Microsoft Teams vs Groups vs Channels What They Are and How They re Different

Microsoft Teams vs Groups vs Channels: What They Are and How They're Different

By Gary Utley on December 6, 2018

What is the difference between Microsoft Groups and Teams? Though they both facilitate teamwork, they operate differently. Teams, Groups, and Team Channels are all specific entities within the Microsoft framework. Here's how they work, what their advantages are, and when you would be most likely to use them.


An Office 365 Group is a list of Active Directory users who are given access to a set of tools: MS Planner, OneNote, SharePoint, and others. These Active Directory users will have a shared mailbox within Microsoft Office as well as a shared calendar that they can access. Office 365 Groups and Teams can work together and, in fact, creating a Team can automatically generate an Office 365 Group. In effect, creating a group is a "back-end" action which connects users to a number of different tools that they will be using together.

If you have a team that needs to be able to access the same files, Office 365 Groups will allow for this. Once an employee group has been established, an administrator would create an MS Office 365 Group, so that these employees would be able to email their group and reference their calendar.


Teams is a collaborative communication infrastructure that organizes a team's chats, video calls, voice calls, documents, and files. Through Teams, users can connect with each other, hold meetings, reference SharePoint dashboards, and connect with other third-party solutions. In this way, Teams creates a consolidated dashboard of many services, which can include the services that team members are already connected to through Office 365 Groups. Teams can also be used to modify and maintain Office 365 Groups if desired. 

An Office 365 Group may let users connect with each other through OneNote and SharePoint, but it will not offer the communication features and calling features of Microsoft Teams. Instead, users would hold meetings in Teams about documents they had uploaded to their Office 365 Group.


Apart from Microsoft Teams vs Groups, there's also Microsoft Teams vs Channels. Channels are what separates and categorizes communications within Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams provides a channel for each team, and through this channel, the team can quickly communicate with each other, upload data, review data, share screens, and more. Channels are a part of Microsoft Teams specifically, but through Teams can also be used to connect groups. 

A team member might connect to the Microsoft Teams dashboard to send a message to their channel regarding documents that had been uploaded to the Office 365 Group. Users would then navigate to the respective documents -- such as a SharePoint document -- to view it.

While often it seems as though Office 365 and Microsoft Teams might be running counter to each other, they're very well integrated and best used together. Office 365 provides a back-end solution through which groups of Active Directory users can connect to and share the same files, while Microsoft Teams organizes these files and communications. Meanwhile, Channels provide an easy way to segregate information effectively.

Are you ready to learn more about Microsoft Teams? Upgrade to Microsoft Teams today -- or find out more about it -- by contacting Red River.

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