SharePoint Online: How to Share a Site Externally and Invite External Users

Woody Walton 2010

Woody Walton


I am presently sitting in a hotel in Chicago, having just finished presenting at a VAR summit downtown at our office in the AON Center.   It is always great to get in front of partners and hear what the word on the street is.  For anyone out there that was in attendance, thank you for a great day and for sharing your insights and perspective.  …I hope you derived as much benefit from listening to me as I did listening to you!

There were many partners present that had sold Office 365, but one question came up that surprising no one save me knew about.  …I have an advantage of sorts, so I thought I would share it with all of you:

Sharing a SharePoint Online Site with external users is quite easy.

Follow these simple steps:

Log into you’re your portal at with an administrative account




Click the “Manage” link under SharePoint in the central section of the Admin Portal in the Microsoft Office 365 Section



Click “Manage Site Collections”


Screenshot (21)

Under the “Site Collections” Tab (default one opened), select “Manage External Users” under Settings.



Select the “allow” radio button and click “save”



After enabling external user access, you will then need to enable it for each site collection in turn before the options to “Share” appear in the Site Actions dropdown menu.


Screenshot (22)

To enable or disable External Sharing for any site, select “Site Settings” from the Site Settings from the Site Actions drop down menu in the upper left corner of the SharePoint team site page.

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Click the “Site Collection Features” option under the Site Collection Administration Heading.



Screenshot (24)

Activate “External User Invitations” by clicking the Activate button.


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Under the Site Actions menu, select “Share Site”

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Type the email addresses of those you wish to share the site with.  Be conscious of what effective permissions you want then to have and leverage the “visiters” or “members” group for your respective site collection.

NOTE:   Invitations can be sent to ANY email address, but to login to the SharePoint Online site, the external user will have to use a Microsoft Live ID (, etc).



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An example of the invitation the user will receive is above. They should “click” the “Accept Your Invitation” to proceed.


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When accepting the invitation you are taken to a page where one can log in via Hotmail or with a different Microsoft Online Services ID.

Once authenticated the user is directed to the site collection, but they have limited capabilities.  Because I chose “visitor” when I created the invitation, my Hotmail address cannot access hardly any settings info on SharePoint online.  I do have the ability to access the site and content.


Screenshot (32)

Notice the curtailed Site Actions, and the many grayed out options in the ribbon.



Well, That about covers it!  For those in the audience today in Chicago, I told you I would post an answer here.   Enjoy!







Comments (6)

  1. Frankswilde says:

    Brilliant. Thanks very much. Saved me a hell of a lot of time.

  2. ryan says:

    Is there a time limit on how long an invited user can access a site? And since sharepoint limits the total users you can invite externally, can you later revoke permission for an external user and use that for another user if you max out your invites? Thanks for the info!

  3. Angela French says:

    I'm wondering if you might confirm a suspicion for me.  In the "Share your site" dialog box, in the fields in which one enters the invitees email address, this text MUST be typed in.  I had a tricky email address of someone I invited so I copied it from a hypertext email link in an email I had.  I pasted it in the Members field and it resulted in "an unexpected error".  I had no idea what the cause was.  Took me a day of inviting people before the lightbulb went off on what was different about the one throwing the error.  I'm guessing that pasting the email brought in the "mailto:" in the background and thus messed things up.  Can you confirm?

  4. What about user with google or yahoo email address says:


    Can you explain how to send invites to user with google or yahoo user to login with the email address as the uid and Sharepoint admin sets the temp password for the user. Once the user clicks the link it then ask the user to set a password. Is that possible out of the box or we need to customize it ?

  5. says:

    I am having problem successfully sharing a external user as a member to an office 365 p1 account sharepoint site.  

    I was successful in doing this with a user back in March 2013.

    I am also having this problem.  I submitted a case #1208604102

    A Microsoft tech did some debugging with me and said would escalate.

    I have an office 365 P1 account.  

    Published an Access 2010 database to Sharepoint.

    Users use the Access 2010 front end via an accdw file connecting to the sharepoint data.

    In March of this year, I used the same process with a Hotmail account and it worked without incident.  I successfully shared at the level of the sharepoint data.

    Trying to share as a member with a email address.

    I have cleared the caches/browsing history – all objects from IE and Chrome.

    Re-sent the invitation.  Clicked to accept the invitation.

    No joy.

    Error is:


       An unexpected error has occurred.

       Troubleshoot issues with Microsoft SharePoint Foundation.  

       Correlation ID: 5306269c-79d3-c079-9f24-b8aae159b13c

       Date and Time: 6/16/2013 11:21:26 AM

    I tried sharing at both the level of the specific team site for the sharepoint data as well as sharing at the root level.

    I would be happy to share my office 365 with Microsoft rep for debugging


    bobalston9   At  yahoo   d o t    c o m

  6. John McGuire says:

    Does this functionality only exist in Online..What about on-premiseA?

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