Information Technology Services
Information Technology Services

Office 365 Group Usage Guidelines


Office 365 is Queen's chosen suite of collaboration tools to support educational, research, and administrative services of the University.

Office 365 Groups serve to unify collaboration technologies across Office 365 as a cross-application membership service that enables teams to collaborate effectively and securely by establishing a single team identity and single set of permissions to a collection of Office 365 resources.

The Queen’s Office 365 Group Usage Guidelines (herein referred to as the "Guidelines”) outline the roles and responsibilities, policies, and processes that guide, direct, and govern the management and operation of Office 365 groups. The Guidelines must be considered when creating, managing, using, deleting or archiving Office 365 Groups.

Office 365 is an evolving service provided by Microsoft and administered by Queen’s Information Technology Services (ITS). As such the Guidelines are reviewed and/or updated on a regular basis by ITS to ensure alignment with any changes to either Queen’s Office 365 or Microsoft Office 365 service offerings. All users are responsible for ensuring that they are up-to-date with the Guidelines and Office 365 service offering.



The Guidelines apply to all Office 365 Groups whether created through Outlook, Planner, Microsoft Teams, Stream, Yammer, or any other application using the Office 365 Groups membership service, and similarly covers content generated while using any of the resources and features within Office 365 Groups, including but not limited to:

  • Shared inbox
  • Shared calendar
  • Shared OneNote notebook
  • SharePoint Team site and document library
  • Planner
  • Microsoft Teams chat
  • Yammer feed



The Guidelines apply to all Queen's faculty, staff and students, as well as to contractors or agents engaged by a department or employee, or any individual using Queen's IT resources, whether on-campus or remotely. The Guidelines also apply to alumni, external consultants and partners, and any other guests or external users that may have authorized access.


Governing Policies

Users of the Office 365 service are governed by policies of the Electronic Information Security Policy Framework, including the Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources. Failure to comply may result, at a minimum, with suspension of service.


Appropriate Use and Eligibility​

  • Office 365 Groups (herein referred to as “Groups”) enables teams to come together and communicate in a shared collaborative workspace and provides a collection of resources for team members to share, and as such Groups should only be created where there is a need to collaborate and communicate between a number of users, such as a team.
  • Groups should never be created for individual use. Individuals should use their OneDrive for Business space when working on documents with a smaller number of collaborators (e.g. 1:1 or 1:few). Groups with less than three users may be subject to removal.
  • All current staff, faculty, and students of Queen's University, with an active Queen's email account, are eligible to create Groups through self-service in Outlook, Planner, Microsoft Teams, Stream, Yammer.


Group Owners

  • The user who creates a Group is automatically assigned the role of the Group owner.
  • Group owners have administrative privileges in the Group. An owner can add or remove other owners, members and guests, approve requests from members to add a guest, and have unique permissions like the ability to delete conversations from the shared inbox. Group owners can change the display name of the Group, update the description or picture, change Group settings, and more.
  • Owners have the ability to connect an existing Group (applies to private Groups without hidden membership) to a Microsoft Team (refer to: Create a team from an existing group).

Group Owners are responsible for:

  • Reading, understanding and adhering to the Guidelines, including governing University policies, standards, and best practices.
  • Ensuring that the Group has been named appropriately, a description of the Group has been provided, and the group has been classified according to Queen's University Data Classification Standards.
  • Ensuring that the Group has at least two active owners.
  • Ensuring that new owners are appointed prior to their departure from the Group.
  • Ensuring that access to the Group and associated content is managed appropriately. This includes removing access when access is no longer needed or warranted.
  • Ensuring that storage space is used optimally and that University Records are managed in accordance with the Queen's University Records Management and Privacy Office guidelines and practices.


Group Members

  • Group members are the individuals who use the Group to collaborate. They have shared access to everything in the Group but can't change Group settings or manage users. Group members can invite guests (subject to owner approval) to join the Group.

Group members are responsible for:

  • Reading, understanding and adhering to the Guidelines, including governing University policies, standards, and best practices.


Group Identification and Naming

  • Every Group has a corresponding GroupID. The format of the Group ID is "GROUP-NAME", where GROUP is an administrative prefix designating it as an Office 365 Group and cannot be changed. The NAME is the Group's name defined by the Group owner. Important: The prefix is automatically added by the system. If you include the prefix, "GROUP-", to the NAME, the resulting Group ID will be "GROUP-GROUP-NAME".
  • With the exception of a Group created in Yammer, the Group ID forms the basis of the Group email address. The Group ID and email address cannot be changed after the Group is created, but the owner can change the Group's display name through the Group's settings.
  • Group names should not give a false or ambiguous idea of, or misrepresent, the Group. As such they should not include unfamiliar acronyms, general terms, personal name(s), or names that have priority by other departments or business units of which they are not affiliated with (e.g. HR, ITS, Principal's Office etc.).
  • It is recommended that whenever possible that the standard abbreviation for the faculty, school, department, or association (e.g. HR-, ITS-, EDUC-, AMS-, etc.) to which the Group belongs precede the name (e.g. DEPT-NAME).
  • The Group name can include hyphens and/or underscores. Any other special characters will not appear in the Group ID, and thus the Group's email address.
  • A Group with an inappropriate or objectionable name or content may be removed at any time.
  • Names containing offensive characters or words will be subject to immediate removal.
  • If you are uncertain about naming the Group, please contact the IT Support Centre before creating it.


Privacy Settings

  • Private Group: Only approved members and guests can access the Group.
  • Public Group: Access is open to all Queen's Office 365 users including staff, faculty, students, alumni, retirees, and invited guests.
  • Note: The default privacy setting for a Group is Private. Group owners can change the privacy setting (refer to: Make Office 365 groups public or private).


Hidden Membership

  • Hidden membership parameter can only be set at the time of Group creation by an Office 365 administrator and cannot be changed after the Group has been created. Users who require a Group with hidden membership to comply with FIPPA have two options:
  1. Outlook Group: Users will need to submit their request for an Outlook group with Hidden Membership using the Hidden Membership Group Request Form. Note: Outlook groups with hidden membership cannot be connected to Microsoft Teams.
  2. Microsoft Team Classes Team: If you would like a Microsoft Team with hidden membership, please create a "Classes" Team through Microsoft Teams self-service (refer to: Create a team for classes in Microsoft Teams).


Storage Quota


Data Retention and Removal

  • In establishing a Group, a Group owner is considered to be the Information Custodian. An Information Custodian is responsible for maintaining appropriate controls to guard against unauthorized access, modification or deletion, and inappropriate use or disclosure, whether intentional or unintended, of records within the Group's shared space.
  • In accordance with the Queen's University Records Management Policy, Information Custodians must retain and dispose of records in accordance with Queen's University Archives Records Retention Schedules to protect them from improper disposal. If you require advice or assistance prior to deletion or when transferring records out of a Group's shared space contact the University Records Manager.


Inactive Groups

  • Information Custodians need to be aware that Groups that have been inactive for a period of 365 days or more may be deleted by ITS. ITS will notify Information Custodians prior to deletion, but if they receive no response, the Group will be deleted. If a Group is deleted, by ITS or proactively by an Information Custodian, all the records associated with the Group's shared space will be deleted as well.


Group without Owners

  • Information Custodians and Group members need to be aware that ownerless or orphaned Groups may be deleted by ITS. ITS will notify Group members prior to deletion, but if they receive no response, the Group will be deleted. If a Group is deleted by ITS, all the records associated with the Group's shared space will be deleted as well.



  • Group owners have the ability to delete a Group, but do not have the ability to recover a Group. Note: if you delete an Outlook group, Planner plan, Stream group, Microsoft Team or Yammer group, you are deleting the underlying Group and all of the Group's content.
  • The content of a deleted Group may be recoverable by an Office 365 administrator provided that a request to recover is made within 30 days from the date of Group deletion. Beyond the 30 days the Group cannot be recovered. The Group owner can make a recovery request by contacting the IT Support Centre.


Sharing with External and Anonymous Users

  • Sharing with external and anonymous users is enabled for Groups.
  • External and anonymous users are users who do not have a license to the Queen's University Office 365 subscription and are limited to basic collaboration tasks through the use of sharing links. If you or your group perform work that involves sharing documents or collaborating directly with vendors, contractors, consultants, researchers, clients, or customers outside of Queen's University, you can use external sharing features of SharePoint Online to give them access to certain areas of the Office 365 Group, Microsoft Team, or to specific files and folders in an associated SharePoint Team site or document library. For more information on sharing links and external sharing capabilities, refer to: Share SharePoint files or folders.
  • External users must not be granted any admin privileges.
  • Group owners and/or members are responsible for ensuring that external user access is removed and anonymous sharing links are disabled when no longer needed or warranted.
  • If information within the Group should never be shared with external users, group owners can request a more restrictive sharing option by contacting the IT Support Centre.


Guest Access

  • Guest access is enabled for Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams.
  • Guests are users who do not have a license to the Queen's University Office 365 subscription, and only require a valid email address to be added to a Group as a guest member.
  • Guests can participate in Group conversations, receive and respond to calendar invitations, and access the Group files. For more information, including guest capabilities, refer to: Guest access in Office 365 groups and Guest Capabilities in Teams.
  • Group owners are responsible for ensuring that only those that need access are added as guests and that guests are removed when access is no longer needed or warranted.


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Last Updated: April 23, 2020