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Providing Corporate-Approved Backgrounds to End Users
Updated: September 17, 2021
Message center notification MC249777 (April 9, updated May 25) covers the introduction of organization-wide background images for Microsoft Teams. Roll-out of the preview is ongoing and is due to complete in early July.
Teams users can use background images in a kind of green screen effect during meetings. If allowed by the VideoFiltersMode setting in the meeting policy assigned to their accounts, users can also upload custom images and use those. Custom images are either created by the user or downloaded from a photo library, like Microsoft’s Teams custom backgrounds gallery.
Nice as it is to be able to use your own photo in meetings, organizations have long asked to be able to distribute a set of curated backgrounds to users. You know, pictures like carefully framed photos of the corporate HQ with the logo prominent in the foreground. This is what MC249777 is all about.
Uploading Organization Images
Organizations can upload up to 50 images through the meeting policies section of the Teams admin center. The ideal size image size is 1920 x 1280 pixels with a maximum of 3840 x 2160, less than 10 MB, JPEG or PG format. Pretty well every device capable of capturing a digital photo today creates images with more pixels, so I use the Windows Paint utility to resize to 1920 x 1280 pixels. When your images are ready, select Customize meeting images (Figure 1) to upload your images.
The interface to upload photos is simple (Figure 2). Note the advice that only users with the Teams Advanced Communications license will see the images. This will be true when the preview moves into general availability, but for now, anyone with AllFilters or BlurAndDefaultBackgrounds in the VideoFiltersMode setting of the Teams meeting policy assigned to their account can see the corporate images.
Testing Corporate Images
Figure 3 shows the standard Teams meeting setup screen with the set of available background images shown. In order, these are:
- The standard No filter and Blur effects.
- Corporate images. You can see 3 of the 4 images seen in Figure 2. It takes about a day before clients learn of the existence of a new corporate image.
- Microsoft curated images. These images are stored on a CDN.
- Custom images uploaded by the user.
If the user selects a corporate or Microsoft image, a copy is downloaded to the device to the %AppData%\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads folder and loaded into Teams from there.
Organization images are also available for the Teams mobile clients. In Figure 4, I’m selecting a background image to use with the Teams mobile client for iOS. After the standard Blur image, the next five images are published by the organization with the following set being the standard curated images from Microsoft.
There’s no way for an organization to restrict user choice to its images. Perhaps that capability will come later, but there’s no trace of it in the preview or in Microsoft 365 roadmap item 80193.
Corporate backgrounds aren’t the only feature enabled through the Teams Advanced Communications license. Microsoft introduced the Advanced Communications license in July 2020, but many of the features covered then are now available in mainline Teams, like large meetings with overflow capabilities. Some controversy erupted when Microsoft said that the license was needed to integrate Teams with ISV-provided compliance recording or contact center solutions. In any case, Microsoft withdrew the license to reconsider and plans to launch it again in July 2021 at the start of their new fiscal year. So far, apart from saying that the Teams Advanced Communications license is needed for organizational background images and custom group policy assignments, Microsoft has not shared any further details about features or pricing of the new license.
Update: Microsoft is relaunching the Teams advanced communications license. Its features are currently available to all to test in preview and will require a license from January 1, 2022
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