Answered: What are my options for sharing documents with external users in Office 365?

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In every business or organization we have to collaborate with external users. These external users can be your clients, vendors or customers and it's normally the case that you have to enable 'access' and 'sharing' in order for them to collaborate in an effective way.

SharePoint Online (part of the Office 365 family) has a feature allowing you to enable sharing and accessing with external users.

Please Note: For this post let's classify an 'external user' as someone that doesn’t belong to your organization and also doesn’t have a SharePoint Online license or MS office 365 subscription.

To allow us to share with external users, we have access to the following external sharing features in SharePoint Online:

  • Turn On/Off external sharing globally for entire Office 365 tenancy that can be done by the System administrator.
  • Turn On/Off external sharing for individual site collections.
  • Turn On/Off sharing of sites and documents with authenticated users (Organization/school/Microsoft Account holder)
  • Turn On/Off sharing documents with guest users using Guest Link feature.

Now, let’s see how each is achieved in turn.

To turn On/Off global sharing for entire Office 365 tenancy, you need to follow below steps:

1. Go to your SharePoint Online Admin Center page and click on settings.

2. You can find “External Sharing” option by scrolling down the page.

3. By default, sharing is disabled so make sure you select the last option 'Allow both external users who accept sharing invitations and anonymous guest links'.

To turn On/Off global sharing for individual site collections, you need to follow these steps:

1. Go to SharePoint Admin Center screen, click on the “Site Collection” link to view all the created site collections.

2. As you select a site collection (using the check box), it will enable commands on Ribbon to allow you share.

3. Click on “Sharing” button in the Ribbon. It will open a new screen for you with options as depicted in below screenshot.

4. You can choose any of the options to turn On/Off the sharing for this specific Site Collection. That’s it.

To turn On/Off sharing of sites and documents with authenticated users, you need to follow these steps:

1. Go the document library or site that you want to share and select that document.

2. Click on (…) button to get the SHARE option, Click on SHARE button

3. By default, Invite people is selected. Provide the authenticated user details and select the access permission to view/edit.

4. Click on share button to finish. The user will then receive a mail containing the file details.

To turn On/Off sharing documents with guest users using Guest Link feature. You need to follow below steps:

1. Go the document library from which you want to share a document with external user.

2. Click on (…) button to get the SHARE option, Click on SHARE button.

3. Click on Get a link option on left panel of the screen.

4. Copy the link from the Text box to enable anonymous users.

Note – Only single documents can be shared at a time with guest/anonymous users using this approach.

​Want more information about managing external users in O365?

​If you need to know more about how to manage external users in Office 365 you definitely need to check out the Laura Rogers in her Power Hour session below! 

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Answered: What are my options for sharing documents with external users in Office 365?

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