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Core Components of Microsoft Teams – Part 5 – Exchange

Welcome back to the last article in the “Core Components of Microsoft Teams” blog series! Throughout this series we’ve explained how different Microsoft products are leveraged within Microsoft Teams. Today, we’ll wrap things up by discussing how Microsoft Teams uses Exchange.

How does Teams use Exchange?

Teams uses Exchange in various ways. One of the most important ways is for compliance. As discussed in our first article on the architecture of Teams, you may remember that when we look at chats there is a chat service that is utilized inside of Office 365. Additionally, we have a component called the Office 365 substrate which pulls the chats through the substrate and into the corresponding Exchange Online mailbox. This is the home for chats when we access them through the compliance portal. Teams will also utilize Exchange when storing meeting information. Whenever you go to schedule a meeting, that information will be stored on the user’s calendar inside of their Exchange Online mailbox. Some other smaller things managed include:

  • Changing user profile picture
  • Call history and voicemail
  • Connector configuration

In terms of supported configurations within your organization, if you are running Exchange Server on-premises or Exchange Online Dedicated (Legacy) then you will have limited feature sets available. Even with the given limited feature sets, if you happen to be in an Exchange on-premises environment you will need to ensure you are configured in a hybrid mode as Exchange on-premises is not supported. For a full breakdown on this, check out the official Microsoft documentation here.

Note: For the full Microsoft Teams experience, every user should be enabled for: Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, One Drive for Business and Office 365 Group creation.

To ensure your Exchange environment is up to snuff, you’ll need to be in a hybrid mode in order to work with Microsoft Teams. The requirements for configuring Exchange hybrid include:

  • Setup Azure AD connect with writeback
    • Makes Groups created in O365 available for on-premises users
  •  Azure AD premium license
    • To be able to configure writeback
  • Configure Exchange hybrid
  • One of the minimum versions of
    • Exchange 2013 w/ CU11
    • Exchange 2016 w/ CU1
    • Exchange Hybrid requires the latest or prior to latest CU

Exchange Server and eDiscovery

If you are not already aware, Teams utilizes Exchange for eDiscovery and is always done against Exchange Online.  Depending on the type of message will determine where the message will be stored. For example, a channel message (happens inside team itself) will be stored in a group mailbox whereas a chat message (1:1 or 1:many private chat) will be stored in a user mailbox. As we’ve mentioned a few times now there is a chat service that runs inside of O365, which is the primary service that channel messages and chat messages interact with. However, as part of eDiscovery these messages will be pulled/journaled through the O365 substrate into its final resting place for eDiscovery. From a channel message perspective this would be the corresponding mailbox of the Group that was established upon the creation of the team. From an individual users chat message perspective this would be the corresponding user’s mailbox. With all that said, if the user is homed in Exchange Online the users Exchange Online mailbox will be used. However, if the users mailbox resides in Exchange on-premises, you will need to contact Microsoft support to enable the cloud equivalent of the users mailbox (feature still in preview). Once enabled, this feature will create a cloud equivalent mailbox for the on-premises user and use it specifically for chat so you can now journal the messages from the chat service even though the users mailbox is on-premises.

Workarounds  for unsupported features

Although not optimal, sometimes workarounds must be presented in certain scenarios. In instances where certain features are not supported we can use workarounds to get the desired results in the end. Some examples of unsupported feature workarounds include:

Scenario 1: In order to be able to see the calendar or the meetings inside of Teams, you need to have Exchange 2016 CU3 or better in the on-premises environment but your organization is not quite there yet.

Workaround: Although you won’t be able to create a meeting in the Teams client, you can always schedule a meeting with the Teams add-in for Outlook. This will ensure that meetings get scheduled on the calendar across all platforms.

Note on Scenario 1: In this scenario, you would be unable to create channel meetings nor live events but you will be able to create the basic Teams meetings with the Teams add-in (as mentioned above).  


Scenario 2: You do not have the ability to see visual voicemail inside of the Teams client.

Workaround: Voicemail can still be retrieved from Outlook.


Scenario 3: You are unable to change your profile picture inside the Teams client.

Workaround: Login to the Office 365 portal and make the change there.


Scenario 4: Connectors can’t be added/configured by users with an on-premises mailbox.

Workaround: Connectors can still be used and others in your organization with a mailbox in the online environment can add/configure the connectors and the user with the on-premises mailbox can then still use those newly add/configured connectors.

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of the Core Components of Microsoft Teams blog series! I hope you’ve learned a little from this blog series and I encourage you to check out the “Coffee In the Cloud” YouTube series by Microsoft which is the foundation for this blog series. Stay tuned for future blogs, as I post regularly on all things Teams and Skype for Business and new features and functionality as it is released.

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Brian Siefferman

Brian is a Technical Consultant for Perficient’s Unified Communications practice focusing primarily on Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams workloads. He has been in this role since December 2017 and has an active presence blogging about all things Teams related. Currently, Brian resides in the suburbs of Chicago and enjoys running, swimming, weight lifting, and playing soccer in his free time.

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