Office 365 – Finding Unknown Team Sites

If you read the following Microsoft Office support article, you’ll find documentation that outlines how users can take advantage of the “Create Site” functionality on their SharePoint home page: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/create-a-team-site-in-sharepoint-online-ef10c1e7-15f3-42a3-98aa-b5972711777d

In case the link is no longer active when you read this, that is:

  • Launch SharePoint from the app launcher
  • Click on “+ Create Site”

spapplaunch

createsite

From an Enterprise governance, maintenance, and support perspective this feature can turn into a real problem without [you] knowing about it.

When users create the site, they are given the option to create a Private site:

privatesetting

And, if they’re going to create a site for an executive team, finance group, or HR…they may very likely choose that option (i.e. to create as Private).

The thing is…this site will be truly Private:

  • It will not show up in the Site Collections list in https://tenant-admin.sharepoint.com
  • Even the SharePoint Global Administrator will not have access/permissions to the site

So, when your IT support team receives a call about a critical bug on the site, or your users just need a helping hand: not only will the IT team not be able to verify basic information about the site collection through the tenant admin GUI, but even the global admin will be able to do nothing to assist.

The SharePoint Global Administrator will need to reach out to a site owner to be granted access by him/her, and s/he may not know how to manage permissions. This could have been a user who used to know how to manage permissions, by the way, but with the way security/permission administration is constantly changing in O365 you cannot fault him or her for not, or no longer as of this week, knowing how to do so. And, final note for this paragraph…discovering who the owner is may take you a few SPO PowerShell commands to get to if it’s not otherwise obvious.

There is a way to disable this feature:

  • Go to the SharePoint Admin center
  • Drill in to settings
  • “Hide the Create site command”

hidecreate

Unfortunately, if your team didn’t know about this, they may now need to deal with the fact that there could be hundreds of sites out there being used for critical business processes that they didn’t know about and/or have no access to as a SharePoint Global Administrator.

To get a listing of all sites, use SPO PowerShell:

  • connect-sposervice
  • get-sposite (with no arguments)

I hope you don’t find too much that you weren’t expecting…

Hope this information helps.

 

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