This post is part of the Office 365 External Sharing Series.


Now that we have enabled external sharing in Office 365 and SharePoint Online, it’s time to invite external users and via sharing capability in SharePoint Online.

In previous post, we have seen how you can invite guest users via Azure Portal and in this post we will be covering SharePoint Online to invite external users (guest users). Note the change in the terminology here with guest users that we have been referring to in Azure Portal and in SharePoint Online the same user type is referred to as External User. It’s the same!

It must be noted that SharePoint Online / OneDrive has a separate invitation manager to Azure Active Directory B2B. In this post we will be covering the external sharing (guest user) invite to SharePoint Online via the share capability of SharePoint Online.

Who can access your SharePoint Online content?
External users – can be broadly defined as users who are not:

  • Employees
  • Contractors
  • Onsite information works

In summary, they don’t work for your organisation, but work with your organisation.

How can the external user access your SharePoint Online Content?
External users can access content via the link received in the email. This email link is generated and emailed to the external user when an employee of the organisation shares content (see next section on what can be shared)

To access the shared content, external users:

  • Authenticate using a Microsoft Account
  • Authenticate using work or school account
  • Anonymously, if a guest link is generated to share the content

An employee can share with an external user that has Google account – specifically user email address and the external user will receive an invite to their gmail email address. On redeeming this invite (first time), the user will need to create a Microsoft Account with the gmail address and on completion of the redemption process, the user will be able to access the content using their Microsoft Account that has username. In this instance, user authentication will be under Microsoft Account identity platform.

In the case of work or school account, authentication of external user will be handled by the partner organisation (external user’s corporate) identity platform.

What can the external user access in your SharePoint Online?
An external user can access the following content, if shared by the inviting user (employee of the organisation:

  • SharePoint Site (not an entire SharePoint Site Collection)
  • Item – Single document, List item – granular level of sharing

The level of access – view, contribute – is dependent on what permissions are assigned by the inviting user at the time of sharing the content.

I will reference some previously published posts that show how you can share externally with SharePoint Online, rather then rehash the content here. You would be interested to note that sharing capabilities in SharePoint Online keeps getting better and better and there are few updates on the roadmap. I will share updates via my monthly update newsletter, as and when there are updates in this space.

Share sites or documents with people outside your organization

Share SharePoint files or folders in Office 365

Share a site

Change the default link type when users get links for sharing


We have covered external sharing with SharePoint Online in this post.

I will be covering a new series on how you can secure external sharing in SharePoint Online, once this series is completed.

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