SharePoint Admin and adding External Users

SharePoint and Office 365 is anything but easy to use. To add more complexity I have found clients who were sold their Office 365 by another consulting firm.  These firms often buy the site collection getting the admin in their name or some name they  neglect to make very clear to the client (manuals! put them in a library, duh).  So when it comes time to perform some global administrative configuration changes, no one can tell you the global admin credentials.

The client looks at you like you’re speaking in an alien tongue and fearing they’ve been somehow shorted by the previous consultant.  This can be remedied by contacting the previous consultant or working with Microsoft to get the credentials, but it usually requires the purchaser of the site (and who is currently receiving the monthly billing statement) to receive the credentials and pass them on.  Whoever is receiving the billing statement is a great clue, even if they do not know they are the global admin!  This happens with Finance department who only worry about the finances and not IT admin.

In 2010 external access used to be handled in Business Connectivity Services (BCS).  In Office 365, it is in the Global Administration or Site Administration where you set up email, user licenses, and Lync.

Office 365 Global Admin has all kinds of neat things to configure (see notes for federating your on-premise Lync server below).  These include the usual configuration of adding\reducing licenses, changing users, and domain settings.  You’ll find external users and Lync configuration in the “Service Settings”. In order for a user who is not a currently licensed member of your site collection to access a file or library, you have to turn on external access.

Go to the Global Admin menu clicking on the top menu bar as shown.

Global Admin Menu


The Admin menu has many cool things to configure as shown in the following image.


Let’s activate external access first (see image below).

Enable external sharing for SharePoint Online

By default, SharePoint Online does not allow external users. To enable the potential for external users to be invited to any of the site collections in your environment, do the following steps.

  1. Sign in to the SharePoint Online Administration Center.
  1. On the home page, click Manage Site Collections.
  2. On the Site Collections page, click Settings and then click Manage External Users.
  3. In the External Users dialog box, click Allow.
  4. Click Save.

After you’ve set the SharePoint environment to allow external users, site collection administrators can activate the External user invitations feature for their individual site collections to enable invitations to be sent to external users. After the feature is enabled for a site collection, anyone in the SharePoint site Owners group or anyone with site collection administration permissions can send invitations to users. See the image.

Activate external sharing for a site collection

After the SharePoint Online environment has been set to allow external sharing, site collection administrators can choose whether or not to allow external users to be invited to sites in their site collections. Use these procedures to allow external sharing for a site collection.

  1. Sign in to the site collection for which you want to enable external users.
  2. On the site collection home page, click Site Actions, then click Site Settings, and then under Site Collection Administration, click Site collection features.
  3. In the Site Collection Administration Features page, under the list of features, for External user invitations, click Activate.

After you’ve activated external user invitations for the site collection, anyone in the SharePoint Owners group or anyone who has site collection administrator permissions can send email messages to invite external users and then assign them appropriate permissions to access sites. 

You can activate Lync and set it to work with (or federate with) external users.


Meetings_Configuration Note the other options available – Email, Calendar, Contacts, Site & document sharing, mobile access, passwords and O365 Community.

Clicking on them changes the menu on the right.  Here I have set up external communication and turned recording ability on.

Setting External access for sharing and Lync will allow you to work with non members of your site.  This is especially useful with Lync for meetings, calls (with or without video), chats, desktop sharing, and other collaboration efforts.

Now that Microsoft owns Skype, you can expect to to see these services integrate in the near future.  Some integration is already possible, but it is a little clunky and does not show presence.  As always, a Microsoft account is required.  This can be as a member of an Office 365 site collection, Microsoft messaging, email Outlook and other Microsoft products  Needless to say, I am still a little confused, but isn’t that typical with Microsoft users?

On premises SharePoint (server(s) onsite) requires a little different setup effort.

Here is an article on how to configure Lync 2013 and Skype federation.

Here is a rather thorough article on configuring your Lync server for external federation.

Basically it takes looking at the server settings and your firewall.  Plus the person you are trying to connect with must also be setup to allow external federation.  This is pretty simple with an Office 365 site, more difficult with an on premises server or farm. Suffice to say there are many things to research to understand how to make a simple connection in Lync.  But with Skype and Office 365, it is becoming a little easier!

Thanks for reading  my ramblings.  I hope this helps!



Published by

Rob Moses

SharePoint consultant promoting simple solutions you can manage, strong governance methodologies, and well designed site collections with consolidated libraries, lists and other resources making proper use of document sets and permissions. I also work with animal rescue, do a little animal training, ride my horse, collect books, am active in my church for God, and work on my little ranch.

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