Share sites or documents with people outside your organization

Important:  The information in this topic applies only to customers of Office 365 operated by 21Vianet.

Caution:  External sharing is turned off by default in Office 365 operated by 21Vianet. Administrators must enable external sharing in order to do the procedures in this article. It is important to note that files shared with external users may be accessible outside your country. If you enable external sharing any external users who previously had access to a site or document will regain their access.

*Microsoft accounts such as Outlook.com and Hotmail.com, are provided by Microsoft Corporation and are subject to Microsoft’s terms and conditions and privacy statements. The use of these accounts may result in customer data being transferred, stored and/or processed in the United States or any other country where Microsoft, its affiliates or service providers maintain facilities.

If you perform work that involves sharing documents or collaborating directly with vendors, clients, or customers, then you might want to use your sites to share content with people outside your organization who do not have licenses for your Office 365 subscription.

There are three ways that you can do this:

  • You can share an entire site by inviting external users to sign in to your site using a Microsoft account* or a work account.

  • You can share individual documents by inviting external users to sign in to your site using a Microsoft account* or a workacct_short.

  • You can send users a guest link that they can use to view individual documents on your site anonymously.

Note: Only one person may log in to access your site or document using an invitation you send. However, the person who gets your invitation may decide to not use it, and instead forward the invitation to someone else who can then log in using their Microsoft account* or work account to access the site or document.

This topic explains how to share either a site or a document with people outside your organization.

In this article

Share a site

Share a document

How to share without oversharing

See who has access to a specific site or document

Withdraw invitations

Disable an anonymous guest link

Manage external sharing

Share a site

When you share a site with external users, you send them an invitation they can use to log in to your site. You can send this invitation to any email address. When the recipient accepts the invitation, they can log in using either a Microsoft account* or an Office 365 operated by 21Vianet user ID. When you share a site, you can select the type of permissions you want that person to have on the site.

Be careful about sharing your Team site or any site that your organization uses primarily for internal business and documents because you will be granting external users access to that site and any subsites that share its permissions. You might give external users access to sensitive content. If you have an ongoing need to collaborate with people outside your organization, set up a site that you use specifically for external sharing, and configure that site so that it has unique permissions from the rest of your sites.

You need to be a Site Owner or have full control permissions to share a site with external users. Additionally, the external sharing feature must be turned on for your Office 365 operated by 21Vianet subscription (depending on which plan you have, your Office 365 admin or your SharePoint Online admin can do this).

  1. Go to the site you want to share with external users.

  2. Click Share.
    Image of the Share command in the upper right of the screen.

  3. In the Share dialog box, type the names of the external users you want to invite. For example: someone@outlook.com or someone@contoso.com.

    Reminder: Of course, you can also use the Share command to quickly grant internal licensed users access to a site. If you want to do this, just type the names of the people you want to invite.

  4. Type a message to include with the invitation.

  5. To assign the external user to a specific permissions group, click Show Options, and then select the group you want.

    It is a good idea to give people the least amount of permissions they need to perform their tasks. For example, if the people you are inviting only need to read content, assign them to the Visitors group, which has Read permissions by default. If the external users need to be able to edit or update content, add them to the Members group, which has Edit permissions by default. Be extremely careful about adding external users to any group that has Full Control permissions.

    Image of the Share dialog box for a site populated with user names for external users.

  6. Click Share.

By default, any invitations you send to external users will expire in 90 days. If an invitee does not accept the invitation within 90 days, and you still want that person to have access to your site, you might need to resend the invitation.

When the external users you invite receive their invitations, they can click a button that will take them to a page where they can sign into your SharePoint Online site by using a Microsoft account* or an Office 365 operated by 21Vianet user ID.

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Share a document

There are two ways you can share a document with external users:

  • You can require them to sign in to your site to view the document.

  • You can send them a guest link, which they can use to either view or edit the document (you can assign the level of access) without signing in.

You must be a Site Owner or have full control permissions to share a document with external users. Additionally, the external sharing feature must be turned on in either the Office 365 Service Settings or the SharePoint Online admin center (depending on which plan you have). External sharing must also be turned on for your site collection (enterprise plans only).

  1. Go to the document you want to share (you can also share folders or Document Sets).

    You can share an item on a Team site (if you have sufficient permissions to share externally from the Team site), or you can share a document or folder that you’ve saved to your OneDrive for Business.

  2. Click the ellipses . . . to open the menu, and then click Share in the properties dialog box.

  3. Type the e-mail addresses of the external users with whom you’d like to share the document. For example: someone@outlook.com, or somebody@gmail.com, or externaluser@contoso.com.

  4. In the drop-down list, select the permission level you would like to grant the external users. If you want them to be able to edit the document, select Can edit. If you want them only to be able to view the document, select Can view.

  5. Type a message providing invitation recipients with any necessary instructions for their task.

  6. Do one of the following:

    • To invite someone to sign in to your site to view or edit the document, select the Require sign-in check box.

    • To invite someone to view or edit the document anonymously with a guest link, clear the Require sign-in check box. If you do not see the Require sign-in check box, it is possible that your organization has configured the external sharing feature to prevent sharing through guest links.

      This image shows the Share Document dialog box with the option to require sign-in cleared.

  7. Click Share.

  • Anonymous guest links could potentially be forwarded or shared with other people, who might also be able to view or edit the content without signing in. Avoid using anonymous guest links for sensitive content.

  • People who are invited to access documents using anonymous guest links will only be able to view or read files in the relevant Office Web App. They will not be able to open files in corresponding desktop version of the Office program.

  • If external sharing is turned off globally in the Office 365 Service Settings or the SharePoint Online Admin center, any shared links will stop working. If the feature is later reactivated, these links will resume working. It is also possible to disable individual links that have been shared if you want to revoke access to a specific document. See Disable an anonymous guest link.

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How to share without oversharing

Best practices for sharing sites

If you’ve shared an entire site with a user, then that user will be able to log in to the site and function like a full member of the site. They will be able to browse, search for, view, and edit content (depending on which permission group you assign them to). They will be able to do things like see the names of other site users in the People Picker or view document metadata. External users will also appear in the People Picker as site users. This means that other people who use your site could grant different permissions to these users than you initially granted when you shared the site with them. Be sure you know the identity of external users before you invite them to your site.

If you invite external users to your Team site, they will be able to view content on the Team site and all subsites. If you want to avoid having external users gain access to important or sensitive content on your Team site, you should create a subsite of your Team site that has unique permissions, and then share only that subsite with external users.

Similarly, if you want to share a subsite that you’ve created on your OneDrive for Business location, you might want to ensure that it has unique permissions so that you do not accidentally grant users permission to additional sites or content on your My Site.

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Best practices for sharing documents

If you share documents using anonymous guest links, then it is possible for invitation recipients to share those guest links with others, who could use them to view content. Do not use guest links to share documents that are sensitive. If you want to minimize the risk that someone might share an anonymous link, share a document by requiring sign-in instead.

Deciding how to share

When considering if and how you want to share content externally, think about the following:

  • To whom do you want to grant access to content on your Team site and any subsites, and what do you want them to be able to do?

  • To whom in your organization do you want to grant permission to share content externally?

  • Is there content you want to ensure is never available to be viewed by people external to your organization?

The answers to these questions will help you plan your strategy for content sharing.

Try this:

If you need to:

Share a site

If you want to share a site, but you also want to restrict external users from gaining access to some of your organization’s internal content, consider creating a subsite with unique permissions that you use exclusively for the purpose of external sharing.

Provide someone outside your organization with ongoing access to information and content on a site. They need the ability to perform like a full user of your site and create, edit, and view content.

Share a document and require sign-in.

Provide one or several people outside your organization with secure access to a specific document for review or collaboration, but these people do not require ongoing access to other content on your internal site.

Share a document, but don’t require sign-in.

Share a link to a non-sensitive or non-confidential document with people outside your organization so that they can either view it or update it with feedback. These people do not require ongoing access to content on your internal site.

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See who has access to a specific site or document

You can also use the Share command to quickly see the list of people a document has been shared with.

Do one of the following:

  • To see who has access to a site, click Share at the top right of the page, and then click the link after Shared with in the Share dialog box to view a list of people who have access to the site.

  • To see who has access to a document, folder, or Document Set, select the item in the document library, and then flick Shared With on the Files tab.

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Withdraw invitations

If you want to withdraw an invitation you have sent to an external user, you can revoke the invitation before it is accepted.

Go to the site on which you want to withdraw an invitation.

  1. Go to Settings Office 365 Settings button > Site Settings.

  2. Under Users and Permissions, click Access requests and invitations.

  3. Under External User Invitations, find the person you would like to uninvited to the site and click Open Menu.

  4. In the properties window, click Withdraw.

If the external user has already accepted an invitation, and you want to remove them from your site, you can do so by removing them from the SharePoint permissions group to which you assigned them. The person in your organization who has permissions as the Office 365 admin or SharePoint Online admin may also remove them from the list of users for your environment. For more information, see the articles listed in the Manage external sharing section.

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Disable an anonymous guest link

When a document has been shared through a guest link, you can see this information in the document callout.

Properties dialog box showing that a document has been shared with a guest link.

You can revoke access to a document that has been shared through a guest link by disabling the link.

  1. Go to the library that contains the document for which you want to remove a guest link.

  2. Point to the document, and click Open Menu.

  3. Click a guest link in the sentence Open to anyone with a guest link.

  4. Next to the URL for the guest link, click the Delete button.

  5. When you are asked if you want the link disabled, click Disable Link.
    Dialog box asking you if you want to disable a guest link for a document that has been shared so that it will not work anymore.

When people outside your organization attempt to access the content using the guest link, they will see a message indicating that they cannot access it.

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Manage external sharing

The admin settings for external sharing differ depending on what Office 365 plan your organization subscribes to. For information about turning the external sharing feature on or off, or otherwise configuring it, see the following topics:

If your organization is using Office 365 Small Business, see Manage sharing with external users.

If your organization is using one of the Office 365 enterprise plans, see Manage external sharing for your SharePoint online environment.

For information about setting up and managing access requests to sites, see Set up and manage access requests.

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