Work with external users in SharePoint Online

Who are external users in SharePoint Online?

External users are someone outside of your organization, who needs to work on your SharePoint online sites such as documents and libraries. However, they do not have an account within your Office 365 or SharePoint Online tenant.

Enable external sharing

In the Office 365 admin center, scroll down and click on the SharePoint on left navigation.

This will open the SharePoint admin center.

Click on settings

If you scroll down, you can see the settings for external sharing. There are 3 options listed. You can choose, if you want to disable external sharing, enable only external users whom you want to share explicitly or everyone including anonymous users.

Let us select the second option, “Allow external users who accept sharing invitations and sign in as authenticated users”. With this option, you need to explicitly share the content with users. And the users need to login with the Microsoft account in order to access the content.

Now, click on the site collections, select the required site collection and click on Sharing

You will get the same 3 options as above. Again let us select the 2nd option.

Now in that site collection, you can use the Share button and give the Microsoft account to share the artifact. For example, let us select the Share on the site home page. This will share the entire site.

In the invite people, you can enter the required Microsoft accounts. In the drop down select Owner, Can edit or Can View. Now the site will be shared with the external users with the required permissions.

If you have select the 3rd option, i.e “Allow sharing with all external users, and by using anonymous access links”, when sharing individual documents you will get links to share publicly or anonymously. Note that the links to share will be available only for documents and not libraries or sites.

With the current selection, i.e the second option, the shared links can only be accessed by users who have logged with the Microsoft accounts which we have explicitly given permission.

You can also add users in the regular way in Site Settings -> People and Groups and the select the required group to add the user. When you click on New button, the same form pops up as above

Removing the external users

Even though we have given access in multiple sites, document libraries, documents etc, we can remove access to all external users by selecting the first option in the SharePoint admin center and site collection settings. In fact if you are getting an access denied for the external user, check if these settings are turned off by accident.

Otherwise, you can go to the individual places where it is shared and remove them individually. Ofcourse, we can automate it by writing powershell. Check PowerShell for Office 365 to understand how we can connect to SharePoint Online.

In this article, we saw how we can share our SharePoint sites, document libraries, lists, documents etc with external users. And, how to remove the users at the global level and also at the individual level. Drop a comment below to discuss on this or any other topic related to SharePoint.


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