Information within organizations is often shared through email attachments or vulnerable free file sharing solutions. This can have some serious consequences whenever the wrong information is being used or shared amongst others such as unclear instructions, decisions made on outdated information, lack of collaboration, etc.
In practice, we often see scenarios where an external collaborator might be working on the attachment of an email while another internal colleague is still working on the previous version of the same document stored in a file share. However, the single version of the truth is what matters, and that is why it is essential to work on the same information at any given time.
Today’s collaboration platforms have that principle at the core and this is why they provide the safest way of managing business content. There are vast benefits to profit from enabling both employees and external users such as partners, clients, or vendors to connect and interact easily and securely. Above all, you will improve communication and productivity and enhance business results not only for your company, but within the whole value chain of stakeholders.
But how to allow external accesses without jeopardizing your information privacy? Can information be shared in a simple, effective way?
Office 365 offers essential B2B collaboration tools that combine cutting-edge features and adapt to evolving business needs: OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online and Office 365 Groups. Through any of these tools, sharing information with external users can be done in two ways, with a few limitations regarding Groups.
1. Invite authenticated users
Information with external users can be shared simply by sending an invitation to their existing email address. They will be prompted to sign in using a Microsoft/Office 365 account:
- If the external users already have an Office 365 account, they will be able to log in using their existing credentials
- If not, they will be able to easily create a new Microsoft account, which accepts any email provider, including free ones such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo.
Once the invitation is accepted, they are added to your organization's directory as an external user, but will only have access to the specific elements that you have shared with them.
2. Share anonymous hyperlink
Another way of sharing information with external users is by generating an anonymous hyperlink for the content you wish to share. Since this requires no authentication, there are some risks involved. Depending on the permission level, everyone with access to this link will be able to view and/or edit the shared contents. As the permissions to access your content are given to the hyperlink and not a user, this option should be used cautiously for folders or documents containing sensitive data.
An expiration date can also be set on anonymously shared content, which allows a link to only work for a limited amount of time. This is great for sharing, for example, event presentations to attendees for a limited period after an event has occurred.