Sharing Documents in SharePoint Online

How to securely share files with people

Microsoft SharePoint
Microsoft Corporation

SharePoint Online, the cloud-based service hosted by Microsoft, is part of the Office 365 plan, or it can be obtained as an add-on to SharePoint Server. The main interest in new and upgraded SharePoint Online services is to improve interactive conversations online and to make it easier and more secure for sharing documents on the go.

If you’re already a SharePoint Online user, you can anticipate upgraded services. SharePoint Online now includes usage on mobile phones and tablets and seamless social experience. Also included in Office 365 is OneDrive for Business, a professional version of OneDrive for document storage in the cloud that enables you to sync with files stored on your computer or company server.

Organizing Permissions and Users in Groups

Permissions for sharing documents in SharePoint Online are best done according to the desired user access. The levels of permissions for SharePoint Online include:

  • Visitors - view documents in a browser
  • Members - edit or contribute documents
  • Owners - have full control permission of the SharePoint Online site

For visitors to download documents, permissions must include "read" access.

New group names may be created to establish a specific user group or team collaboration. "Site Designers," "authors," and "Customers," are examples.

Sharing Documents Outside Your Organization

External users are typically suppliers, consultants, and customers you want to share documents with from time to time.

SharePoint Online owners who have full control permission can share documents with external users. External users may be added to Visitor or Member user groups to better manage permissions for sharing documents.

  • Share guest links. A guest link can be shared via email to view documents from a SharePoint Online document library. To minimize the risk that documents will be shared with anyone else, you can require the external users to sign in. This step requires you to set up people in the Visitors (or unlicensed users with read access) permissions group to ensure guest links cannot be opened by anonymous users.
  • Share with members. If your external users have a subscription to Office 365 or are members of your site, you can require them to sign in before accessing the shared documents. This step assumes you added them to the Member permissions group. External users without Microsoft Office can download the file, as long as they have read access.
  • Share public links from OneDrive for Business. OneDrive is a document storage area housed in Office 365 if your service has been upgraded. OneDrive is best used to share files with external public users separate from the SharePoint Online document library. OneDrive can be thought of as the final version of a document for public viewing—to post as a link from a website or blog, for example. Your SharePoint Online document library can be the source, so make a copy for OneDrive to help you distinguish the two areas if you choose to use OneDrive this way.
  • Sharing documents inside your organization. Internal users are people within your organization or other departments. Typically you share documents differently, depending on whether you work and collaborate with a group or you post documents on an intranet for others to view the current status of knowledge or document version.
  • Share with members. Using Office 365 with SharePoint Online provides access to Office Web Apps, the browser-based lightweight service you can use to create, edit, and share documents online. Users with Microsoft Office can sync files from their computer with files stored in SharePoint Online to share with members. Also, users with Microsoft Office can sync files and folders from SharePoint Online to a computer or mobile device to work offline.
  • Share with nonmembers. Assuming not everyone in your organization has a subscription to Office 365, documents can be shared depending on permission group. For example, nonmembers such as executive teams in your organization may need to keep apprised of a marketing document library where market intelligence or customer experiences are captured in the field.
  • Share from OneDrive. You can share files with internal users from OneDrive. You can use OneDrive as a staging area before moving documents into a SharePoint Online document library.