SharePoint Business to Business Collaboration: Extranet for Partners with Office 365

Using Office 365 SharePoint Online as a Business to Business (B2B) Extranet solution

What is a SharePoint Extranet? An extranet site in SharePoint is a site that organizations create to let external users have access to relevant content and to collaborate with them. Extranet sites allow a way for partners to securely do business with your organization. The content for your partner is kept in one place and they have only the content and access they need. They don’t need to email the documents back and forth or use some tools that are not sanctioned by IT.

Traditionally, deploying a SharePoint on-premises extranet site involves complex configuration to establish security measures and governance, including granting access inside the corporate firewall, and expensive initial and on-going cost.

But with O365 SharePoint Online, partners connect directly to a members-only site in Office 365, without access to the corporate on-premises environment or any other Office 365 site. Office 365 Extranet sites can be accessed anywhere.

Industry verticals where business-to-business (B2B) collaboration is key to their business success include the automotive, manufacturing, retail and energy. The following example depicts Contoso Ltd, a company whose core of their business is collaboration with partners and vendors.

Office 365 Extranet example

SharePoint Online B2B collaboration features

Key features offered in SharePoint Online B2B collaboration include:

  • SPO Cloud B2B:    In a SPO cloud B2B, you can have both Intranet and Extranet (B2B) sites in the same SharePoint online tenant. You can allow sharing with user initiated invitations but with added IT control.

  • Site-owners only sharing:    Ability to have site collections where only Owners can bring in or share with new users. Site Members, which are typically external partner users, can see only the existing site members in the site. This helps in governing what partners can see and with whom they can share your corporate partnership documents. See Create a partner-facing Extranet Site in Office 365 for more details.

  • Allow users to Invite new partner users:    In certain Site Collections, Admins can optionally allow users to invite new partner users. In this model, an email invite is sent to the partner user and the user must redeem that invite to access the resource. See Manage external sharing for your SharePoint Online environment for details.

  • Restricted Domains Sharing:    Admins can control the list of partner domains that their employees can share with outside the organization. Either an allow list of email domains or a deny list of email domains can be configured. See Restricted Domains Sharing in O365 SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business more details.

  • Auditing & Reporting:    Activities of the business partner users are audited and reports can be viewed in Office 365 Activity Reports.

Why use Office 365 for B2B Partner facing Extranet sites?

Grow.     As your business grows, so does the number of partners you collaborate with. Office 365 gives you the flexibility to expand your number of extranet sites and the contents within a site.

Time-to-value and Cost savings.   Office 365 SharePoint Hybrid extranet offers great and short time to value. It eliminates the need for creating a costly on-premises extranet sites as no additional hardware is required and it greatly reduces the resource and labor costs. Your IT department can focus on more important tasks than creating and maintaining extranet infrastructure.

No need for any on-premises infrastructure:    With Office 365, there is no need to build on-premises extranet infrastructure.

Secure sharing.    It provides a secure sharing experience with the IT governance and policies that you require.

Security.    Office 365 SharePoint B2B Extranet offers secure collaboration with partners with enriched IT control, including:

  • The ability to protect yourself against accidental sharing, by having tenant administrators and/or site owners can enable site-owners only sharing which prevents site users from bringing new users to that site.

  • Restricting external partner from access to any other site. They are restricted to their site only and cannot search for or view any content or users outside of their site.

  • The ability to restrict the External partner users to be able to only accept invitations from the email address to which the invitation was sent, external partner users to use their corporate Office 365 organization account or Microsoft account to access a site that was created solely for them.

Seamless Collaboration:    Collaborate with your partner users as if they are part of your organization. including instant messaging and the ability to make Skype conference calls. It is up-to-you with how much productivity capabilities you want to empower your partner users.

Governance and Audit Reporting   . O365 SharePoint Online offers visibility into the access of your content by external partner users. One of the key IT benefits is to be able to audit usage, including being able to see who is inviting whom and when an external user logs in to access the content.

Compare Office 365 Hybrid Extranet with a traditional SharePoint On-premises Extranet

Office 365 Hybrid Extranet   

SharePoint "on-premises" Extranet   

Firewall access required to external users

No

Yes

Complex network and infrastructure configuration required

No

Yes

Security hardening

Managed through Office 365 configurations

Manually configured by IT staff

IT Labor intensive

No

Yes

Ongoing maintenance needed

Minimal

Considerable

Additional hardware needed

No

Often

External partner user management

Managed via the cloud or locally

Locally managed only

Controlling sharing experience for extranet sites

Part of Office 365 sites functionality

Often requires custom solutions/apps

How to configure a partner-facing Extranet site in Office 365

For step by step instructions on how to configure Office 365 SharePoint Online as an Extranet solution, see Create a partner-facing Extranet Site in Office 365.

How to configure Restricted Domains sharing in Office 365 SharePoint Online & OneDrive for Business

For step by step instructions on how to configure restricted domains sharing in Office 365 SharePoint Online & OneDrive for Business, see Restricted Domains Sharing in O365 SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.

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