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Understanding Microsoft's Group Types: Definitions, Features & Group Nesting - part 1


Welcome, fellow Microsoft 365 adventurers! Today, we're diving into the world of group types and group nesting. From cybersecurity heroes to email chaos wranglers, we'll explore Microsoft's quirky cast of characters. Join me on this digital rollercoaster as we unravel the mysteries of group nesting and navigate the whimsical land of Microsoft 365.

So, buckle up, because this blog post is the first installment of my series – your passport to understanding group types and nesting in the Microsoft 365 universe. Let the adventure commence! 🚀🤖

Table of contents

1. Group definitions

1.1. Security Group

A security group is a collection of user accounts, computer accounts, service accounts, or other security groups that are created for the purpose of managing access permissions. These groups are used to simplify the administration of access to resources such as files, folders, SharePoint sites, and other elements within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem.

1.2. Microsoft 365 Group

A Microsoft 365 Group is a collaboration feature that brings together people, conversations, and tools. It includes a shared mailbox, calendar, file repository, and more, fostering seamless communication and collaboration.

1.3. Distribution List

A Distribution List is a mail-enabled object used for sending emails to a predefined list of recipients. It simplifies communication by allowing you to email multiple people using a single group email address.

1.4. Mail-Enabled Security Group

A Mail-Enabled Security Group combines the features of a security group and a distribution list. It allows for both security-related functions, such as permission assignments, and distribution of emails.

2. Creating Groups in Microsoft 365

Ah, Microsoft, the maestro orchestrating the digital circus, where consistency is like a rare Pokémon – hard to catch. If Microsoft decided to make all their admin centers sing the same tune, we might question if we accidentally stumbled into a tech Twilight Zone. In the Azure Active Directory (Azure AD)/ Entra portal, it's a smooth cha-cha for creating Security Groups and Microsoft 365 Groups – a dance into the world of permissions. Now, shimmy over to the Microsoft 365 Admin Centre, the admin equivalent of a buffet, serving up Teams, Microsoft 365 Groups, Distribution Lists, Security Groups, and Mail-Enabled Security Groups. Admin life, a delightful mix of options, right? But hold on, the Exchange Admin Centre has its own VIP lounge, exclusive for crafting Microsoft 365 Groups, Distribution Lists (dynamic ones included), and Mail-Enabled Security Groups. Who needs consistency when you can have an admin fiesta with all the groups? Microsoft, you sly admin trickster, keeping us grooving to your beat! 🕺💻

Behold, the navigational roadmap! The table below offers a visual compass, guiding you through the eclectic landscape of Microsoft 365 admin centers, highlighting where each group creation magic happens. 🗺️✨

Group Type

Admin Centre where the creation of this particular group type is available in

Security Group

Microsoft 365 Admin Centre (; Azure portal ( Entra portal (

Microsoft 365 Group

Microsoft 365 Admin Centre (; Exchange Admin Centre (; Azure portal ( Entra portal (

Distribution List

Microsoft 365 Admin Centre (; Exchange Admin Centre (;

Mail Enabled Security Group

Microsoft 365 Admin Centre (; Exchange Admin Centre (;

3. Understanding Group Nesting

Group nesting involves placing one group inside another, creating a hierarchical structure. This arrangement aids in managing permissions and communication within an organisation effectively.

4. Key points about group nesting

  • Security groups can be nested with another security group via the Azure AD/ Entra portal and Microsoft 365 admin centre.

  • Microsoft 365 Groups cannot be nested with any other group.

  • Distribution groups can be nested with another distribution group, but only through the Exchange Admin Centre or Microsoft 365 Admin Centre.

  • Mail-Enabled Security Groups can be nested with another Mail-Enabled Security Group, but only through the Exchange Admin Centre or Microsoft 365 Admin Centre.

5. Group Nesting Limitations

  • Security groups cannot be nested with a Microsoft 365 Group nor a Distribution List.

  • You can nest a Security Group with a Mail-Enabled Security Group (only via Azure/Entra portal or Microsoft 365 admin centre).

  • Microsoft 365 Groups cannot be nested with Distribution Lists or Mail-Enabled Security Groups.

  • Distribution Lists cannot be nested with Microsoft 365 Groups.

  • You can nest a Distribution List with a Mail-Enabled Security Group (only via Exchange Admin Centre or Microsoft 365 Admin Centre).

6. Key takeaways

The essential understandings of group nesting complexities are concisely depicted in the matrix diagram below. This matrix serves as a quick guide, presenting insights into Microsoft 365 group relationships, covering nuances, limitations, and compatibility with ease.

A printable nested group matrix can be downloaded below.

Welka's World- Printable nested groups matrix
Download PDF • 332KB

7. Summary

As we conclude this inaugural expedition into the intricacies of Microsoft's group types, we've not only unraveled the digital tapestry of Security Groups, Microsoft 365 Groups, Distribution Lists, and Mail-Enabled Security Groups but also danced through the admin centers – a symphony of options echoing in the halls of Microsoft's circus. The roadmap and matrix provided serve as your trusty navigational tools through this whimsical landscape, ensuring you can effortlessly choreograph the creation and nesting of groups in the Microsoft 365 universe. Armed with this knowledge, may your journey through the digital underbrush be filled with confident steps, avoiding those elusive digital banana peels. Stay tuned for more adventures in the realm of Microsoft 365 group dynamics, as we delve deeper into the nuances and unveil the secrets of effective group nesting. Until then, happy navigating! 🚀💼


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