Microsoft recently introduced a new type of Microsoft Teams channel, and you probably already know that we’re talking about private channels. These channels made quite a fuss in the Office 365 community. On the one hand, it was reportedly the most requested feature in the Microsoft UserVoice forum. On the other hand, they made a lot of Office 365 users ask the question: “How do these things even work?” So, let’s check it out!
Microsoft Teams Private Channels – The Why Behind It
In the time before private channels, you used to have standard channels for general communication and chats for a more focused conversation with specific team members.
Think about your daily communication with your team members. Sometimes you want to announce the news to all your team members, but more often, you need a way to work closely with just a segment of your teammates. Also, some people work on sensitive files, like payrolls and employment contracts, who would like to have a safe way of communication without anyone else prying in.
Using chats and being bombarded daily with tons of chat messages just wasn’t a solution good enough for the situations mentioned above. Think about it – any new message you got from a colleague asking you about lunch would push those important chats lower in the list, making them hard to find. Also, you would need to switch between chats and channels constantly, which was too tiring.
Sharing files inside chats wasn’t the best solution, neither. Whatever you used to share in a chat was automatically stored in your OneDrive account. Needless to say, storing essential files to a personal account isn’t good for neither collaboration nor security.
Microsoft Teams users used to tackle the problem of sorting out communication channels by making a new team for every little project requiring different team members. But, that just caused a big ol’ mess. A lot of unnecessary teams were created that way.
By introducing private channels, those issues were solved. You don’t lose your important messages because they are displayed inside a private channel next to all your standard channels. And all your important files are stored in a dedicated SharePoint site, making them accessible to all channel members.
Who Can Create and Use Microsoft Teams Private Channels
Surprisingly, you don’t need to be an owner of the team to create a private channel. If a team owner allows it in the settings, any team member can create a private channel. Once you create a private channel, you are automatically serving as the channel owner.
It’s good practice to have more than one channel owner in case one of them leaves the company or department. If there are no owners left, Teams will promote one of the members to the new role. You can also add guest users to your private channel as long as they are members of your team.
Microsoft Teams Private Channels Behind the Scenes
When you create a private channel, little bots make a SharePoint site associated with the channel. That site is a home for all the files you share with your channel members.
That is convenient for a few reasons. First of all, it boosts collaboration between your members, because you know where to find your files when you need them. Secondly, it’s good for security, because you don’t need to worry if your files will be lost after a channel member leaves the company.
The name of the site consists of the team name and of the private channel name, so you can easily connect those sites to the associated private channels.
The difference between the standard site and private channel site is, however, that you don’t get a shared mailbox.
Downsides of Microsoft Teams Private Channels
As convenient private channels might be, there are also some serious downsides to them. Private channels are exactly what they claim to be – private. That means that nobody except private channel owners and members can access it and see what’s going on in there.
Out of the box, Teams owners can’t see anything regarding private channels except the fact that they exist and who their owner is. They don’t know who the members are and what files they share. As a team owner, you would like to be able to know if any possible security breaches are happening there, but unfortunately, you can’t do it.
Global admins also have a hard time getting information about private channels. They can either check the private channels team by team or use PowerShell. Moreover, they can’t see the sites created for private channels in the admin portal, nor track their analytics or user activity. Not knowing that information is a perfect opportunity for shadow IT.
Microsoft Teams Private Channel Reports with SysKit Point
SysKit Point can help you get back the control over private channels! Our innovative solution makes private channels more accessible for auditing and reporting.
As a team owner, you can see who are private channel members and owners, what content they have, how much space they use, and what they share externally. Having all that information will help you govern your content and users. For example, you can warn the channel owners if they’re using too much space or sharing sensitive files.
SysKit Point shows all the private channels in a dedicated report, so if you’re an admin, you can track the total number of private channels across your teams. On top of that, we also track the SharePoint sites related to private channels. You can see all the site details, such as permissions, files, usage activity, and site storage. If you wish to change permissions or remove someone’s access from the site, you can do it as well.
We incorporated sites associated with private channels in all our security reports, so you can easily track their external users and content, unique permissions, and audit logs. I hope we showed you how SysKit Point could help you, but don’t take our word for it – try it for yourself with a 30-day free trial!