When it comes to collaborating with external users, you have a few options, but which one is best? We explain the ins and outs of Microsoft Teams guest access—from permissions, to settings, to how to add a guest.
Microsoft Teams makes it easier than ever to collaborate with the right people—both inside and outside of your organization. And when it comes to granting outside users access to your resources, you actually have a few different options.
External sharing is a great way to share documents, files, folders, lists, libraries, and even complete sites in your SharePoint Online. But what happens if you want to collaborate with people outside your organization across multiple products—communicating through chat or coordinating meetings with a shared calendar?
In that case, you can invite someone outside your organization to become a guest access user in Microsoft Teams. That way, they can access your team's resources, share files, and join a group chat with other team members.
Without further ado, let's explore how to collaborate securely using guest access in Teams.
Microsoft Teams guest access permissions
To understand guest access, we should point out that guest access differs from external access in Microsoft Teams.
- External access gives access permission to an entire domain—allowing Teams users from other domains to find, contact, and set up meetings with you. External users can call you through Teams and send instant messages. But if you want them to be able to access teams and channels, guest access might be the better option.
- Guest access is when you invite an external user to be a member of the team—it gives access permission to an individual rather than a domain. Once a team owner has granted someone guest access, they can access that team's resources, share files, and join a group chat with other team members.
For more on external access vs guest sharing, along with details on everything related to file sharing in Office 365, check out our comprehensive guide!
So then what exactly are the permissions for an individual granted guest access in Microsoft Teams? And how do they differ from the permissions granted to a team member within your organization? Let's take a look:
|Permissions in Teams||Team member within organization||External user with guest access|
|Create a channel*||✔||✔|
|Participate in a private chat||✔||✔|
|Participate in a channel conversation||✔||✔|
|Post, delete, and edit messages||✔||✔|
|Share a channel file||✔||✔|
|Share a chat file||✔|
|Create meetings or access schedules||✔|
|Invite an external user to become a guest*||✔|
|Create a team||✔|
|Discover/join a public team||✔|
*Team owners control these settings. Also note that Office 365 admins control the features available to guests. We'll get into that more a little later.
You can also add external users to an Office 365 Group as a guest, although guest permissions in an Office 365 Group are slightly different and grant them access to more resources outside of Teams. You can read step-by-step directions for how to add guests to a group in the official Microsoft support documentation.
Enable guest access in Microsoft Teams
For external users to be granted guest access, you first need to have guest access enabled as an org-wide setting in Teams—it's turned off by default.
To turn on guest access in Teams, you need to be an Office 365 global admin and take the following steps:
1. Go to the Microsoft Teams admin center, select Org-wide settings, then click on Guest access.
2. Toggle the Allow guest access in Teams switch to On. Then click Save.
It can take up to 24 hours for changes to take effect. So if users are still prompted to “Contact your administrator” when they try to add a guest to their team, access may not yet be ready.
Are you using default settings in Office 365 groups, Azure Active Directory and SharePoint Online? Then following the above steps may be enough to set up guest access. If not, check out this guest access checklist from Microsoft for more details.
Configure guest access in Microsoft Teams
Once you’ve enabled guest access, it’s time to specify exactly what guests will be allowed to do and see in your teams.
The page in the Teams admin center where you enabled guest access is also where you can configure Calling, Meeting, and Messaging settings for guests.
Go to the same page in the Teams admin center where you enabled guest access...
...and scroll down to configure all the Calling, Meeting, and Messaging settings.
Depending on what you want to allow, you can select On or Off for the following capabilities:
- Make private calls
- Allow IP video
- Screen sharing mode
- Allow Meet Now
- Edit sent messages
- Guests can delete sent messages
- Use Giphys in conversations
- Giphy content rating
- Use memes in conversations
- Use Stickers in conversations
Click Save to apply your new settings.
For more details, check out Microsoft's Teams guest access checklist.
Add a guest to your team in Microsoft Teams
Once you've enabled guest access and configured your org-wide settings to your liking, it's time to start adding some guests!
Only team owners can add a guest in Teams, so if you're an IT admin you might need to make yourself an owner of a team before you start adding guests to it. (You can do this is in the Teams admin center by selecting Teams > Manage teams)
To add a guest to your team in Teams:
1. In the Teams app, select Teams on the left sidebar and go to the team you want to add a guest to.
2. Select More options (...) then Add member.
3. Enter the guest's email address, then click on Edit guest information to give them a friendly user name. Then click Add. Your guest will receive a welcome email invitation.
Guests must have an Office 365 work or school account. If they don't have a Microsoft account associated with their email, they'll be prompted to create one for free.
For more details, check out the official Microsoft documentation.
Set guest permissions for an individual team
Team owners can also configure some guest permissions for their team once a guest has been successfully added (see below).
To set guest permissions for an individual team in Teams:
1. Select Teams on the left side of the app.
2. Go to the team name and select More options (...), then Manage team.
3. Under Settings, click on Guest permissions, then check or un-check the permissions you want to allow. Currently, you can choose to give guests permission to create, update, or delete channels. (File permissions for guests are actually configured in the SharePoint settings by a global admin)
With guest access, your content never leaves your sight
External file sharing can be a great option to collaborate on content with people outside your organization. But then you need to keep track of and manage what's been shared to ensure that content stays secure over time.
With guest access in Teams, your content never leaves your sight—all your data is kept in your tenant, where you can protect it, monitor it, and control it.
Because needs vary between projects, departments, and over time, you'll probably wind up using a combination of the two in your organization. By educating your users and having a governance plan for both methods, you ensure your data stays secure whether people choose to use external sharing or guest access in Teams.
Want to learn more about how to keep your entire Office 365 environment tidy and secure? Download our curated guide, Office 365 Groups Governance, for practical tips on achieving a balanced approach to Office 365.