Here Is Why You Should Enable External Sharing in SharePoint and Office 365

Here Is Why You Should Enable External Sharing in SharePoint and Office 365

by: Asif Rehmani Tuesday, December 11, 2018

In digital workplaces, it is inevitable to collaborate with people outside your organization; and collaboration involves sharing documents. An external user can be anybody, a colleague, a client, a supplier, or a contractor.

Even though SharePoint and Office 365 are reliable tools for external sharing, we have found that employees in many organizations tend to use third-party tools for sharing documents with external users. There is a simple explanation for this: since external sharing can be risky, IT teams tend to simply disable the feature. Unfortunately, this imposed limitation usually leads to several undesirable consequences: resort to third-party cloud tools, fragmented governance, detriment to user adoption, and more.

It is actually possible to enable external sharing without running the risks that you intend to avoid.

Data security is a necessity, so are governance and user adoption

Every limitation imposed on users has a negative effect on usage growth of the platforms. It is crucial that disabling external sharing be a consideration only if it is absolutely necessary.

Using simple tools, there is a way that internal users can share documents and collaborate with external users while preserving a great level of data security, enforcing governance policies, and continuing to improve user adoption.

The ultimate idea is to minimize limitations and maximize guidance.

Disabling external sharing is usually not the better option

For a good number of reasons, it is common for IT teams to disable external sharing altogether.

In many other organizations, it is even worse; they disable the functionality without providing an alternative that can be subjected to proper adopted governance policies. When this happens, users will surf the web and find any popular cloud storage service for their daily external communication and collaboration tasks. Popular choices of cloud services include Drobox, Google Drive, and iCloud.

Such scenarios exceedingly undermine both data security as well as governance. And more negatively, they slow down user adoption, making optimal collaboration unattainable, higher productivity elusive, and return on investment impossible.

Also, when end users go for third-party cloud services for external sharing, they tend to use those services for other tasks as well, tasks that would be properly served in SharePoint and Office 365. This is a step to abandoning the platforms.

The better idea is to enable external sharing and, at the same time, take certain steps to ensure security and governance.

Making external sharing more secure and compliant

Third-party non-managed IT solutions always put sensitive data at risk and always lead end users to gradually discard SharePoint and Office 365. To ensure data security, enforce governance policies, and nurture user adoption, you have to enable external sharing and find ways to make using the feature safer.

The following steps will help.

Make use of Teams

Microsoft Teams is an Office 365 component that is at the forefront of external sharing capabilities. The application gives users the ability to seamlessly invite external users to internal teams and share access to not only documents but also tools and workflows.

Make use of Office 365 Groups

Think of Office 365 Groups as teams of people with access to a shared hub, set of tools, and library of documents. The groups can invite and include team players from outside companies. With the right permissions settings, using this capability, collaboration is safe and practical.

Make use of a contextual help system

A contextual help system, like VisualSP, gives end users access to always-available, in-time, and in-context guidance. Basically, the add-on application automates help and support for the end-users, freeing IT teams to focus on break-fix tasks instead of being overwhelmed by daily user support tickets. The system allows you to automatically display a warning dialog every time a user intends to share a document with an external user. The contextual warning dialog can remind the user to do or not do all sort of things before they share a document externally. For example, they can be reminded not share any document that contains sensitive financial data, take a certain step before sharing, or seek permission before moving forward. The built-in analytics even shows you who saw the warning dialog and when a document was shared.

It’s better to keep external sharing enabled

If you can effectively leverage the SharePoint and Office 365 native capabilities and the power of contextual help systems, there is almost no need to disable external sharing. The platforms features give users options in their external collaborative tasks and the add-on application provides guidance at every moment of need.

If you put some effort into optimizing settings and permissions, external sharing can be manageable and safe. Most of all, user adoption will remain on the growth track.

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