Comparing Microsoft 365 Groups, Teams and Distribution Lists

Microsoft 365, Azure Active Directory and Outlook/Exchange offer several different types of groups which have different purpose and functionality. In the past, the most commonly used were e-mail distribution groups (also called distribution lists, or e-mail groups). These were later superseded by Microsoft 365 Groups (sometime called just groups). Nowadays, these have been replaced by teams that basically are Microsoft 365 Groups with additional features that allow their content to be accessed using the Microsoft Teams app.

A distribution list is a grouping of people that exist in University of Windsor Azure Active Directory and is accessible through the Offline Global Address List feature in Outlook. Each distribution list has a dedicated e-mail address assigned to it. When an e-mail message is sent to a distribution list using either list's name or e-mail address, a copy of it gets delivered to each member of the list. The main problem with distribution lists is that you don’t gain access to previously distributed information if you were not a member at the time the message was sent. Also, people who are not listed in this directory, cannot be added to distribution lists.

Users can also create their own e-mail distribution lists called Contact Groups in Outlook. These can include members selected from the Global Address List as well as local Outlook Contacts (incl. people from outside of the University).

Microsoft 365 Group is a more persistent entity than an e-mail distribution list because while you can use a group like a regular distribution list, it also stores previously distributed e-mails as discussion threads for new members to discover when they join. In some ways, Office 365 group behaves like traditional e-mail distribution list in that you can send a message to it and have it delivered to all the group members. From the e-mail perspective, a Microsoft 365 Group is a cross between the traditional distribution list and a shared mailbox. The main differentiating feature of MS365 Groups from legacy e-mail distribution lists is that in addition to a dedicated group e-mail address, and members list, each MS365 Group also has storage assigned to it in Sharepoint and a web interface that members of the group can use to access group's files through OneDrive. Once enabled as a team all contents of the MS 365 Group can be accessed using the Microsoft Teams app which provides some additional functionality.


Distribution List


Contact Group


Office 365 Group




Send a copy of an e-mail message to all members. Yes Yes Yes Yes
Store copy of each past message sent to the group in shared mailbox. No No Yes Yes
Expand groups' name into members in Outlook. Yes Yes No No
Dedicated e-mail address. Yes No Yes Yes
Sharepoint storage for files. No No Yes Yes
Dedicated Calendar. No No Yes Yes
Dedicated OneNote Notebook. No No Yes Yes
Planer, Site, Connectors. No No Yes Yes
Web interface. No No Yes Yes
Content accessible in Microsoft Teams with additional functionality. No No No Yes


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Article ID: 12005
Thu 3/31/16 2:19 PM
Mon 7/25/22 10:57 AM

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