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Configure SharePoint External Sharing

This article applies to: Office 365 Productivity Bundle


This information is intended for Site Collection Administrators, Site Admins, and Site Owners.

Once external sharing has been enabled for a site collection and sharing permissions established, internal users can send invitations, create guest links (if anonymous sharing is enabled), revoke access, and so on.

The process of sharing a site or document with an external user is same as sharing with an internal user, but depends on settings controlled by the site collection admins. By default,

  • Sites have two default user groups: members and visitors. Members are internal users with access to the entire site; they have edit privileges. Visitors are external users; they have view-only privileges.
  • Members of a site can share sites and documents with internal and external users. The site owner’s approval is not required. These default settings can be changed (see Change Sharing Default Settings below).
  • Visitors can share the site or documents with existing users (both Cornell users and any external user who has ever been invited to share any site or document in Cornell’s SharePoint Online tenant), but the sharing invitation will not be sent until the site owner has approved the request. Visitors cannot invite or share with new external users. These default settings cannot be changed.

Change Sharing Default Settings

A site’s owner or admin can modify the settings that control whether approvals are required.

  1. Under the gear menu in the Office 365 toolbar, select Site settings, then click Site permissions.
  2. In the Permissions ribbon, click Access Request Settings.
  3. In the Access Requests Settings dialog box,
  • If you want to completely disable sharing for this site (including document sharing), uncheck the first check box (“allow members to share the site…”).
  • If you want to approve all requests to add members to the site, uncheck the second box. When checked, users can directly share the site, files, and folders with other users. When unchecked, user sharing invitations are first send to the email listed below for approval. If approved the invitations are then sent to the recipients.
  • If you want visitors with no access rights who attempt to access your site to be able to submit a request for access, leave the third box checked. If unchecked, visitors without access rights will be simply denied access.

The following table describes the interactions between and among these controls in more detail.

Allow members to share Allow members to invite Allow access requests Result
Checked Checked Checked

Members can share files and folders, no approval required, including with new external users. Members can share the site, no approval required, including with new external users.

Internal users with no existing permissions for this site who try to access the site will be shown a form where they can ask the site admin for access.

Existing external users with no existing permissions for this site who try to access the site will be shown a form where they can ask the site admin for access.

External users with no prior access to any part of the Cornell SharePoint Online space who try to access the site will see a “That didn’t work” error message.

Checked NOT Checked Checked

Members can share files and folders, no approval required, including with new external users.

Members can share the site, but approval is required. They cannot share with new external users.

Internal users with no existing permissions for this site who try to access the site will be shown a form where they can ask the site admin for access.

Existing external users with no existing permissions for this site who try to access the site will be shown a form where they can ask the site admin for access.

External users with no prior access to any part of the Cornell SharePoint Online space who try to access the site will see a "That didn't work" error message.

NOT Checked Checked Checked

Members can share files and folders, but approval is required. They cannot share with new external users. 

Members can share the site, but approval is required. They cannot share with new external users.

Internal users with no existing permissions for this site who try to access the site will be shown a form where they can ask the site admin for access. 

Existing external users with no existing permissions for this site who try to access the site will be shown a form where they can ask the site admin for access. 

External users with no prior access to any part of the Cornell SharePoint Online space who try to access the site will see a “That didn’t work” error message.

NOT Checked NOT Checked Checked

Members can share files and folders, but approval is required. They cannot share with new external users. 

Members can share the site, but approval is required. They cannot share with new external users.

Internal users with no existing permissions for this site who try to access the site will be shown a form where they can ask the site admin for access. 

Existing external users with no existing permissions for this site who try to access the site will be shown a form where they can ask the site admin for access. 

External users with no prior access to any part of the Cornell SharePoint Online space who try to access the site will see a “That didn’t work” error message.

Checked Checked NOT Checked

Members can share files and folders, no approval required, including with new external users. 

Members can share the site, no approval required, including with new external users. 

All people (internal, existing external, and new external users) with no existing permissions for this site who try to access the site will see an “Access Denied” message.

Checked NOT Checked NOT Checked

Members can share files and folders, no approval required, including with new external users. 

Members who attempt to share the site will see an “Access Denied” message. 

All people (internal, existing external, and new external users) with no existing permissions for this site who try to access the site will see an “Access Denied” message.

NOT Checked Checked NOT Checked

Members who attempt to share files and folders will see an error message. 

The “Share” button for sharing the site does not appear. 

All people (internal, existing external, and new external users) with no existing permissions for this site who try to access the site will see an “Access Denied” message.

NOT Checked NOT Checked NOT Checked

If Member attempts to share a file or folder, they get an error message. 

The “Share” button for sharing the site does not appear. 

All people (internal, existing external, and new external users) with no existing permissions for this site who try to access the site will see an “Access Denied” message.

There is currently no combination of settings that:

  • allows members to invite new external users
    but also
  • requires approval by a site owner/admin.

About this Article

Last updated: 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020 - 5:10pm

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