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Office 365 Groups Naming Policy

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Introduction

When Office 365 Groups were first released there was not an ability to control the names of Groups at all. One of the primary reasons for this was due to the cross workload functionality that make up Office 365 Groups. As a reminder, an Office 365 Group is the single Azure AD identity service that provides specific membership to Office 365 solutions like SharePoint, Exchange, Planner, Teams, etc. Within each of these workloads you have the ability to create and manage an Office 365 Group. If you make a change within one of workloads, for example SharePoint, there is communication between the workload and Azure AD with notifications on things like creation, changes, and deletions. 

With a separated system and Azure AD as the source, any policies need to be applied at the Azure AD level. As an example, an Exchange naming policy can be used (and at one point was the only option) for Office 365 Groups. If you set a naming policy within Exchange that would only work if you tried creating a group within Exchange. If I was on SharePoint Home and tried to create an Office 365 Group that naming policy would not trigger as I technically not working in Exchange. Exchange would learn about the Group after it is synced back to Azure AD but that would be too late. 

To resolve this issue Microsoft has released Office 365 Group naming policy capabilities at the Azure AD level. A naming policy is very important for proper control and a clean Global Address List (GAL). Since this is in Azure AD now the naming policy is applied to Groups that are created across workloads. 

Details

As I am writing this post in Dec 2017 this is currently still in Private Preview. 

Both of these currently can only be configured with PowerShell. The prerequisites for configuring these can be found in this post: Managing Office 365 Groups using Azure AD PowerShell V2.

The AzureADPreview PowerShell module version 2.0.0.137 is required.

Office 365 Group naming policies can be built using 2 different features and 1 is automatically maintained:

  • Custom blocked words
    • You can set specific blocked words that can be used within Group names. 
  • Prefix-Suffix naming policy
    • Using fixed strings or user attributes, you can add an automated prefix or suffix to a Group name. 
  • Microsoft Standard blocked words list
    • A set of words Microsoft manages that are not allowed. This includes your primary swear words. I tested quite a few good ones and they were all blocked automatically.

These administrators bypass or are exempt from the naming polices you configure but NOT the MS standard blocked words list:

  • Global Administrator
  • Partner Tier 1 Support
  • Partner Tier 2 Support
  • User Account Administrator
  • Directory Writers

Microsoft detailed information for the naming policy can be found here.


Custom blocked words

This is a comma separated list of words that you can configure. These words are blocked in Group names and aliases. Some examples of when you would want to configure blocked words:

  • Your department or business function names because you want to ensure you don’t have duplicate places for content
  • Regulatory words that you may have specific legal requirements around that you need to have more control over
  • Names of roles that you don’t want people to try to impersonate
  • Client, Vendor, or Competitor names

There are some things to know about these blocked words.

  • The checks are done AFTER appending the prefix/suffix to the Group name
    • If things like underscores (_) or dashes (-) are used in prefix/suffix they could stop your blocked word from working if there are no spaces
  • No sub-string searches are done
    • If “Drew” is the blocked word, “Andrew” would still work
  • Not case-sensitive
  • No character restrictions
  • No limit on the amount of words

Steps to set the Custom Blocked words

This is assuming you already have a directory settings template created, details in prior post, and connection information from the first section.

1 – Connect to Azure AD via PowerShell.

2 – Use comma delimited values for the blocked words.

3 – Review your updated settings; you can now see the default values for the directory settings object.


Prefix-Suffix naming policy

These can either be fixed strings or actually attributes from the user themselves. These 2 types of capabilities are stored within 1 overall string that is concatenated. Because of this, you must always have [GroupName] included in your setting. That is how you are able to have a prefix & a suffix. 

Some examples of using strings:

  • GRP [GroupName]
    • This puts the fixed string of “GRP ” before all of your Group names
  • #[GroupName] Group
    • This will put the # symbol at the front of the Group name for better sorting in the GAL and then ” Group” as a suffix for better clarity
    • Special characters are removed from the Alias
  • OGRP – [GroupName]
    • Dashes can be used for separation as spaces are removed automatically in the Group Alias (like the rest of the special characters). That means “OGRP – Drew” as a group name becomes “OGRP-Drew@domain.com” as the alias instead of “OGRPDrew@domain.com”.

The next type of thing you can add are Azure AD user attributes. The following attributes are supported: [Department], [Company], [Office], [StateOrProvince], [CountryOrRegion], [Title], [CountryCode]

Some examples of using attributes:

  • [Department] – [GroupName]
    • This will pull the users department stored in Azure AD before the Group name
  • [CountryCode] – GRP – [GroupName]
    • This will first put the Country Code stored in Azure AD followed by a fixed string and then the Group name

There are some things to know about using attributes.

  • The total prefix/suffix + string length is restricted to 53 characters
  • Empty attributes for users will be filled in with blank values. It is best to ensure your Azure AD information is fully established before using these attributes.
  • Extension attributes and custom attributes are not supported
    • If you put it in an unsupported attribute it just comes across as text

Steps to set the Prefix – Suffix naming policy

This is assuming you already have a directory settings template created, details in prior post.

1 – Use comma delimited values for the blocked words.

2 – Review your updated settings; you can now see the default values for the directory settings object.


Microsoft standard blocked words

There are a lot of unprofessional words naturally in the English language that most likely should never be part of an Office 365 Group name. This includes a primary set of things like swear words and other inappropriate words that your imagination may be able to come up with. This is a single setting to turn on the blocked words or off. 

Steps to set the Microsoft blocked words

This is assuming you already have a directory settings template created, details in prior post, and connection information from the first section.

1 – Use comma delimited values for the blocked words.

2 – Review your updated settings; you can now see the default values for the directory settings object.


And when you put it all together!

You get a blocked word of CEO and a naming policy pulling in a prefix of “GRP – ” with an Azure AD department of “NFL” and a suffix of ” – CEO”. You will also see the alias removing the spaces.


Where does the naming policy actually work?

As there are a lot of workloads across Office 365 that utilize Groups there are a lot of places that these policies need to work. Currently it is not supported in every workload. Microsoft has the detailed information for what is supported in their support article here

Here is the current breakdown in Dec 2017.

Where it works:

  • Outlook on the Web
  • Outlook Client – Doesn’t preview
  • Outlook Mobile – Doesn’t preview
  • Teams
  • SharePoint
  • Stream
  • Groups mobile app
  • Planner
  • Dynamics 365
  • Exchange PowerShell
  • Azure AD PowerShell
  • O365 Admin Center

Where it doesn’t:

  • Power BI workspace
  • Yammer
  • StaffHub
  • Azure AD Portal

Licensing

Any Office 365 subscription that has Exchange Online and SharePoint Online will support groups. That includes the Business Essentials and Business Premium plans, and the Enterprise E1, E3 and E5 plans.

There is a large collection of features that require specific types of Azure AD licenses. The Office 365 Groups naming policy requires Azure AD Premium P1 licenses for any users who are part of Office 365 Groups.

The full collection of licensing information is listed from Microsoft here.

Recovering a Deleted Office 365 Group via PowerShell

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Introduction

Ever since Office 365 Groups were released which feels like many moons ago now, when it was deleted, it was unrecoverable.  So if you either on purpose or accidentally deleted an Office 365 Group you lost all your data.  You lost your SharePoint site, Planner data, Outlook mailbox…all of it.  There was a checkbox that you had to check in most places letting you know that deletion was permanent.  What began happening though with the proliferation of Groups throughout Office 365 there was a ton of ways and places to delete a Group.  Last time I tried counting there was at least 16 different ways to delete a Group.  That is a ton of places for UI to be just different enough and someone to make a mistake.  This was also a large concern for regulated or very security aware environments.  The ability to discover and recover critical data can be mandatory in these environments.  That means the lack of ability to restore Groups could be a single bottle neck to stop usage of such a helpful technology. 

Thankfully our wait is now no more and we can recover a deleted Office 365 Group.  The message that this was rolling out appeared in Message Centers today and the Office 365 Roadmap has already been updated that this has been launched. 

Here is the announcement on the Tech Community site and the supporting Microsoft Documentation


NOTE: I am writing this right around the launch date of this feature and will try to keep this post updated if anything changes

What you need to know

  • Currently you can only recover them via PowerShell with GUI coming later
  • You have 30 days from the deletion of the Group to recover it, if not it will be permanently deleted
  • You cannot restore a group if a group with the same SMTP address or alias now exists (that new group would have to be deleted first)
  • It could take up to 24 hours to restore in rare cases
  • You can permanently delete a Group within the 30 days 
  • Content that currently gets restored includes:
    • AD Groups Object including properties and members
    • SMTP address
    • Exchange mailbox & calendar
    • SharePoint Online site
    • OneNote notebook hosted on the SPO site
    • Planner
    •  Additionally if you have a connected Microsoft Team or Office 365 Connected Yammer group those can be restored as well

Prerequisites:

  • Azure AD PowerShell V2 – Preview 
    • The release of the cmdlets that support Office 365 Group recovery are now available only in the preview cmdlets. 
    • I am writing this using version 2.0.0.98 

Steps to recover a deleted Office 365 Group

In my example I have a Group called InterestGroup1 which was deleted and can no longer be seen:

1 – Connect to Azure AD via PowerShell (ensure you connect to Preview)

2 – Review the Office 365 Groups that have been deleted and can be recovered 

I included the list of properties in this for visibility to see everything returned in the recoverable Group object.  You only need Get-AzureADMSDeletedGroup,  ”  | select * ”  is not required. 

3 – Select the Group you want to recover and ensure that you selected a group

Replace “ENTER GROUP DISPLAY NAME HERE” with the appropriate name of the Group you want to recover.  I put this together so you just need to enter the Group Display Name instead of copying the GUID but entering just the ID is also valid in the next step.

4 – Recover your Group

You can run the command from step 2 above to review that your Group you are recovering is no longer in the Deleted Group list.

5 – Confirm you Group has been recovered

After some time it will start popping back up in the GUI.


Steps to permanently delete an Office 365 Group

You can also delete a Group that is in the pending 30 day deletion using this process.  This will delete everything and not be recoverable. 

1 – Follow steps 1 through 3 above to connect to Azure AD and get the group you want to recover in the $deletedgroup variable.  

Instead of using the Restore-AzureADMSDeletedDirectoryObject cmdlet use the Remove-AzureADMSDeletedDirectoryObject cmdlet and passing the Group ID.

2 – Review the Office 365 Group has been deleted