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SharePoint: Sharing with External Users

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This information is intended for Site Collection Administrators, Site Admins, and Site Owners. See also Sharepoint External Sharing Best Practices.

If your unit/department performs work that involves sharing documents or collaborating directly with vendors, clients, or non-Cornell customers, the external sharing features of SharePoint Online provide options for sharing content with people outside of Cornell University.

For the purposes of this document, external users are anyone who does not have a Cornell Office 365 account.

By default, external sharing is disabled when a site collection is created. To enable external sharing, the local Site Collection Admin should contact their local technical support or the IT Service Desk.

Once enabled, there are two forms of external sharing.

  • You can share individual documents, sites, and site collections with authenticated users.
  • You can share individual documents with guest (anonymous) users.

Sharing Sites and Documents with Authenticated Users

Authenticated users are those who are invited to sign in by using a Microsoft account or a work/school account.

A Microsoft account is the combination of an email address and a password that you use to sign in to services like Hotmail, Messenger, SkyDrive, Windows Phone, Xbox LIVE, or If you use an email address and password to sign in to these or other Microsoft services, you already have a Microsoft account. You can also sign up for a new one at any time. 

A work or school account is an Office 365 user ID assigned to the user by their work or school. In case of Cornell, it is your account.

Sharing Documents with Guest Users

Guest users, also called anonymous users, don’t need a Microsoft account or work or school account to access your documents. Your site users will share with guest users a URL that gives them access.

External User Abilities

Both authenticated users and guest users can use Office Online for viewing and editing (if they have been given editing rights) documents.

Authenticated users (but not guest users) can perform tasks on a site consistent with the permission level that they are assigned: viewing, reading, creating, deleting, sharing further, etc. Authenticated users inherit the rights of the person sharing with them unless the person sharing restricts those permissions.

External users (authenticated and guest) can’t:

  • Create their own personal sites (what used to be referred to as My Sites), edit their profile, change their photo, or see aggregated tasks. External users don’t get their own OneDrive for Business document library.
  • Be an administrator for a site collection (except in scenarios where Cornell has hired a partner to help manage Office 365).
  • See the company-wide newsfeed.
  • Add storage to the overall tenant storage pool.
  • Access the Search Center or execute searches against “everything.” Other search features that may not be available include: Advanced Content Processing, continuous crawls, and refiners.
  • Access site mailboxes.
  • Access PowerBI features such as Power View, Power Pivot, Quick Explore, or Timeline Slicer.
  • Use eDiscovery.
  • Open downloaded documents that are protected with Information Rights Management (IRM).
  • Use Excel Services features, including Calculated Measures and Calculated Members, decoupled Pivot Tables and PivotCharts, Field List and field support, filter enhancements, search filters.
  • Use SharePoint Online data connection libraries.
  • Use Visio Services.


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