Sharing SharePoint Documents with External Users

November 14, 2013  |  No Comments  |  by Thomas   |  Blog, News

Recently, one of the topics that has been popping up at our help desk deals with sharing SharePoint Online folders with external users. This topic applies to many of our clients, so we created this blog to walk you through the options.

You may have members of your organization who don’t need access to a full Office 365 license, but still should be able to access or open certain files that are stored on SharePoint (ex. Interns, outside collaborators and consultants, etc.) The question is, how do you give them access to those certain files, without having to pay for a full new license?

Important note: You need to be a Site Owner or have full control permissions to complete these steps. Additionally, the external sharing feature must be turned on for your Office 365 subscription. If either of these do not apply to you, contact your Office 365 admin or your SharePoint Online admin.

Option 1:

Depending on your organization’s SharePoint license, it may be possible to create a single user account that all limited access users could log in to. Essentially, this would be your “Intern” account or your “Consultant” account.

Your SharePoint admin can set the relevant permissions so that anyone logged into this account could access only what they need to.

Remember, this option only applies if the structure of your organization’s SharePoint subscription allows for it.

Option 2:

If you are unable to create a specific user account for the group of people who need this limited access, you can always use the “Share” feature to share specific files and documents with external users.

*Please note that for this option to work, the external users must have a Microsoft Account or an Office 365 user ID.

First, log into your organization’s SharePoint account. Navigate to the folder or document that you want to share.

In the top left hand corner of your screen, you will see a Share button. Select this option.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The Share button will pull up a dialogue box where you will be prompted to type in the email addresses of the people you intend to share the document with.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

You will want to assign specific permissions to this group, so they can only access what they need to. A general rule of thumb is to assign external users the LEAST amount of permissions they need to do their job.
To assign the external user to a specific permissions group, click Show Options.

Under Show Options, there are several groups, each with specific permissions. The groups are:

  • Visitors: This group has Read Only permissions by default
  • Members: This group has the ability to edit or update content
  • Full Control: This group has the ability to exercise full control over the site or documents. Be extremely careful about granting this permission to outside users.

The final step is to click Share at the bottom of the dialogue box. This will send the external user an invite to access your site.

*Remember, the external user will need a Microsoft Account or Office 365 User ID to sign in to access the SharePoint Site or Documents. If they do not have one already, they can always sign up for a free Microsoft Account.

Option 3:

A final option for sharing files with external users is creating a guest link.

*This option works best when you need to share only one document with many external users, and do not need the external users to have ongoing access to your site.

In your SharePoint site, navigate to the document you want to share. Next to the document, you will see a series of ellipses (…). Select these.

A call out box will appear next to the document. Select the Share button at the bottom of the box.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

After selecting Share, a dialog box will appear. Select the Get a Link option at the left hand side of the box.

In the Get a Link section, options will be available for creating links with different permissions:

  • View Only: As the name suggest, this creates a link that allows external users to read your document, but not edit it.
  • Edit: Again intuitive, this option allows you to create a link that allows those who click on it to edit the document.
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Once you have selected the relevant link, you can copy and paste it into the media of your choice to distribute it to the relevant external users.

>*Please note that as this link can be shared or forwarded beyond your control, this option should never be used for sensitive content!

For more information on custom SharePoint Design and Development solutions, contact Office 365 Advisors today. With years of experience and highly skilled SharePoint experts, we can help your organization maximize its SharePoint investment.

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