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Sharing O365 Team Sites With External Users-Just Don’t Do It

If you use Office 365, have you ever looked at the Team Sites (SharePoint) part of your account? Specifically Sharing O365 Team Sites with external users? This component of O365 is for sharing documents with everyone in the company or organization.

Since I’m a company of one, I really don’t have much of a need for this, but recently, I wanted to share a Team Site with my daughter, (considered an external user), who is working on a short-term project with me. I have tried to share O365 Team Sites in the past, but not with much success. I wanted to blog my experience to hopefully help others avoid the time and frustration I’ve experienced with this.

Share Team Sites(An important note – when you want to share a Team Site, make sure you want to share the entire site and not just a folder from within the site. This was another snag I had in this process.)

On the surface, it looks very easy to do, you just click the ‘Share’ at the top and fill in the email address of the person you want to share with (see below), and an invitation goes to them. Then you think everything’s taken care of. Not.


When the recipient clicks the link, they’re taken to this screen (below), where they have to decide what kind of account they have and how they should sign in. The organizational account is for those using O365, and the Microsoft account is self-explanatory.


So since I was testing this out, I used one of my Microsoft accounts to sign in and then got this lovely message:



So, I put a message in the box, asking for access (I didn’t have to put an email address, just the message.) Then I waited a minute or two and got an email in my O365 account to click to give access or deny. It took me to the below screen. I clicked to approve the request.


After waiting a few minutes, I went back to my invitation email and clicked on the link again. This time success! I was taken right to the Microsoft sign-in screen and I signed in with a Microsoft account and was able to see the Team Site! I was able to see who all the Site was shared with too.


Lessons Learned on O365 Team Site Sharing

I learned that for a casual user of Team Sites (like me), it’s really not worth the time and effort it took to bumble and hack my way through figuring this out. If I wanted to do it again in a month or two, it might go a bit faster, but the process isn’t intuitive at all. Team Sites (SharePoint), is really made for people in an organization. If I had 10 people in my O365 account with me, it would be much simpler to share. The Microsoft SharePoint service is a really behemoth software service that is utilized by large companies and O365 is just a couple of years old. Microsoft is making a lot of improvements and changes, but I think sharing with external users may not be made pain-free. O365 is made for organizations.

  • TeamSites are designed for organizations with at least several people sharing the same domain name
  • The entire TeamSite should be shared, don’t try to share just a document or just a folder
  • Sharing to an external user takes several steps and even though you think you can add just anyone, the external person will have to send an email to the account owner requesting access and the owner has to grant it
  • If you don’t have an O365 or Microsoft Account, you won’t be able to share your TeamSite externally

In the future, I think I’ll stick with OneDrive (the consumer variety), to share. It’s a whole lot easier and is made for sharing with anyone.

What’s your experience been with using SharePoint Team Sites? Please leave a comment.

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