Is your organization using SharePoint Online, part of Office 365? (What’s the difference between that and SharePoint 2013?) If you are, that means you potentially have the option to share content that resides in SharePoint with people outside of your network.
What does that mean? Well, if you’ve used SharePoint 2007, 2010, or 2013 on a closed network (likely you have), you may already be aware that you aren’t able to give access to users who aren’t part of your network, or, more advanced, federated with your network. Either way, the people that you can share with have to be explicitly given the ability to access your network from your IT department.
That’s no longer the case if you’re using SharePoint Online. Presuming your IT team has opened up your system to the concept of external sharing, you now have the ability to share SharePoint content with literally anybody with an email address.
It means that you can easily share, collaborate, and work with clients, vendors, and other outsiders just as easily as you do with your internal colleagues. And you can do it with just a few clicks.
Note that your IT department has to turn this feature on for you to be able to use it. And be aware that this opens up a huge can of worms for your IT department because there’s literally no telling who you may share content with. So be careful, and be respectful of your IT team. This makes their job a lot harder.
There are three external sharing states in SharePoint Online:
- No external sharing: Just what it sounds like. Your IT team has the right to close down the site collection and not allow external sharing. Basically, this is the default that you’re already used to. Keep in mind your IT team can revert back to this if abuse occurs when sharing is allowed. So play nice!
- Require login: This option requires your recipient to have or create a Microsoft Live account to gain access to the content. It’s a secure way to share with a certain email address to ensure expensive intellectual property (i.e., your content!) remains safe.
- Anonymous access: This option lets you share a link with any email address and does not require a login. That means when you receive an invitation to access this content, you could forward it to literally anybody and they’d be able to access the content. Most organizations will likely steer clear of this option and although it will be tempting for users to want to use it, it is not a very safe way to share intellectual property with outsiders.
This is what the option looks like from an admin’s point of view when they’re changing the external sharing settings on a given site collection:
This all sounds great. It facilitates collaboration, helps you get work done, minimizes email, and hopefully tears down barriers to efficiency. But it’s risky. You now have the power to share content with literally anyone that has an email address.
Your IT team is currently freaking out over this, I guarantee you. And if they’re not, it’s because they don’t fully understand it. So, on behalf of all IT admins losing sleep over this, I respectfully ask: don’t screw this up! You’re getting some serious power and with real power comes real responsibility. Use it wisely, and remember these words of wisdom:
It’s one thing to talk about it, but how do you do it? That’s what the infographic is for. And it’s below. Go through those steps and you’ll be on the road to sharing with your clients, vendors, friends, family, enemies, and your mom. Hi, mom!
click for full resolution (6.0 MB)