Office 365 SharePoint Online – Enable External Access for a Site


Wanted to enable External User access for a SharePoint Online (SPO) site. Figured this was a great way to learn for my upcoming Office 365 Microsoft Certificate Exams and also it would make a good blog post! is the help topic I just to assist me with creating this post.


Granting access to an internal SPO site allows Site Administrators to collaborate with users that are not a member of the same company and do not have a license for Office 365 SPO. This allows sharing with external partners and customers with the internal SPO sites.

This is very different that enabling a Public Website via SPO. Enabling external access for SPO sites allows the sharing of documents and complete sites with authentication by the external user. A Public Website is just that, a publicly available site to everyone.

The first step to enabling external user access is to enable the External User access for the entire SPO environment.

By default External User access is not enabled. You must first enable it for the entire SPO environment.

  1. Sign into the Office 365 Portal as a full Organizational Administrator and launch the SharePoint Administrator center by clicking the Manage link

  1. Choose the Manage Site Collections link

  1. In the Site Collections area, click on Setting and then Manage External Users

  1. Click Allow and then Save in the External Users Dialog box (at a later time if needed you could also deny all previous allow External User access, by selecting Deny and save)

The next step is to enable External Access invitations is each site collection

This is done per site, so site collection administrators can control this feature at the site level.

  1. As a site collection admin, login to the site collection you want to enable External access for
  2. Click on Site Actions then Site Settings
  3. In the Site Settings click on Site Collection Features

  1. Click Activate for the External User Access on the Site Collection Features page (if this feature is active for a site, you can Deactivate here as well)

Inviting External Users

The SPO environment and Site Collections needs to be enabled for External Access before you can invite external users to a site. What I found when walking through these steps is to allow for some time for the changes to replicate before sending an External User invite, I set this up yesterday evening but my invitations were not being added to the Site Members group. This morning an invite worked perfectly and was added to the site members group. Also at this time you can only invite external users with a, or Currently other email addresses are not supported but are planned to be supported is a future service update.

  1. From a site you would like to invite External Users, Click Site Actions and then Share Site
  2. From the Share Your Site dialog, enter the external users email address in either the Visitors or Members area and click Share

External User Experience

Here is what the External User will experience accessing your site

  1. The External User will receive the below email

  1. Clicking on the "Accept you invitation" link will take the user to the site, where they need to login

  1. As my invited External Users is Windows LiveID user I choose the Hotmail side

  1. I logged in with my (External User invited Guest credentials) and then I was able to access the site!

So there you have it, the steps to allow External Users access to internal SPO sites. If you have an, or email account and would like to check out how this works from an External User standpoint send me an email at smcneill at office365evangelist dot com and I will send you an invite.