Secure external access with groups in Microsoft Entra ID and Microsoft 365

Groups are part of an access control strategy. You can use Microsoft Entra security groups and Microsoft 365 Groups as the basis for securing access to resources. Use groups for the following access-control mechanisms:

Groups have the following roles:

  • Group owners – manage group settings and its membership
  • Members – inherit permissions and access assigned to the group
  • Guests – are members outside your organization

Before you begin

This article is number 4 in a series of 10 articles. We recommend you review the articles in order. Go to the Next steps section to see the entire series.

Group strategy

To develop a group strategy to secure external access to your resources, consider the security posture that you want.

Learn more: Determine your security posture for external access

Group creation

Determine who is granted permissions to create groups: Administrators, employees, and/or external users. Consider the following scenarios:

Invitations to groups

As part of the group strategy, consider who can invite people, or add them, to groups. Group members can add other members, or group owners can add members. Decide who can be invited. By default, external users can be added to groups.

Assign users to groups

Users are assigned to groups manually, based on user attributes in their user object, or users are assigned based on other criteria. Users are assigned to groups dynamically based on their attributes. For example, you can assign users to groups based on:

  • Job title or department
  • Partner organization to which they belong
    • Manually, or through connected organizations
  • Member or guest user type
  • Participation in a project
    • Manually
  • Location

Dynamic groups have users or devices, but not both. To assign users to the dynamic group, add queries based on user attributes. The following screenshot has queries that add users to the group if they are finance department members.

Screenshot of options and entries under Dynamic membership rules.

Learn more: Create or update a dynamic group in Microsoft Entra ID

Use groups for one function

When using groups, it's important they have a single function. If a group is used to grant access to resources, don't use it for another purpose. We recommend a security-group naming convention that makes the purpose clear:

  • Secure_access_finance_apps
  • Team_membership_finance_team
  • Location_finance_building

Group types

You can create Microsoft Entra security groups and Microsoft 365 Groups in the Azure portal or the Microsoft 365 Admin portal. Use either group type for securing external access.

Considerations Manual and dynamic Microsoft Entra security groups Microsoft 365 Groups
The group contains Users
Service principals
Users only
Where the group is created Azure portal
Microsoft 365 portal, if mail-enabled)
Microsoft Graph
End user portal
Microsoft 365 portal
Azure portal
Microsoft Graph
In Microsoft 365 applications
Who creates, by default Administrators
Who is added, by default Internal users (tenant members) and guest users Tenant members and guests from an organization
Access is granted to Resources to which it's assigned. Group-related resources:
(Group mailbox, site, team, chats, and other Microsoft 365 resources)
Other resources to which group is added
Can be used with Conditional Access
entitlement management
group licensing
Conditional Access
entitlement management
sensitivity labels


Use Microsoft 365 Groups to create and manage a set of Microsoft 365 resources, such as a Team and its associated sites and content.

Microsoft Entra security groups

Microsoft Entra security groups can have users or devices. Use these groups to manage access to:

  • Azure resources
    • Microsoft 365 apps
    • Custom apps
    • Software as a Service (SaaS) apps such as Dropbox ServiceNow
  • Azure data and subscriptions
  • Azure services

Use Microsoft Entra security groups to assign:

Learn more:


Use security groups to assign up to 1,500 applications.

Screenshot of entries and options under New Group.

Mail-enabled security group

To create a mail-enabled security group, go to the Microsoft 365 admin center. Enable a security group for mail during creation. You can’t enable it later. You can't create the group in the Azure portal.

Hybrid organizations and Microsoft Entra security groups

Hybrid organizations have infrastructure for on-premises and a Microsoft Entra ID. Hybrid organizations that use Active Directory can create security groups on-premises and sync them to the cloud. Therefore, only users in the on-premises environment can be added to the security groups.


Protect your on-premises infrastructure from compromise. See, Protecting Microsoft 365 from on-premises attacks.

Microsoft 365 Groups

Microsoft 365 Groups is the membership service for access across Microsoft 365. They can be created from the Azure portal, or the Microsoft 365 admin center. When you create a Microsoft 365 Group, you grant access to a group of resources for collaboration.

Learn more:

Microsoft 365 Groups roles

  • Group owners
    • Add or remove members
    • Delete conversations from the shared inbox
    • Change group settings
    • Rename the group
    • Update the description or picture
  • Members
  • Guests
    • Are members from outside your organization
    • Have some limits to functionality in Teams

Microsoft 365 Group settings

Select email alias, privacy, and whether to enable the group for teams.

Screenshot of options and entries under Edit settings.

After setup, add members, and configure settings for email usage, etc.

Next steps

Use the following series of articles to learn about securing external access to resources. We recommend you follow the listed order.

  1. Determine your security posture for external access with Microsoft Entra ID

  2. Discover the current state of external collaboration in your organization

  3. Create a security plan for external access to resources

  4. Secure external access with groups in Microsoft Entra ID and Microsoft 365 (You're here)

  5. Transition to governed collaboration with Microsoft Entra B2B collaboration

  6. Manage external access with Microsoft Entra entitlement management

  7. Manage external access to resources with Conditional Access policies

  8. Control external access to resources in Microsoft Entra ID with sensitivity labels

  9. Secure external access to Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and OneDrive for Business with Microsoft Entra ID

  10. Convert local guest accounts to Microsoft Entra B2B guest accounts