In the Office 365 Online, there are 3 primitive types of group:

  • Distribution Group or Distribution List
  • Dynamic Distribution List
  • Security Groups

Office 365 has its own group named as Office 365 Group. This group resembles with Distribution List. But, it can be seen from various perspectives that Distribution Lists are outdated. On the contrary, Office 365 Groups are improving continuously and it is a recommended service. Now the question arises if both offer the same service then, how are they different? The post deals with the differentiation of Office 365 Groups with Distribution List of the Exchange Server. Before jumping on differences, let us first discuss the similarities that these two features possess.

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Similarities of Office 365 Groups and Distribution Lists

Distribution Lists are common for Office 365 admin as well as Exchange Server users. Distribution list came to a glance in the recent past and it is quite simple to understand. They enable a user to write as well as forward the emails to a group of users. The group can be of any type, whether people in the same department, in the same office or the entire organization. This feature is widely used in Outlook.

Another analogy between both these services is Office 365 Groups and DLs are managed and organized in the same way. However, cmdlets used in both the cases are different. In fact, if the cmdlet has been changed from New-DistributionGroup (Exchange Server) to New-UnifiedGroup (Office 365) and the parameters should be same, the code will run with no problem. Even from the EAC point of view, Office 365 Groups and DLs are very similar.

Differences in Office 365 Groups and Distribution Lists

The most remarkable cause of using Office 365 Groups is developing association. Although Distribution List offers the same function, Office 365 exhibits some additional features. The first difference is Office 365 Groups have a shared mailbox as well as a calendar. This implies that emails are not sent to all the members who are added to the Distribution list. They are saved in another mailbox. The shared calendar gives out the features which were initially used by public folders only.

But, the differences stated above will be categorized under Outlook and OWA services. Office 365 exhibits feature which can do more than this. As per the user requirement, a group can be made with the associated SharePoint library, Microsoft teams, OneNote notebook, Planner, Yammer, and PowerBI. Some other differences can be observed in EAC. Office 365 has the same features as exhibited by Distribution list. Additionally, it contains 2 other features: Privacy and Subscribes members.

Additional Services Offered by Office 365 Groups

Privacy: (or – AccessType in PowerShell) explains the type of group. Anybody can view the conversation and content of a public folder. The unique feature is any user can join this group. Moreover, the permission of group owner is not required. This is an advanced feature as compared to Office 365.

Subscribe Members: Subscribing a group is different from joining the group. When a user will be subscribed to a group, he/she will know everything happening there. The option of Subscribe member makes subscription automatic. This option includes a high-risk factor because it will result in the increment of a number of notifications that a user will receive. Receiving notifications are good in the sense a user will be updated. But, this will affect the performance of the application. The good news is users can change the subscription settings, which disallow the automatic subscription option.

The Final Words

Now, the difference between Office 365 and Distribution List should be clear. Even though both are used for the same objective i.e. sending emails to multiple users, Office 365 offers many advanced features. In simpler words, Office 365 Group is Distribution List plus more.


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