How to allow anonymous read access to a SharePoint site?

In this SharePoint tutorial, we will learn how to allow anonymous read access to a SharePoint site? And also the below topics:

  • What is external sharing in SharePoint Online?
  • How external sharing works in SharePoint?
  • What is anonymous access in SharePoint?
  • How to enable external sharing in SharePoint
  • How to enable anonymous access in sharepoint online
  • How to share content like documents with external users in SharePoint?
  • How to maintain security and privacy while externally sharing?
  • Sharing Microsoft 365 group connected team site, etc.
  • How do I change the SharePoint site from private to public?

External Sharing in SharePoint

What is external sharing in sharepoint? In external sharing (a feature of Microsoft 365), users in your organization can share content outside the organization with external users like vendors, clients, and partners.

We can also use external sharing to share content between the tenants/licensed user on multiple Microsoft 365 subscriptions (if the organization having more than one subscription).

If you are planning for external sharing then you need full control permission on the SharePoint site.

Note: By default external sharing is turned on for your SharePoint and sites in it.

Also, check out Grant user access to SharePoint site office 365.

How external sharing works in SharePoint?

External Sharing works in the organizational level and site level. SharePoint has external sharing it works both at the organizational level and site level (previously it called site collection).

To allow external sharing in any SharePoint sites first we have permission from the organizational level. If you have some confidential content then you can turn off the permission for sharing from the site level.

If you have permission from the organizational level that doesn’t match with the site level then external sharing will not occur. If you have the permission from site level and you have a restriction from the organizational level then also you cannot share.

When you have both permissions from the organizational level and site level then only you can share the content.

Even if your organizational level is allowed for external sharing, but not all the new sites will allow external sharing by default.

The default sharing setting for communication site and classic site is ‘only people in your organization’ and the default setting for Microsoft group connected team sites is ‘New and existing user’.

What is anonymous access in SharePoint?

Anonymous access is the permission given to anonymous users to access SharePoint collection without sign-in. When you enable anonymous access in the SharePoint site, anonymous users can access the files and folders of the SharePoint site by sharing a link (Anyone link).

Note: Through the Anyone link, they can access only files and folders. They cannot access the whole site, if you want to permit them to access the site then you add them in the groups (Microsoft group connected SharePoint site) as a guest.

How to enable external sharing in sharepoint?

Let us first check how to enable external sharing in SharePoint? Then we will see, how to get anonymous access to share files and folders in SharePoint sites.

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To enable anonymous access in a SharePoint Online site, we need to enable at the below two places:

  • SharePoint Online Admin center (Organization level)
  • SharePoint Online Site collection level

Enable External Sharing at the Organization Level

Let us first see, how to enable permission at the SharePoint admin center.

  • Open your SharePoint admin center.
  • Click on the Policies, under that select Sharing.
  • Choose Anyone to share files and folders using links that don’t require you to sign in and that will be the most Permissive requirement for SharePoint and OneDrive.
allow anonymous access to sharepoint online site
allow anonymous access to sharepoint online site
  • The default files and folder link setting determines the link option that will be shown to the user when the user share files and folders. Here we will choose the Anyone link( choose this option if you want to do a lot of unauthenticated files and folders Sharing). If you are choosing the Only people in your organization(choose this option if you want to share files and folders inside the organization) or if you are choosing Specific people( choose this option if you want to share your files and folders with guests and it requires authentication).
  • To choose the permission, under choose the permission that is selected by default for Sharing link. You can select view– if you don’t want that unauthenticated user to make changes with files and folders or select edit– if you want that unauthenticated user to make changes with files and folders. This permission is applied for everyone whom you want to share the link.
  • Under choose expiration and permission option for anyone link, if you want that link will expire within some days(e.g 90 days) then check the box and type how many days you want that link will remain activated.
  • Under these link can give these permissions, from the files drop-down, select view and edit– if you want to unauthenticated users make changes to files or select view – if you don’t want unauthenticated users make changes to the files.
  • From folder drop-down, select view, edit, and upload– if you want to unauthenticated users make changes to the folders or select view– if you don’t want unauthenticated users make changes to the folders.
  • If you made changes then click on Save.
sharepoint online anonymous access
external sharing permission from SharePoint admin center

Enable external access at the Site collection level

Now, let us see how to enable external sharing at the SharePoint site collection level.

  • In SharePoint admin center, click on sites-> active sites
  • Select the checkbox of the SharePoint site(select the site which site you want to verify the external sharing is enabled) then click on the sharing icon.
Anonymous read access to the SharePoint site
how to enable anonymous access in sharepoint online
  • Under Site content can be shared with, select Anyone.
anonymous read access to the SharePoint site
sharepoint online anonymous access
  • Under Default Sharing link type, select same as the organization level setting(Anyone with the link), whatever setting is in the organization level it will reflect on the SharePoint site. If you want to change the setting at the site level, then uncheck the box (same as the organization level setting) after that you can select other settings.
  • If you want to change the expiration days for the SharePoint site then uncheck and customize it. Otherwise, leave the same as the organization level setting.
anonymous read access to the SharePoint site
settings for external sharing in sharepoint
  • If you want the permission for the user is the same as the organization level, under default link permission, then there is no requirement to change the setting(same as the organization level setting(Edit)) or else you can uncheck the box and change the settings to view.
  • Click on Save. Next to cancel there is a Reset to organizational-level setting link, using this link you can come back to the organizational-level setting if you had done any changes in site level.
sharepoint online public access
anonymous read access to the SharePoint site

Share Content with External User

Now, since external sharing is enabled at both places, we can now share the content with the external users.

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To share files and folders of SharePoint site anonymously, follow the below steps:

  • Open SharePoint site.
  • Click on the document and select a file or folder you want to share publicly.
  • Click on the share icon in the command bar.
sharepoint online list anonymous access
sharepoint online list anonymous access
  • Then enter a name or email address and click on send. Which email address you have enter that email address will receive a link and they can access the document without sign in.
  • And also you can copy the link and share it by clicking on the copy link icon and you can share using outlook.
anonymous access to the SharePoint site
what is anonymous access in sharepoint
  • You get a notification ‘ Link sent‘.
anonymous access to the SharePoint site
SharePoint Online Anonymous link sent
  • Now you can check your mail, and access the link to see the documents.
anonymous access to the SharePoint site
how to enable anonymous access in sharepoint online

You can open it without sign in to the Microsoft account.

How to maintain security and privacy while externally sharing?

Security and privacy should be maintained if your site contains confidential content. If you have confidential information that should not be shared externally, then storing confidential information in a site should turn off sharing. In this situation, you can make an extra site for external sharing and make external sharing turned on. This helps you to manage security risk by preventing external access to sensitive information.

Sharing Microsoft 365 group connected team site

When a user creates a Microsoft group in Outlook or by creating a team in Microsoft Teams, a SharePoint team site is created. Admins and users can also create a team site, which creates Microsoft 365 group. These are known as Office 365 group-connected sites.

In the Group connected team sites, group owners are added as site owners, and group members are added as site members. If you want to share these sites then you add people to the Microsoft 365 groups.

Note: That all group members having permission to access the team site. if you remove the permission, then group members cannot collaborate. Therefore, you need to add guests to the groups who can access the site.

What happens when users start sharing outside the organization?

When users start sharing people outside the organization, three types of recipients receive the information and can access the information.

  • Recipients who sign in
  • Recipients who provide verification code
  • Recipients who don’t need to authenticate- which is also known as anonymous access

Recipients who sign in

When users start sharing sites, files and folders, recipients will be prompted to sign if they have a Microsoft account. These recipients will typically be added to the directory as a guest and for the recipients, permission and groups work the same as they do for internal users.

Because these guest do not have license in your organization, they are limited to basic collaboration task:

  • Guest can use office.com to view and edit the information.
  • They can perform a task on a site based on the permission level. If a guest is added as a site member, they will have the edit permission, they can add, delete and edit the list and also they have the permission to add, delete, view, and update the list items and files.
  • They can also see other types of content on a site, depending on the permission level. They can also access subsite of the shared sites.
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Note: if your authenticated guest needs greater capability such as one drive storage and power automate flow, then you must provide them an appropriate license.

Recipients who provide verification code

When user start sharing files and folders, recipients are asked to verify with the verification code if they have:

  • a work/school account in Azure AD from another organization.
  • an email address that is not a Microsoft account or work or school account of Azure AD
  • if the recipient has the work/school account, then they need to add a code for the first time. After that they will be added as a guest and can sign in with the organization username and password.
  • if the recipient doesn’t have the code, then each time they have to use the code.

Recipients who don’t need to authenticate

In this user share a link (Anyone with the link)inside and outside the organization. This access is also called Anonymous access. Recipients can access files and folders without having to sign in or provide a code.

This link can be valid until the link is deleted or expires(if you have set an expiration deleted). Through this link, you cannot verify the identity, but their IP address is recorded in the audit log. People who access files and folders through the ‘Anyone link’ are not added to your organization directories.

How do I change the SharePoint site from private to public

Let us see, how to change a SharePoint site from private to public, or public to private according to your requirement.

Here we will learn how to change the SharePoint site privacy settings from private to public in SharePoint Online.

If a SharePoint site privacy setting is private, that means members who have joined the site only they can access the SharePoint site.

If a SharePoint site privacy setting is public, that means any one can join and access the SharePoint site from the organization.

To change the privacy setting of SharePoint site

  • Open SharePoint site, which site privacy setting you want to change.
  • Click on the gear icon/ setting.
  • Select site information
How do I change the SharePoint site from private to public
can you change a sharepoint site from private to public
  • Under privacy setting, choose your privacy setting, private or public, for your SharePoint site.
  • Click on Save.
convert sharePoint site from private to public
convert sharePoint site from private to public

Now you can see in the header of the SharePoint site, under the SharePoint site name , public group.

change a sharepoint group from private to public
change a SharePoint group from private to public

Here, we saw, how to change the privacy setting of the SharePoint site from private to public or public to private.

You may like the following SharePoint tutorials:

In this tutorial, we learned about external sharing in SharePoint Online, how to allow anonymous read access to a SharePoint site? Also, we saw how to enable external sharing in SharePoint Online and how to share documents with external users in SharePoint Online. We also learned, how to enable anonymous access in SharePoint Online. Also, we will see, how do I change the SharePoint site from private to public?

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