Can You Use Microsoft Teams Without an Exchange License?

One of the government clients that I support has selected to use Google as their primary unified communication service. However, they also purchased an Office 365 tenant to use for SharePoint Online, Skype for Business, and OneDrive for Business. The Exchange license is turned off for all of their users. But what about Microsoft Teams? Based on conversations happening today, I can tell that there is already demand for Teams.

But according to the Microsoft roadmap, Teams won’t be available in the Government Cloud until sometime in the 3rd quarter of 2018. Here’s a screenshot:

This made me think about what the Microsoft Teams experience would be like without an Exchange license.

Setting Up a Test

First, I discovered that Teams DOES work without Exchange – and surprisingly well. As a test, I created a user in my Office 365 tenant and disabled their Exchange license.

See below for the settings:


 

From the End User’s Perspective

As the “Exchange-less” user, I was able to log into Teams (from both the web app and the desktop app) and do the following:

  1. Create a new Teams (both public and private)
  2. Add members to both teams
  3. Manage a Team’s Members, Channels, Settings, and Apps
  4. Participate in Team Conversations, including using @Mentions
  5. View meeting info from a Channel conversation
  6. Participate in a channel meeting
  7. Upload files into a Channel
  8. Update a Wiki
  9. Add Other Tabs in a Channel such as Planner
  10. Create Buckets and assign tasks in Planner
  11. Participate in a Private chat including sending files, and making both a phone and video call
  12. Access files uploaded via private chat and within a team channel via the Files left tab

Here’s what I was not able to do outright or was able to do with partial success:

  1. Schedule a meeting
  2. View Scheduled Meetings via the Meetings left tab
  3. Update my picture
  4. Configure Connectors

Here are some of the screenshots associated with a few of the processes:

That’s it from the end user perspective. So far, I learned that not having Exchange is not much of an issue.

From the Administrator’s Perspective

According to Microsoft, Teams was built to support audit log search, eDiscovery, and legal hold for channels, chats and files as well as mobile application management with Microsoft Intune. These tools reside in the O365 Security and Compliance Portal and provide the following features:

  • Auditing and Reporting
  • Compliance Content Search and eDiscovery

Let’s take a look how those features are affected when the user doesn’t have an Exchange license.

Auditing and Reporting

Audit log searches work on content that was created by accounts without an Exchange license. The following is a screen capture of what Teams activities are audited and can be reported on:


Below is a sample report showing all the Created Team, Deleted Team, and Added Channel activities. The TestUser account is the one without an Exchange license, and as you can see, that user’s activities are still being captured.


Compliance Content Search & eDiscovery

Content Search can be used to search Teams through rich filtering capabilities and exported to a specific container for compliance and litigation support. You can use Content Search to search for content in Microsoft Teams. However, without an Exchange license, you will not be able to search the group mailbox or shared calendar.

Below is an explanation from Microsoft:

“Users who participate in conversations that are part of the Chat list in Microsoft Teams must have an Exchange Online (cloud-based) mailbox in order for you to search chat conversations. That’s because conversations that are part of the Chat list are stored in the cloud-based mailboxes of the chat participants. If a chat participant doesn’t have an Exchange Online mailbox, you won’t be able to search chat conversations. For example, in an Exchange hybrid deployment, users with an on-premises mailbox might be able to participate in conversations that are part of the Chat list in Microsoft Teams. However in this case, content from these conversation aren’t searchable because the users don’t have cloud-based mailboxes.

Conversations that are part of a Microsoft Teams channel are stored in the mailbox that’s associated with the Microsoft Team. Similarly, files that team members share in a channel are stored on the team’s SharePoint site. Therefore, you have to add the Microsoft Team mailbox and SharePoint site as a content location to search conversations and files in a channel.

Alternatively, conversations that are part of the Chat list in Microsoft Teams are stored in the Exchange Online mailbox of the users who participate in the chat. And files that a user shares in Chat conversations are stored in the OneDrive for Business account of the user who shares the file. Therefore, you have to add the individual user mailboxes and OneDrive for Business accounts as content locations to search conversations and files in the Chat list.”

Conclusion

My biggest takeaway from research and testing is that users without an Exchange license can use most of the Teams functionality to collaborate and their activities are included in the audit logs.

However, not all their content will be accessible by the Office 365 Compliance and Search and eDiscovery functionalities.

If your organization is considering implementing Office 365, please contact us to discuss how our team of experts can provide personalized assistance to get your Office 365 platform and related applications deployed as quick and as painless as possible.

About the Author

Dean Virag is currently a consultant and trainer at Xgility. He’s been providing Microsoft SharePoint consulting services and training to a variety of organizations since 2009. Currently, Dean helps manage SharePoint 2010 & 2013 and Office 365 for a large federal government client as well as provides them with process automation consulting, training, and documentation services.