New Distribution Group in Office 365

Exchange Online and Exchange Server have a lot of similarities, but with Microsoft improving its cloud services, Exchange Online also has its differences. One of these new features is Office 365 Groups. Office 365 Groups are a useful feature that was added to Exchange Online, but sometimes a simple distribution list is all that is needed. Exchange Online, like Exchange Server, provide two methods for creating groups – EAC or PowerShell.

You would expect that creating a Distribution Group in Exchange Online and Exchange Server would be the same because the code bases are similar. Well, this seems to have changed because creating a simple Distribution Group in Office 365 is not the same in the EAC as it is on an Exchange Server. To create a Distribution in Office 365, you can log into the normal Office 365 Portal, then select the Exchange Admin Center:


Once in the Exchange Admin center, navigate to Recipients – Groups:


Clicking on the ‘+’ Drop Down allows you to start the new distribution list, but notice what is provided is a wizard to create an Office 365 group:


If you choose to create a new Office 365 Group, the same wizard appears. Now, the Security Group wizard still looks good as does the new Dynamic Distribution Group wizard. So what’s going on here? First, we can turn on a feature called ‘Show Command Logging’ – Find it here. This feature was introduced with Exchange Server 2013 SP1 and was also included in Office 365 servers as well. So, if we turn that feature on and then create the Distribution Group, you will see something like the below screenshot:


As you can see, instead of using the regular Distribution Group cmdlets, we have Unified Group cmdlets being used. This means that Office 365 is indeed treating a new Office 365 Group and a new Distribution Group the same, as a Unified Group. So, what is the work around?


Unfortunately, if we need to create a regular Distribution Group in just Office 365, then connecting to your tenant via PowerShell is the only way to do this. In order to connect to your tenant via PowerShell, use this article as your guide – Connect to Exchange Online PowerShell

Once connected, we can see what commands are available:


So in order to create a new group, we will use the New-DistributionGroup cmdlet. What examples does Microsoft provide for this cmdlet?


Using the help above, we can construct a simple cmdlet:

New-DistributionGroup -Name "Test Distribution Group" -members -type Distribution

What is interesting is that when this is run, there is a brief message about the new Office 365 Groups that is displayed:


Now, once this has completed, the group is indeed created as just a regular Distribution Group.

So if you need to create a regular Distribution Group for Office 365, you jave two options:

  • Create the group in Office 365 PowerShell.
  • Create a Distribution Group with you on-premises Exchange Servers.

That’s it. Please comment if you’ve had a different experience.


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