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External Sharing within SharePoint Online

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SharePoint is a useful tool that provides a wide range of settings to manage files and ensure they are kept secure. This course will take you through how to manage and configure those settings and ultimately give you the knowledge to create SharePoint sites, manage their access down to a user level, and allow for external guest access.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn how to plan external sharing settings in SharePoint
  • Learn how to manage access configurations
  • Understand how SharePoint tenant and site settings can be managed effectively

Intended Audience

This course is intended for anyone who wants to implement SharePoint in their operations.


There are no prerequisites for this course.



Sometimes organizations have the need to share files with users outside of their immediate organization.

Be it a partner, a contractor, or any other need both SharePoint Online and OneDrive have external sharing features that can enable your organization to share and collaborate on files while maintaining security within your environment.

The first thing to note about External sharing settings is that there are 2 levels at which they can be applied, the organization level, and the site level.

The organization's external sharing settings are effectively the master external sharing settings for everything in the organization's environment.

The site level on the other hand is specific to that specific SharePoint Site.

Both of these levels can have different options chosen however regardless of this the most restrictive setting is always applied.

But before we get too far into that explanation, I suppose we should cover the possible external sharing settings that can be applied.

Both organization and site-level permissions have 4 possible settings that organizations can apply

In order of most to least restrictive these settings are

  • Anyone,
  • New and existing guests,
  • Existing guests,
  • And Only people in your organization,

You could probably guess this, but the anyone option allows users to share files to anyone with a link to that file.

This allows users to share files or folders with just a link and whoever gets their hand on that link can access the files or folders they are attached to.

This option also has the option to adjust expiration dates of the links and adjust permissions from writing to view only 

Its important to know that users accessing files through anyone links are not added to an orgs directory, cannot be assigned licenses, and can only view or edit that specific folder or file which they have been given access to.

New and Existing guests is the next step up and requires users to sign into a Microsoft account or provide a code to verify their identity.

These links can be sent to users not currently in the organization's directory with the end goal of adding them to the directory.

This verification process adds them to the organization’s directory once they sign in and once added they can then access the files shared to them.

The existing guests option would then be the same only it removes the ability to send to new users and only allows for sharing of files for users already in the directory.

The guests in this option may have been previously added through a link or may be manually added.

And finally, the only people in your organization option restricts file access to those in your organizations, effectively turning off external sharing.

Now that we understand the levels lets go back to what I was saying about organization and site level settings.

Once external sharing is enabled at the organization level it can then be restricted at the site level.

As I mentioned, both levels can have different settings applied but regardless the most restrictive setting will always be applied.

This means that the organization may have the “New and existing users” external sharing option but an individual SharePoint site may have the “Only people in your organization” external sharing option.

In this case that SharePoint site will have external sharing off as it is the more restrictive of the two sharing options.

There will never be a scenario where a site level settings are less restrictive than the organization level settings because the Organization level setting are effectively the master external sharing settings.

In this respect, the site sharing options must be either the same level or more restrictive than the organization sharing options.

Now, when a site is created default sharing permissions are automatically applied to the site based on the nature of the site made.

For example, a Team site when created has external sharing enabled at the “New and existing Users” permission as long as the organization external sharing settings allow for that option.

A communication site however due to the nature has external sharing turned off by default.

These can be adjusted but they are the default values to the sites when created.


Now that we have covered the external sharing settings let's go over where to find these options and how to change them.

About the Author
Learning Paths

Lee has spent most of his professional career learning as much as he could about PC hardware and software while working as a PC technician with Microsoft. Once covid hit, he moved into a customer training role with the goal to get as many people prepared for remote work as possible using Microsoft 365. Being both Microsoft 365 certified and a self-proclaimed Microsoft Teams expert, Lee continues to expand his knowledge by working through the wide range of Microsoft certifications.