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How do you manage external sharing in Office 365?

E-mailing files back and forth, confusion about which version of a document is the correct one: before the cloud, collaborating with external parties could be difficult to manage. With the introduction of online services like SharePoint and OneDrive, these problems have vanished and exchanging files and information with others became easier than ever. Simply share a link to a file or a folder, set up the editing permissions and you can immediately start working on the same document online. But sharing documents in your cloud environment doesn’t come without challenges. Do you know exactly who has access to your PowerPoint presentation, for example?

Who has access to what?

Sharing files with customers or partners makes life a lot easier, doesn’t it? With Office 365, administrators can control which files or folders can be shared with third parties. But as soon as your colleagues start sharing these files, it’s easy to lose track of who has acces to what – especially when they share files by forwarding a URL instead of sending an e-mail invitation. This confronts companies with an important challenge, because you don’t want external parties to have permanent access to part of your online environment. Luckily, Office 365 offers a solution: groups with an end date.

Stay in control when collaborating with Office 365 groups

You can easily make ‘groups’ in Office 365: in these shared workspaces, members use the same Outlook inbox, calendar and document library. As an administrator, you’re always in control of the members and their access to the group. This makes groups perfect for managing access to your files, especially because you can set up the privileges of all members per group. In just a few clicks, you can make sure that files in the group can’t be shared with people outside the group or even make the files unavailable to everyone. And not just anyone can enter your group, because they need the group admin’s permission to do so.

Three types of collaboration that determine access duration

Office 365 groups help you keep an overview of the number of group members and of what you’re sharing with them. But how do you limit their access duration? By checking everything manually? That would require a lot of work. Luckily, you can set up several group types with separate duration and access rules. As soon as the duration of a group runs out, you can have it closed automatically. This will also delete all files within it. Here are three example categories you could set up for employees to choose from when they request a group:

  • Temporary: The group will exist for a short time, such as three months. When those three months have passed, the group is closed automatically. Perfect for short-term collaborations.
  • Project: Sometimes, it’s hard to predict the duration of a project: it might take a few weeks, but it might also take a year. Instead of a fixed period, you could set up a rule to accommodate this, such as: the group will be closed automatically after three months of inactivity. If you do this, the group will exist as long as people keep working on the project.
  • Permanent: This speaks for itself. A permanent group doesn’t get deleted. You could set up this type of group for internal use by the sales team, for example, or for collaborations with long-term partners.

Of course, these three categories are only examples of what’s possible. As an IT admin, you have full control of the group settings within your organisation, so you can adapt these types to the needs of the company.

What if I want to save useful files?

One question remains: what do you do when you want to keep files from a temporary or project group? They could come in handy later, after all. This is where a new ‘permanent’ group could help. Think of it as an archive where you can upload files you want to save. Since you’ve got the same amount of control over the group members as you do with other groups, you can closely monitor access to this archive.


Want to get started with Office 365? Xylos is your ultimate partner. We’ll take a close look at your specific corporate situation and involve your end users in every step of the migration process.


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