication Site?

Paper or plastic – this was the phrase I uttered to shoppers when I used to pack bags in a supermarket. When I immigrated to the US in 1993, packing bags was my first, real job. And I loved it! Being an introvert, I did not have to talk much, other than ask them this one question and then pack their groceries. It was nice and easy and, for the most part, was a pleasant experience, except for those situations when I accidentally put a gallon of milk on top of their eggs.

Well, now that I work with SharePoint, I ask my clients a different question: Office 365 Group or Communication Site? These are the two choices we currently have in SharePoint Online (Office 365), and the decision is far more dramatic than choosing between paper and plastic bags (maybe not, because climate change is real and plastic is bad for the environment). Let me explain to you the difference between the two types of sites to help with the decision-making.

Communication Site

Let’s start with an easy one. A communication site is meant for one-way communication. Meaning, no collaboration. A good example: Human Resources Employee site. A site where you need to share info with others. Like the latest news, company policies, links to health insurance enrollment (for those of us who live in the USA and need to pay for private medical insurance 😥 ). Essentially, the Communication site is a one-way street. In most cases, only a subset of users will be site members, and the rest will be Visitors (read-only).

Use cases for a Communication site:

  • An Intranet Landing Page
  • A company event that you want to share with and communicate to employees
  • Department employee-facing site
  • New Product Launch Site
  • Any site that needs to be visually appealing, yet, does not require an Office 365 Group

Office 365 Group or Communication Site

An example of a Communication Site

Office 365 Group (Team Site)

This is the most common type of site you will have in your environment. You will set it up anytime you need to collaborate with the team. It is meant for two-way communication and collaboration. I described what an Office 365 Group is here. The idea is that all site (Group) members will have add/edit/delete rights to the SharePoint site itself + all the other bells and whistles you get as part of the Group (Outlook Calendar, Planner, Teams).

Use cases for an Office 365 Group (Team Site)

  • Department Team Sites
  • Project Sites
  • Client Sites
  • Ad-hoc team sites

Office 365 Group or Communication Site

An example of an Office 365 Group Site

Team Site without an Office 365 Group

Now, there is a third option as well, and that is a Modern Team Site, not connected to an Office 365 Group. Say, you do like the layout/look and feel of an Office 365 Group Site, but do not need Planner, Teams, or Outlook connected to it. There is a way to create one, but it is only available to SharePoint Administrators. Here is how to do it:

Instructions

  1. Navigate to Office 365 Admin Center
  2. Choose SharePoint Admin Center
  3. From the Active Sites, choose Create
  4. Choose Other Options
  5. From the drop-down, choose Team Site (it should be a default setting). Then complete the remaining fields, like you usually would for a Communication or Office 365 Group Site. Click Finish.
  6. And the Team Site (without an Office 365 Group Site) is created! It looks like an Office 365 Group Site, just not connected to an Office 365 Group.

Ability to connect a site to an Office 365 Group

If down the road, you decide all of the sudden that you need the collaboration features of an Office 365 Group, you will be able to upgrade (connect) your modern site to an Office 365 Group. I described how to do this here.

Use Cases for Modern Team sites without an Office 365 Group

  • Project sites or Client Sites where document storage and collaboration is the top priority over team communication
  • Externally-facing client sites
  • Archive site whose objective is to serve as an archive of content
  • If you need to create and replicate an Office 365 Group based on a template. I provide instructions on how to do this here.

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